Transforming Talk at Work | March 2017


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Dear Reader,

I recently watched a CEO navigate tough questions from his employees about work space design. A new building is opening on their corporate campus next year and the employees are none too happy about the open-office plan that’s being built out.

The CEO, put on the spot, first hedged and said all the employees had to do was “give it a try” when the new space was built. When pressed with more questions on the subject, he became visibly flustered. He resorted to rationalizing the plans based on the expertise of the architectural firm who’d designed the building: “The architects we’ve hired for this project are the best in the business, they know what they are doing. We will move into this new, state-of-the-art space and it will work for us.”

He even vowed to work in the open-office designed space himself.

What he didn’t say were any of these things:

“We’ve consulted with many of you and this is what you told us would help you work better.”

“The architects know our industry. They’ve studied future trends in our work.”

“We will place people in the new space based on their collaboration needs, balanced with their needs to do independent work that requires deep thinking.”

And the promise to work in the space himself: laughable.

My expectation of a senior leader is that she or he is doing deep thinking, having tough conversations (sometimes concerning staff who might be collocated in the open-office space) and listening intently as his or her top staff provide critical briefings for strategic decision making. These activities are best left to office space without distracting background noise, curious eavesdroppers and opportunity for misinterpretation.

In short, best in a place with a door that closes.

That’s not to say that is the best working environment for all job functions. Developers, creatives and project managers have different needs than a CEO.

It’s all about the design of the experience of work and his employees are the ones he needs to design for.

: Commission a study.
: Do some interviews.
: Study the workspace design needs of your employees.
: Deeply.
: And then design.

My advice to the CEO (who is not a client of mine . . . yet), is to do some research. Research about what his employees need to best do their work. Then, and only then, take a stand on how the new space will best support the organization from the standpoint of the organization’s needs, industry trends and the need for collaboration (or not!) for those that will occupy the new space.

And that’s a message he can stand behind.

This month on the blog, we continue this theme and explore the future or work, including how we use space.

Scroll down for a link to the latest post.


Watch the Latest Working Minute video

This week on the Working Minute video series, I answer the question “What should I do to prepare for a difficult conversation?

Each week a new video with a communication tip, tool or technique is released. Sign up here to get them in your inbox every Friday.

Man w stories

From the Blog:

2025: Three trends that impact the future of work

The design of work – from how we meet the needs of our customers to how we communicate internally to the way our work space is designed – is changing. The workplace of 2025 will look much different than the workplace of today.

Here are my top three prognostications for what the future of work holds.


Nuts and Bolts

Things I’m nuts about.

Deep Work: Rule for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport.

This is one of my favorite books of 2016 and speaks directly to why an open office concept is not the right fit for every job function (although that’s not the central message of the book). People in roles that require true innovation, creativity and analysis desperately need time to do their deep work – thinking. And do it free from the distraction of others, whether they be in the same space making noise, on email, instant messaging, text messaging or any of the myriad ways we have for reaching (read: interrupting) one another.


Be well,

Janel Anderson, PhD
Leadership Communication Expert and CEO of Working Conversations


P.S. You can still book Janel for your upcoming leadership off-site, keynote or training session.

Many dates in 2017 (and a few in 2018) are already reserved, so book your date while it is still available.

Here’s a brief list of what Janel can provide:

1. Motivational leadership keynote and breakout speaking for conferences, conventions, meetings, and events
2. Leadership events, particularly for the technology, manufacturing, education and government sectors
3. Consulting to improve organizational culture and communication
4. Executive coaching to improve strategy, leadership, and profits

Call Janel at 612-327-8026 or email Janel at to see if your date is available.

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