As president of Aon Risk Services, Ted Devine ran a company with $5 billion in annual revenue and 28,000 employees. Yet, despite his prestigious post, he had career misgivings.
Often, he’d leave his opulent office and see a cluster of staffers in the hallway hoping to talk with him. It was as if people were lining up to see the pope.
Now CEO of Insureon, a Chicago-based insurance agency that serves small business, Devine welcomes the chance to chat freely with his team. They no longer line up for a few seconds of his time.
To maximize his accessibility, Devine established an open-plan office configuration. He set up shop in one corner of an expansive room.
From his desk, he can see all 20 employees who are based in Insureon’s headquarters. Removing all cubicle dividers helps everyone collaborate better.
“For me it says a couple things about,” Devine says. “One is: No walls, no barriers, no hierarchy. Everybody can talk to everybody. Everybody can participate in a decision.”
Because half of Insureon’s employees are under age 28, the no-walls aesthetic works especially well. Younger staffers crave opportunities to express their ideas and opinions directly to the CEO, bypassing a rigid hierarchy.
The openness promotes information sharing. For example, a support-level employee walked up to Devine to discuss some problems with a product. After 15 minutes of informal back-and-forth, they hashed out solutions.
— Adapted from “5 Influential CEOs Weigh in What Makes a Good Leader,” www.entrepreneur.com.