The Inkling of Inspiration that I’ve pulled from this month’s Managers Roundtable comes from the group discussion of how to support positive behaviors within your centers.  We wrapped up our three-month exploration of the ins and outs of effective shared space policies by examining a pretty common situation:

It seems like Tenant X is always in our 4-person conference room and other tenants are starting to grumble. They also leave trash in the room, making it hard on staff.

Ugh.  If you work in a shared space or coworking center, you have probably experienced something along these lines.  I have certainly been on both sides of this scenario.  I’ve been the person who is “just going to pop in this unused meeting room for a quick conversation” and then forgets to put the room back how I found it.  I’ve also been the person annoyed at my work space “roommate” for constantly using an amenity or resource that we’re supposed to be sharing (insert dramatic eye roll here).

Taking this relatively common and relatively benign situation, the group explored three key questions:

  • Why is it important to address this situation?
  • What is actually going on here?
  • Which approach should we use to intervene?

The discussion that ensued around these three questions was AWESOME (if you’re a shared space nerd like me).  I’d like to impart the key takeaways that I gleaned from this incredible group of leaders.

First, if there is something happening in your space that is causing conflict and tension, or otherwise making it hard for people to get the benefits of working in your center, it’s important to consider why bother addressing it.  Here’s what we came up with:

  • Start with your vision and culture. It’s important to be proactive about these kinds of perceived misallocation of resources because, at the core, these behaviors do not support the intended vision and culture of the center.  Shared spaces are (usually) intended to be places where people respect and support each other, where there are opportunities for collaboration, where reciprocity is king.  When situations arise that do not reflect those core values, it matters.
  • It’s also important because . . . well . . . it’s just not fair. And the perception (or reality) of unfairness in a shared space can lead to resentment and the risk of developing a toxic, close culture in a space.
  • And lastly, it’s important because these kinds of conflicts can point to needed improvements in your staffing, physical design, or policy systems.

Second, I learned that tackling an issue in your center requires some consideration of what the underlying issues might be.  To get at that, plan to spend some time listening.  Put in some face-to-face time with your members or tenants to really listen to what needs they’re trying to meet, what challenges they are having, and what ideas they have to solve for the problem at hand.

Finally, my last big takeaway was a fantastic tool for developing and implementing sustained behavior change strategies.  Since dirty dishes, inconsiderate noise levels, or overuse of meeting rooms will remain a persistent challenge when sharing space with other humans, it is really helpful to have a framework for choosing and using effective behavior change solutions.  Our tool of the month is Les Robinson’s Comfy Zone Diagnostic: A Tool for Designing Change Projects.  This tool invites us to consider options for motivating our members/tenants to “act right” that fall along a spectrum of “empowering” to “disempowering”.  Here’s a sneak peek, but be sure to check out the full publication for more.

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With these three takeaways, I feel better equipped to recommend new policies or processes for improving how members/tenants interact and build a positive work culture inside of centers that I’m supporting.  Let us know what you think!

The Managers Roundtable is a professionally facilitated peer-learning circle that provides a monthly forum for shared space managers to exchange information and hone in on best practices as a community.  Our current group is closed, but to be added to the waitlist email us!