It is clear why open floor plans are so popular in offices today. They bring people together to collaborate in ways that just weren’t possible in the cubicle mazes of the past.
In theory, an open office plan stimulates connections between employees and productive cooperation that can support a vibrant, high-performance culture.
In practice, though, an open office design can struggle with an important detail — how do you reward managers without taking them out of the collaborative environment?
For many of your senior employees, the popular reward for years of high performance is the highly sought after corner office, a goal complete with the walls, door and status that scream privacy and independence. This may be especially true of your older employees that are less likely to warm to an open layout.
Therein lies the rub. A collaborative team needs an engaged and supportive leader, and that can be stifled in an office with an option for a closed door. On the other hand, there are times when a door can come in handy.
A privilege, not a right
It takes a special kind of manager to thrive in a separated environment from their team. They need to be effective communicators to get their teams to deliver quality results with limited hands-on guidance. They need to have good habits for recognizing the need for and implementing course corrections.
Perhaps most importantly, they need to be decisive and know when to make firm decisions to move a team in brainstorm mode forward.
In short, they need to be a great manager. However, not all of your accomplished senior employees might fit that mold.
In those cases, an open office plan might give you more flexibility to place a less talented supervisor out in the open while they gain the skills and maturity needed for more independence. By tying the status of a closed door office with earned trust and acknowledge skills rather than rank, you can ensure that an office with a door isn’t necessarily an expectation with an important promotion.
Beyond having the necessary skills, accessible remote managers utilize technology to stay engaged with their direct reports. Whether they are behind a closed door or on the road, there are a number of tools that can help supervisors stay up-to-speed.
For example, free instant messenger apps like Skype or Google’s GChat allow for quick conversations and information sharing. This lets employees to still feel empowered to share ideas and ask questions without worrying about cluttered inboxes, and can save time if a team is separated from their team leader on a different floor.
Alternatively, requesting periodic status reports can help supervisors stay abreast of their team’s progress and pain points. Using a tool that automates status reports, and facilitates collecting information can help ensure status reports are completed on time and can store data to show trends over time and keep historical information.
When done right, effective status reports gather information that can help managers make sound, timely decisions while also identifying problems that need to be solved that might otherwise fester.
Of course, instant messaging apps and status reports aren’t the only strategies for staying engaged as a team leader from behind a closed door. The most successful leaders in this kind of situation are the ones that find solutions that best fit the unique characteristics and needs of their team.
For example, a supervisor with several recent college graduates might consider setting weekly open door office hours to encourage her direct reports to stop by with questions. Another team with remote employees might find meetings using a video chat client to be useful for bringing everyone face-to-face on a regular basis. An especially busy manager might make an effort to schedule time in advance to take each direct report out for a cup of coffee on a regular basis to connect and maintain their relationship.
Ultimately, there are a number of ways to stay engaged with your team. Just make sure that your managers is ready for the challenge, and armed with the tools necessary to succeed.
What creative ways do leaders at your organization use to engage with their employees?
This originally appeared on the PerformYard.com blog.