Microsoft chief on balancing leadership with accessibility

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The managing director of one of the world’s best known companies reflects on her experiences

As someone who champions the expression “Work is a thing you do, not a place you go,” managing director Pip Marlow has gone a long way to ensure that Microsoft remains a place where employees “can do innovative work, have an impact, and still create a diverse workplace.”
 
Since the company encourages flexible arrangements such as working remotely, Marlow decided to embrace the concept of accessibility and take part in the transparent culture that Microsoft frequently advocates.  To do so, she moved out of her prominent corner office and no longer has a desk, cubicle, or regular workspace.
 
“Initially, I was a girl in a bubble and everybody came to me, but my world had a very narrow radius because, under that model, everyone came into my office and my view was very compartmentalised,” said Marlow.
 
To facilitate dialogue, Marlow splits her time between video calls in the conference room, one-on-one appointments in the meeting room, and working alongside Microsoft employees in the common area.
 
“I love the vibrancy; I love hearing the different accents and bumping into new employees.  You never know who you’re going to sit next to, or what conversations you’re going to overhear where you can offer some input or learn new information,” said Marlow.
 
She is also able to connect with employees through a multifaceted communications channel that uses many tools to ensure messages are received by every worker demographic.
 
“Technology can be a great enabler to reaching and engaging more employees, more frequently, which is why we take a multichannel approach – we communicate via Twitter, in writing, in person and via memos – to make sure people are consuming messages in different ways.”
 
She sees results manifested in high engagement, positive attitudes, and in diversity of Microsoft’s workforce.  In fact, this strategy has been so successful that she plans to implement it in any organisation where she may work in the future.
 
“Someone asked me recently if I got a new job and it came with a corner suite office, what would I do?  And I said that on my first day, I’d be moving out of that office!  And I’d never go back,” said Marlow.

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