It’s Friday, so let’s start with something food-related. As you can tell from the title, today it’s jelly beans. Generally, these little balls of fun show up around Easter and sit in a dish until they get stale or melt together into an amorphous, flavored ball. However, if you worked with me over the last 20 years, you’d have found something quite different – food and today’s business thought.I used to keep a jar of high-quality jelly beans on my desk. I suppose my co-workers and visitors thought I loved them and noshed all the time. Not true, actually. While I would have a couple from time to time when I needed a sugar lift, mostly they were there as bait. “Bait?” you ask? Yes indeed.
While I used to make it clear to everyone that my open door meant I’m happy to have you come in to my office and chat, in general folks seemed reluctant to do that without a reason. Of course, they always had a reason – to update me on a project, to tell me about a new restaurant, to talk about a book they were reading – but they didn’t see it that way. Most folks don’t like to go into the boss’ office unless they have very good news or an emergency. Or a convenient excuse.
Several times a day, someone would pop in and grab a jelly bean or two. Most of those times we’d also have brief chat about what was probably the real reason they popped in. In their minds they hadn’t come in to complain or boast – I’d “forced” it out of them.
It wasn’t always subordinates who came in either and it was always a way to foster conversation. This was something I began doing when there really wasn’t much use of email and instant messaging and other forms of impersonal electronic communication didn’t exist. I think it’s even more important today to have face to face human interaction and those were the instructions my staff always had: go see someone, then call them, and send an email only when the first two couldn’t work. The jelly bean jar was how I made sure the door to the boss’ office was a place through which people wanted to pass and not someplace very unfamiliar.
What are you doing to make your office a place where people gather? How are you fostering communication?