3 Ways to Be Less Corporate-y (It's a Word)

High fives are in, handshakes are out. 

Picture this being read in Heidi Klum’s chirpy Project Runway voice. 

Okay what do I mean by this? Is it a statement against everyone who’s ever shook my hand? Or maybe a stance against all those self-help articles that talk about the importance of a “nice, firm handshake”? 

Nah.  Not really.

High fives are in, handshakes are out is really more of a commentary on office culture than anything else. Today I want to dig into why I’m happy to work at a company that I (and many who step into my zany office space) would consider the anti-corporate workspace.  There are three main reasons I believe why, in today’s environment, the hard-nosed, beige cubicles of the past can’t deliver the same level of productivity that they may have before. 

When I say corporate, I’m referring to the lazy-eyed drone-like work for the man. I’m talking about the punch in, punch out mentality that so many Americans still subscribe to, or at the very least succumb to.  

I may be stepping on some toes here, but what progress ever happened without a few bruised toes? 

Before starting as a partner of High Five, I worked with people who operated in an uber conservative corporate environment.  I saw my friends clock in and play the rat race game…hard. Luckily, I was able to manage my team in a less strict manner, but we all still answered to the man.  Don't get me wrong, my past taught me some really valuable lessons like the importance of diligent work and how to manage people, and I value the opportunities working for a successful corporation afforded me. It allowed me to do my own thing eventually, which is such a blessing. However, when I had the opportunity to help start my own business, I found myself drifting from the corporate structure of my past.

So here are three ways to implement fun, engaging methods in your business, no matter what industry you manage. I believe a more open, dynamic office environment actually increases productivity in employees. If you can take away just one aspect of this post and apply it to your own employees, I believe you’ll see growth that may surprise you.

1.) Positivity breeds productivity

Have you ever noticed how little work you get done when you’re in a funk? You second guess yourself, you feel sluggish, and you can’t focus.  Now flip that around and think of a time when you felt really motivated and inspired. How did your productivity rank then?

In my business I go to great lengths to cultivate a positive, relaxed environment. I know, I know, when people hear the word relaxed they instantly freak out.  They think of the middle aged couch potato chomping away at cheese doodles while he channel surfs. But I’m not talking about lazy. I’m talking about providing your employees with an environment in which they feel comfortable. In this comfortable, positive environment, many employees generate their best work, because they don’t feel the extreme pressure that stricter environments generate. So this might mean the dress code is a little more casual than business casual, if you catch an employee shoelessly typing away you smile instead of grimace, you consider outdoor workspaces just as relevant as indoor desks, or you might even bring in donuts on a random Wednesday rather than just on National Donuts day. Whatever it is, make sure it’s intentional and allows your employees to know that you care about them and trust them to get their job done. This brings us to the next point. 

2.) Just Trust

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very fine place to start (Sound of Music, anyone?).  Trust starts during the hiring process. You have to hire people you feel you can trust to get the work done. This may seem simple, but it’s huge when it comes to cultivating a relaxed, positive environment. If you can trust people to get their work done, and done well, then you have time to tackle other bigger projects. Employees also want to feel trusted. Have you ever worked for a boss you felt didn’t trust your judgment? How did that work out for you? Chances are either your work suffered because you second-guessed everything (Maybe she’s right! Maybe I can’t finish this project in time.) or said boss managed his or her distrust by micromanaging your every move. Allowing your employees to feel truly trusted is almost like concocting a self-fulfilling prophecy. Obviously, you will need to address if they consistently underperform; however, chances are they will rise to the occasion, especially if you did the work on the font end and hired quality individuals. 

3.) Cultivating Creativity

Cultivating creativity is important no matter what industry you’re in. I know this may seem a little woo-woo, but follow me on this one. Creativity isn’t just writing, it isn’t just painting, and it isn’t just making art. Creativity isn’t reserved for the hipsters and the hippies.  Creativity happens every day, and if your business isn’t actively pursuing it, it’s going to suffer. Creativity is a different way of assessing the success or failure of a project. It’s figuring out random ways to engage with clients. It’s taking a chance on an idea that no one else in your industry has considered. Creativity isn’t based in logic, though, it’s based in your employees deepest strengths and passions. It can come out in a logical, analytical pattern; however, true creativity originates from an internal spark of genuine curiosity. 

“I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking” 

-Albert Einstein

In my office, I’m surrounded by people who openly call themselves “creatives”.  This is a little overwhelming at times, because as I’ve mentioned, I originally came from a pretty straight-laced corporate environment.  The first time I noticed when one of my employees walked outside and just stared at the trees for 15 minutes, I thought I was losing my grip. But the truth is, we are all wired for creativity. We all need little breaks in the day to reset and reestablish our goals. Yes, that might mean you allow your employees to make a coffee run mid-day, or you let them take some time to laugh at hilarious YouTube videos. Because there’s one thing we aren’t, and that’s a robot (talk about a compelling pull quote). 

In order to fuel creativity you have to allow people their own unique methods of inquiry. 

Remember the tree-staring guy? I watched him come back inside and edit a commercial that got us national recognition and is still used as an example of our business’ strengths.

Though these tips may feel a little loosey-goosey when it comes to running a business where you need to make money and meet deadlines, I promise you your employees will notice these changes and they will respond positively. In a world where it seems our attention spans are ever waning (140 characters anyone?), it’s important to get real with yourself about the type of work you expect of your employees. When Twitter and Facebook are a mere swipe away, do you honestly think placing a millennial in a beige cubicle, giving them a 30 minute lunch break, and never really engaging with them socially is going to produce high rates of success and growth for your company? Because remember you’re only as good as your worst employee. I think advocating for a trusting, relaxed, engaging environment is the answer. 

If you gain a little weight from all those donuts, then so be it. With all of that business growth, I bet you can afford a new pair of pants.

By: Earle Haggard, Parter at High Five