I call it my “high-heels culture test.” I can walk into a firm or office and gauge — in the short distance walk between the elevator and the receptionist’s desk — whether the culture of the place is collaborative or competitive. If I’m self-consciously hyper aware of the deafening thumping sound of my heels on the cold concrete, marble, hardwood or granite floor, and start to tip-toe because my thudding heels begin to echo, I know, intuitively and experientially, that the place operates like a library. People work in silent, solitary silos, seated in front of their screens. There’s generally a lack of face-to-face communication, camaraderie and cooperation. People here place a high value on being productive: getting things done, and assign little importance to being positive: having fun.
On the contrary, when I can’t hear the loud thumping of my heels or the blaring beating of my heart (some lobbies are carpeted, after all), it’s usually because there’s a social buzz of busy attorneys and managers, colleagues and clients connecting, chatting, walking…communicating!! I have degrees and I have assessments — and I’ve spent many a company’s time and money on interviews and focus groups that lead to the same transcribed findings and recommendations that the first five seconds and my five senses are able to measure.
When we link our office silos, walk over to talk to our colleagues instead of calling, texting, or emailing them, allow time for chit-chat and collaborate with other practice groups, pods and departments, our culture is elevated and our clients can feel it.
We have everything to gain — success, fun, synchronicity, flow, challenge, inspiration, cross-selling, opportunity, open communication, optimism, trust, constructive interaction, accountability, respect and loyalty.
And we have so much to lose — retention problems, high turn-over, burnout, guarded individuals, hoarding of information, turf protection, fear, overwhelm, criticism, cynicism. shame and blame.