What does it take to create a really great place to work? A place where people want to be? An environment in which brilliant, highly motivated people can excel?
It takes more than perfectly designed buildings and glistening new computers. It takes more than the usual things that all good companies spend a great deal of time, energy, and money on – great physical work environments, the perfect location, video games and bicycles and scooters and pets and fully-stocked gyms and cafes. The list goes on and on.
Let us be clear – these things matter. A lot. Every single employee interface matters. Work areas, furniture, tools, lighting, fabrics, colors and textures that are current, environmentally friendly, refreshing, and, above all, effective. These things make people feel comfortable. They are absolutely critical to a productive and happy workforce.
The Value of a True Leader
But the true magic is having a true leader – a person with real inspirational leadership. Show me a boss with a clear vision and the brains to back it up, and I will show you a great place to work. A true leader sets the tone for an environment in which like-minded people who share the same goals will amaze each other every day. A true leader builds an environment where brilliant people constantly deliver previously impossible results, and have a great time doing it.
A true leader listens very carefully, harnesses the energy around them, and keeps the fire burning in the face of all obstacles. A true leader is someone who you can confide in without fear of being judged – something very rare these days. True leaders push you, disagree with you, occasionally become frustrated and even angry. But you know they have your back at the end of the day. Why? Because a true leader knows how to make really brilliant folks highly effective and passionate about solving very difficult problems. And that’s when the magic happens.
Like-Minded People: The Secret Sauce
And if a true leader is the magic touch to a creating a great work environment, then having like-minded people is the secret sauce that completes the combo. So how do you find them? Like-minded people are often decidedly non-corporate. They’re sometimes a bit disheveled but always “on” and always looking to overcome the next impossible obstacle. It’s up to leaders to find them, foster their energy, and attract other like-minded, dare I say, “rock stars”.
The right kind of funny business is a good thing. True leaders know how to have fun. You can challenge them to a game of Ping-Pong in the office. You’re free to take a jog, shoot hoops, play darts, or do whatever else it takes to blow off steam. True leaders are approachable – workers can have lunch with them.
All of these things sound so simple, yet so few people really do it in the workplace. Cultures all over the world “break bread” together and use this incredibly valuable time to commune with each other – to share cultural values and stories through very simple food – and to energize each other for the challenges that lie ahead. So tear down the walls and create open areas and eat together. Encourage culinary diversity and variety. Learn from each other through the very nourishment that keeps us going – it is, after all, a lot more than just food.
So let’s reflect. Perfect buildings, clean and spacious conference rooms, ergonomic and organic workplaces, high definition, high fidelity, high speed this and that. That’s all important and required.
But you need a great culture in order to create a really great place to work. And there are certain pieces of that culture that are absolutely necessary, like a true leader and like-minded people.In short, a really great place to work is a place where really hard work does not feel like work at all. And when you get that feeling, you know you have found a really great place to work. Enjoy the journey.
Jeff Teddleton is VP of Operations for Axcient, which is recognized as one of the Top 10 Best Places to Work in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Business Times and San Jose Business Journal.