As you apply the rules of marketing and establish an effective sales system, an interesting phenomenon will occur. You will start to sign more contracts and your boards will begin to stack up with exciting new projects. You’re going to get busy and you are not going to be able to do all the work yourself.
You are going to need to build a team.
The way you have always done things will need to change. The memorized undocumented process that you use every day to get your work done will need to be streamlined, clarified and written down. It will most likely need to change in order to better translate to others… and you need to be open to that idea. The way things have always been done is not necessarily the best way.
Whether or not your team does what you want them to do is your responsibility. The final results of the work performed by your team is up to you. If things don’t work out the way they should for the best of the firm, it is your fault. The success or failure of your team will be determined by the choices you make. As the leader, it is your job to establish the essential elements required for a successful team.
Whether you are leading a team of employees or several freelancers spread out across the globe, here are 17 elements that I have discovered in my own quest to lead successful teams in architecture.
1. Communication. The most important of all the essential elements of successful teams is communication. The ability to express yourself and for your team to express themselves must be clear, consistent and systematized. You must be available to answer questions on a regular basis. A quick daily check-in to set the day off in the right direction will establish a culture of accountability. A weekly staff meeting to review progress will keep active projects running smooth and reduce errors or misunderstandings. Notes on how projects and processes can be improved should be taken by every member of the team and distributed among all involved, setting a standard that every member of the team is valued.
2. Clarity. From daily directives and scopes of work to your overall vision and firm’s mission, clear simple language and an understanding of where you want to go will provide your team with a roadmap to help get you there.
3. Candor. Ed Catmull, CEO of Pixar says, “Good ideas can come from anywhere.” Often better ways of producing a project or running the office will be brought to light from the people doing the work. In order for those ideas to be brought forth, the freedom to speak without fear of being shot down, criticized or penalized is critical. You as the leader must establish the idea that every idea is worth sharing and that honest feedback when a project is not heading in the right direction is the responsibility of every team member.
4. Process. This has been a common theme here at EntreArchitect throughout the many years I’ve been writing here. You must create systems for every activity performed at your firm… and this is the time, when you begin to build your team, that the process becomes most critical. When an easily followed process is established and an expected result is identified, your team will be happier. The projects will be completed more accurately and more efficiently. Your time as a leader can then be dedicated to leading, not managing or performing work that others have already unsatisfactorily completed. If you want your team to produce a specific result, it is an evolving, continuously improving process that will make it happen.
5. Failure. Encourage risk and accept failure without repercussion. Finding new ways of performing your work and innovative solutions to your architectural designs requires risk. When failure is celebrated as the result of seeking success, your firm will thrive and your team will dedicate themselves to your success.
6. Deadlines. Establish clear (and realistic) deadlines and benchmarks. Make schedules for each project easily accessible to every team member. Include reviews and approval dates, both internally for your team as well as externally from your clients. Understanding when work must be completed will allow team members to complete the work when you expect it to be completed.
7. Metrics. Track the hours and budget for every project and allow your team to have access to this data. Knowing how their work effects the success of the firm will reinforce a culture of accountability.
8. Freedom. From my experience, results are what matters, not hours in a seat. Provide your team with the freedom to work flexibly and you will have a happier team. With an effective process and clear communication, with check-ins and regular progress meetings, there is no need for set work hours. Also allow for the freedom of expression in the work environment. When your team is surrounded by the images and items that inspire them most, they will perform at the highest levels.
9. Tools. Invest in the tools to properly communicate and perform the work for your firm. A comprehensive communication tool like Slack will allow for quick communication and sharing among your team members. Design software, appropriate for the work that you are producing, should be kept up to date and available for your team. Imagine a rough framing carpenter without a proper framing hammer. The nail may be driven, but with difficultly, inefficiency and a very unhappy carpenter.
10. Strengths. Knowing your strengths (and weaknesses) will allow you to build a balanced team with members strong in the areas in which you may not thrive. Use the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book and Gallop test to evaluate your own strengths and the strengths of your team.
11. Retreats. Schedule time away from the studio with your team on a quarterly basis to review status, plan and discuss ways to improve the way you work. You may consider a two-day off site once at the beginning of each year and three half-day focus sessions throughout the year to confirm that your team is healthy and eager to find new ways to improve projects and processes.
12. Research. Encourage research with every new project. Explore ways that others have solved the same problems. Look to other industries for solutions to projects and processes.
13. Excellence. Strive for excellence, not perfection. Much frustration in leadership stems from leaders requiring their team to perform the work the same way that they would preform the work. They want their teams to be an extension of themselves. If you have built your team with smart, creative people, let them do what they do. Set a clear standard of excellence, not a standard of “produced just like you would do it.”
14. Credit. Allow your team to have “ownership” in the work they perform. Set expectations and results and give your team the freedom and responsibility to act as if they have a stake in every decision. Give credit to your team for the work they perform. Share the benefits and include their names in publications at every opportunity.
15. Rewards. Show your appreciation for your team in both words and unexpected financial rewards. Do not give regular bonuses. Pay your team well and, at random times when most appropriate, hand them a check and say the words, “thank you”.
16. Demonstrate. Be an example of the behavior you want to see in your team. Be intimately involved in the work being performed. Understand what your team needs to be most successful and make it your job to make that happen. Live your mission in your actions and words and your team will work to those standards as well.
17. Fun. Take random opportunities to stop work, bond with your team and have fun. Get out of the studio. Take a class. Drive go-karts. Go deep sea fishing. When you connect with people on a more personal level, you will build a dedicated, loyal team that loves what they do… for you.
Question: What are the elements that make YOUR team successful?
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