By Russell Benaroya, co-owner at Stride, a virtual bookkeeping and accounting firm servicing organizations in North America.
In 2018, my family and I moved abroad to live for a year in San Jose, Costa Rica. It was transformational for me as a friend, a partner and a business leader. Stepping into a new environment without expectations left me open to creativity, curiosity and candor. Everything changed for me at that point, and while it was a privilege, it is also the opportunity that many of us have today in our remote workforce environment. As we navigate this remote workforce world where we can get our work done from anywhere, the power of place has the ability to not only uplevel your leadership but also uplevel your life.
Let’s define ‘place.’
We all know, if we close our eyes and think for a moment, about those environments we have been in that have the ability to help us shed the armor that protects us from the business environment. We are in a flow. We aren’t as defensive. Our feeling of gratitude trumps our feeling of urgency. And as I like to say, the “universe has an easier time helping us do our work.”
In fact, there are town designers who understand this and have architected environments purpose-built to unlock this energy. As an example, Casey Roloff is the visionary who, with a team of amazing designers, has built a town on the Washington coast called Seabrook. Everything about Seabrook facilitates a connectedness to each other and the surrounding environment. Casey is like the Steve Jobs of community design and has showcased why “place” can make such a difference in how we feel about ourselves.
Here are five ways that your physical environment can improve your leadership.
Creativity will soar.
A study in 2012 found that immersion in a more natural setting had a significant impact on creativity and problem-solving. The study determined that there is a correlation between the impact of the natural stimuli and low arousal (i.e., a lower-tech environment). Overstimulation from the demands of always-on technology keeps us from attending to problems creatively and calmly.
Relationships will strengthen.
When you feel energized by your surroundings, what emerges is a more authentic connection to others. You are exactly where you need to be. You are present. That presence is felt by the people around you. It makes you more able to focus on listening to and supporting others. You will be more approachable.
Priorities will be clearer.
Environments that give you energy in your life do an exceptional job of forcing prioritization. Your business, while important, is just a piece of who you are and who you want to become. Your interest and desire are much more in your whole self. As a result, you prioritize time better. You may dedicate less time to business, but it is highly focused and prioritized.
You will be a better coach.
Business leadership is about being a great coach. Great coaches don’t go on the field and take over for their players. They help their players achieve their highest and best use. Energizing places create less desire to take the time to do the work of others. Rather, they promote more curiosity and more conviction. One small thing you can try is to get out of your house and take a walking call meeting next week. Forget about Zoom. Just have a call. Think about how you perform during that meeting while you’re walking. How much better of a coach are you?
You won’t feel the need to be liked.
Our three core wants are security, control and approval, which are laid out beautifully in one of my favorite books, The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership. Our want for approval comes from our deep desire to belong, and as business leaders, we aren’t immune (we all like to be appreciated). I have found that when you are in the right physical environment, it can give you all the approval you need (you are exactly where you need to be) so that you don’t feel compelled to exhibit the unhelpful behaviors of trying to be liked by others.
While many business leaders are lamenting about the drawbacks of remote work, a bit of intention around creating an environment that gives you energy to be your best self has tremendous benefits. You don’t have to go to Costa Rica or Seabrook to make it happen, but you will benefit from plugging into the natural environment. And by doing so, you will be more effective at managing yourself so that you can be more successful in managing others.