Edit ModuleShow Tags

The value of being there

Perhaps you saw Peter Sellers’ last movie, Being There (out in 1979, just this side of the Jurassic period). In it, a simple-minded gardener named Chance ends up being seen as a guru of sorts. By merely “being there,” he influences the rich and powerful with his simple observations.

I thought of this movie the other day when I had lunch with a friend who’s an executive in a rapidly growing business in the United Kingdom. The company received private equity money and, as you might imagine, is under much pressure to grow. As such, there are many moving parts.

My friend is naturally torn between family in the U.S. and the company in the U.K. He experimented with dialing into board meetings from the U.S. whilst (that’s U.K. speak for “while”) his mates are in a conference room in the U.K. Unfortunately, not “being there” is a problem. Out of sight, out of mind. A small decrease in effectiveness at the executive level can have deleterious effects on the individual and the business.

I experienced something similar years ago. I had a weekly executive meeting in California that became quite a burden to get to, so I started using videoconferencing. It was inadequate even though I had some of the best technology available. While showing up for a weekly meeting 1,000 miles away sounds extreme, it was far more effective.

I now appreciate the many benefits of a home office. I save on rent money, I enjoy the food and I have an extremely quick commute, although I can hit traffic early in the morning, mostly cats. (Yes, as I write this, I’ve brushed my teeth and am not in my pajamas.) However, when I coach executives, I show up in person or they visit me, regardless of where they have an office. Many of my clients are out of town.

People have chastised Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer for bringing back the Stone Age because she wants her people in a common work environment (they called them “offices” back in the time of the Flintstones). I have news for all of you writing apps in your mother’s kitchen: When your company gets big, you’ll be much better served by having your executives in the kitchen with you. Perhaps even an office!

There’s a big difference between routine, well-defined work (for example, call center operations) and executive conversation. Fostering collaboration and teamwork with bits and bites isn’t as effective as eyeballs and handshakes. Relationships in the executive suite are much better in person.

My friend is soon back on an airplane to the U.K., and I’m off to L.A., San Francisco and Miami in the next two week. Not because we love United Airlines; it’s just more effective.

Edit Module
Todd Ordal

Todd Ordal is President of Applied Strategy LLC. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He speaks, writes, consults and advises on issues of strategy and leadership. Todd is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Follow Todd on Twitter here. You can also find Todd at http://www.appliedstrategy.info,  303-527-0417 or todd@appliedstrategy.info

Get more of our current issue | Subscribe to the magazine | Get our Free e-newsletter

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Articles

Why do so many millennials live in their parents' basement?

As a result of watching the value of their parents’ home drop drastically during the 2008-2009 housing bubble, Millennials have grown wary of homeownership.

The woman behind Denver's community workspace movement

Before Ellen Winkler made a name for herself in Denver, shaping work spaces, she started her career on construction sites in New York City.

Thinking of working for a founder? Read this first!

The founder — someone who birthed several companies but never got any of them to profitability — has turned from “The Creative One” (he developed the first product) to “The Critical One,” now more boat anchor than cheerleader.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Thanks for contributing to our community-- please keep your comments in good taste and appropriate for our business professional readers.

Add your comment: