Physical Space and Building Culture

Have you ever seen an office or production facility and thought, “Boy, if I got to work in that space every day, I’d be inspired, creative, and more effective”? I have. And one of those days was yesterday.

Yesterday afternoon I had the good fortune to have a backstage tour of Six Steps Records and Passion City Church in Atlanta, Georgia. The facilities—carved out of a former Home Depot—were amazing. From the brains and hearts of directors Louie and Shelley Giglio, the space in which this organization is housed caused me to pause the moment I stepped into them. Merely walking through the building gave the impression that every detail had been thoroughly thought through. The style was minimalist concrete, wire cable, subway tiles, stark white walls, and glass. (Very Apple-esque.) But far more important than the genre of its style is what such a space creates: an atmosphere of excellence.

A number of years ago I joined an organization who’d made a significant investment in their facilities. We worked out of our newly constructed LEED® Platinum building with a view of a lake and a long curved wall built into the center of the building that represented a core aspect of our business. Not long after I was hired, some of the building’s designers were visiting. They asked me, a newbie, what I thought of the building. I said, “This is the kind of space that calls me to bring my ‘A' game every day. It challenges me to be my very best.” (I think I may have inadvertently given them a quote for their future marketing materials.)

Cultured Space

As leaders, we are responsible for creating the culture around us. Usually when we think of ‘culture’ we think of the norms and standards by which we live and operate. But the physical space in which our followers work every day is also a part of the culture we are building. How we organize and invest in the spaces in which our teams work speaks clearly about our expectations and priorities. It even communicates how much we value those we lead.

Even those with small budgets and modest spaces can engage in this endeavor. The mere act of sitting down with those you lead to talk through how your physical space could make their lives easier and more engaging can be an act of leadership that encourages the hearts of followers. (And in that scenario, you create deeper engagement and ownership because you’re modifying the space with those you lead.)

Let's Get Physical

Few leaders outside of the creative arts think as intentionally as they could about the physical spaces in which they lead. Functionality wins the day and little else enters the discussion. If we commit ourselves to be more thought-filled about the cultures we create through the physical spaces in which we lead, there is untapped inspiration, creativity, and excellence to be drawn out of our followers. And it isn’t just our enterprises that benefit from that; so do our followers as they feel valued and get to experience the pride of being part of something unique and excellent.

Share Your Thoughts:Have you ever worked in an environment with an exceptional or not-so-exceptional physical envirnoment? How did that environment impact the culture of your organization?We’d love to hear from you. Join the conversation by clicking here.Click here to receive free postings from Tim Spiker and The Aperio. As a thank you, you'll receive the first two chapters of The Only Leaders Worth Following: Why Some Leaders Succeed, Others Fail, and How the Quality of Our Lives Hangs in the Balance.