A tip for new leaders: Sit in the open plan

When making the step from consultant to decision maker, Chris Pieroni had to find his bearings quickly.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 17 Jun 2019

Stepping into a new leadership role can be challenging to say the least. You want to hit the ground running, make visible changes and have a positive impact on the business, but that's not easy, particularly when you're getting to grips with an unfamiliar company and sector.

When Chris Pieroni was asked to take over as operations director at FTSE 250 real estate investment trust Workspace Group (an office space provider, to you and me), he had the added challenge of changing careers at the same time.  

Having worked solely in consultancy - firstly as an economic forecaster at Cambridge University, then as a property specialist for PwC and COO of property consultancy Colliers - the prospect of moving from being an advisor to the one making the decisions was a daunting one. He had to ensure that he found his bearings, quickly.


"If you work for a consultancy you can broadly calculate how much money you’re making for the business, you know your hourly rate and how much you’re charging clients, so can simply focus on bringing in the money.

"That’s not the case in a big operational business; the only thing that works is when teams work well together, so you have to really focus on what the business wants to deliver, and how to get people to work together to achieve it.

"It was quite a challenge for me personally to prove that I could run something rather than just talk about it.

"I had to set up a lot of data sources just to understand how Workspace was operating. I also turned down my predecessor's office and sat on the floor [i.e. in the main office, not on the carpet] to better understand what was going on.

"We are open plan, so I could hear how the lettings team spoke about the business, understand how the marketing team marketed our offices and speak to the finance team about how we were capturing financial information, and how it flowed through the business. That was a great lesson in actually understanding how the company was run and how it all worked.

"In the end I turned my predecessor's office into a meeting room."

Image credit: fvelez/gettyimages

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