I moved out. I left the physical space where my team sits. It was a dumb, selfish idea. I thought that by moving into a space separate from my team, it would let me focus on "management" and them focus on "the work". Dumb, dumb, dumb. I didn't recognize the downside of such an arrangement and I didn't recognize the upside of being side-by-side with my team every day.
So, how did I come to this realization? We had a power outage. One half of our campus had power and my team convened in a large conference room there. We pumped music through the overhead speakers, streamed monitoring data via the projector, and had excellent communication due to the open layout of the room. I asked my team if they liked the format (we were in there for 2 days) and every one of them, every one of them, agreed.
As a result, two things are going to happen:
- I and my team will hold all-day get-togethers in our largest conference room at least once a month. Even in the face of a serious campus outage, my team worked extremely well together while sitting in an open space. Many folks might think the layout isn't productive. I found it to be just that.
- I am going to give up my current seating in favor of seating close to my team. I noticed that the free and open exchange of ideas and my proximity to the team made for better communication, faster issue resolution, and general camaraderie.
It is only through personal circumspection and asking questions of my team that I get better as a manager. I am grateful to have positive experiences (and a few negative ones) to learn from and improve my skills. I'm also grateful to others for sharing their experiences like Ryan Tomayko (looking at you @mrembetsy) so that I can study from them and better reflect on what I do every day.