What your workspace or desk says about you

In any office environment, each workspace has a personality all its own.  

At McLelland's Saddlery, Perry McLelland helps to run the family business.  He makes ornate, made-to-order saddles for customers around the world.  

"This is all done free hand," he said, running his hand along an ornate design in leather.

His tools, stencils and projects fill his workspace, floor to ceiling.  Not an inch of the workshop is unutilized. The visual is overwhelming to a newcomer. 

McLelland says it takes a while to train individuals where everything is located, but everything is positioned for efficiency and he likes everything in its place.  When he has run out of room to store items he needs, he looks up to space overhead.

"You can come up with a lot of different ideas of how to use space effectively," he said.

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Northwood University Professor Dr. Cathy Bush, Ph.D., has worked as a consultant for leadership development. Her studies were in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. Bush says the looks of McLelland's office are signs of a powerful trait.

"The personality characteristic of conscientiousness is the number-one characteristic of what predicts whether or not we thinks somebody is awesome at their job," she said.

Bush looks around.  She says McLelland is likely creative and introverted, a common mix.  McLelland agrees.  

The complex organization of his space shows McLelland makes a product suited for repeat customers, she says.

"It makes your work really efficient," she said.

McLelland confirms, many customers come back time and time again because they appreciate his craftsmanship.

Bush believes McLelland has strengths in leadership, encouraging coworkers by showing them success through his method.

"Now I need to go work on my garage because it's a mess," he laughed.

In Palm Beach, at the Society of The Four Arts, there are pristine gardens and prim show spaces for artwork and performances.  Behind the historic beauty, Elvio Salazar is hard at work doing IT work and operating expensive movie projectors.

"I have to pretty much be here every time that's turned on," he said, gesturing to a massive projector.

His office is a space he shares with two coworkers.  Their desks are surrounded by blueprints and archives for the organization.  A shared environment, Bush says, is best for extroverted personalities.  Salazar agrees, he has an outgoing personality.

"Our thing is, three heads work better than one," he said.

Bush chimed in, "And that's excellent, right?  So when the work requires collaboration, a more open space is really, really useful."

At Salazar's desk there are no photos of friends or family.  Few decorations dot the workspace.  This is not a surprise to Bush.

"The kind of thing that we see with people who are experts in a field, very much focused on the equipment, making sure all of the tools of their trade work effectively.  It's way more important than being fancy or pretty," she said.

In Delray Beach, Frank McKinney has built his own office, a forty-foot commute from his home.  It's a tree house, overlooking the crashing waves of the beach, nestled in decades-old trees.  A bathroom, bedroom and television are all available in the efficient 200-square foot space.  His desk is free from clutter.  He does his work in real estate from this desk.

"There's cedar siding, this is rough-sown cedar walls," he said.

"I see many things in here that show Frank's personality as being more pragmatic, rather organized," Bush said.

Bush notices that McKinney is growing his creativity from the space. McKinney agrees, saying that's the point of the tree house.

"It is innovation and creativity that is rewarded in business today," he said.

With natural views, photos of his family and medals from 135-mile ultra-marathons he has run through the desert, Bush says he is consciously  tapping in to inspiration and energy.  It's a good approach, Bush says.

"Anything that can help you get 'unstuck,'" she said.

McKinney had never written a book until he built the tree house.  Since then, he has authored five.  The lesson, Bush says, is to make your office space work for you.  Use it to push traits you wish to make stronger.

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