Different industries require subtle differences in style and how leaders impact their teams and results. As part of our occasional series chatting with industry leaders, we recently spoke with engineer and senior leader, Wes Davis. His story is an interesting one, with Wes focusing much of his time and development on the topic of leadership within engineering, rather than simply learning and applying the technical aspects.
Starting a new job can be an exciting and nerve-wracking experience.
You want to make a good impression and set yourself up for success in your new role.
There are many unknowns and even fears leading up to your first day. Your success and satisfaction depends on numerous factors, many of which you can influence and control.
Does onboarding and early support really matter?
Let’s delve into a few key points proving that it does and find out what you can do to minimise the risks and maximise the opportunities.
It is critical to understand the importance of an effective onboarding and induction process. This is often misunderstood and poorly implemented, with significant risks for employee retention, engagement and business success as a result.
Let’s firstly look at the environment and culture you are about to step into, including the induction process. According to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), effective onboarding can increase employee retention by 25% and improve productivity by up to 50%. The study also states that Research and conventional wisdom both suggest that employees get about 90 days to prove themselves in a new job. The faster new hires feel welcome and prepared for their jobs, the faster they will be able to successfully contribute to the firm’s mission.
In addition, a Glassdoor survey found that a positive onboarding experience can lead to employees being 69% more likely to stay with a company for three years or more. BambooHR found that the most important factors for successful onboarding include:
- Setting clear expectations (96% of respondents rated this as important)
- Providing access to necessary tools and information (93%)
- Providing access to mentors, buddies, or coaches (87%)
- Making introductions to colleagues (87%)
- Having a formal onboarding program (85%)
In terms of the length of onboarding programs, the same BambooHR research found that employees who participated in onboarding programs that lasted longer than one month were more than twice as likely to stay with the company for three years or more, compared to employees who had a shorter onboarding program.
On the other hand, 62% of HR managers said that a successful onboarding process can improve the employee experience, and 54% said it can improve employee retention.
What about the individual? There is plenty you can do to own your role and provide greater likelihood of successful integration. To help you navigate this transition, we’ve put together a list of things you should do and look for when starting a new job.
- Research the company: Before your first day, take some time to research the company. Review their website, social media accounts, and any news articles or press releases about the company. This will give you a better understanding of the company’s culture, values and goals. You should also learn about the industry the company operates in and the competitors they face.
- Understand your job responsibilities: Make sure you fully understand your job responsibilities before you start. This includes the tasks you will be responsible for, any goals or targets you are expected to meet, and who you report to. If you are unsure about anything, don’t be afraid to ask your manager or HR representative for clarification.
- Be prepared for your first day: Make sure you are prepared for your first day on the job. This includes knowing what time you need to arrive, where you need to go, and what to wear. You should also bring a notebook and pen to take notes, as well as any other materials you were instructed to bring.
- Build relationships with your colleagues: Getting to know your colleagues is an important part of starting a new job. Make an effort to introduce yourself to your co-workers and ask them about their roles and responsibilities. Take part in team-building activities or social events to help build relationships and learn more about your colleagues.
- Understand the company culture: Understanding the company culture is important for fitting in and feeling comfortable in your new role. Observe how your colleagues interact with each other and the company’s values and behaviors. If you are unsure about anything, ask your manager or HR representative for guidance.
- Learn the company’s technology and systems: Many companies use specialised software or systems to manage their operations. Make sure you learn how to use any technology or systems that are essential to your role. If you are having trouble, ask your colleagues or IT department for assistance.
- Seek feedback: Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from your manager or colleagues. This will help you identify areas where you are doing well and areas where you need to improve. Feedback can also help you adjust to the company’s expectations and culture.
- Set goals for yourself: Setting goals for yourself can help you stay motivated and focused in your new role. Talk to your manager about what goals you should be working towards, both short-term and long-term. Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, and achievable.
- Find a mentor or coach: Having a mentor or coach can be a great way to learn more about the company and industry, as well as get guidance and support in your role. Ask your manager or HR representative if there is a formal support and development program, or seek out a coach or mentor on your own.
- Take care of yourself: Starting a new job can be stressful, so it is important to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and taking breaks throughout the day. Don’t be afraid to talk to your manager or HR representative if you are feeling overwhelmed or need additional support.
The opportunities presented when changing jobs can be both challenging and exciting. It is this excitement and the unknowns that should form part of the reason for the change in the first place.
Don’t leave your success to ‘fate’ or luck. Own your role and seek assistance to make the most of the opportunity. Through genuine thought and reflection and having a plan to follow during your first few month, you can set yourself up for success and greater enjoyment in your new role.
Many people at all levels of seniority and across industries find that external support and coaching is of benefit, particularly during the challenging time of starting a new job.
If you, one of your team or someone else you know are currently changing jobs, it is worthwhile investigating our CoachStation Role Integration Coaching (RIC) Program.
We have created a very useful and effective coaching and support resource to assist people at all levels as they transition into a new job. It is as effective for internal movements as external. Many of the points listed in this blog are explored and expanded on to ensure the best opportunity for a successful integration.
The RIC program provides many benefits. Primarily, there is the opportunity to transition and onboard into the new role with additional support from an external resource and coach. This is designed to work in conjunction with the recruiting organisation and their induction process, enhancing the opportunity for both the employee and new employer.
Coachees participate in two online coaching and mentoring sessions across an 8-week period. The first session is scheduled 1 – 2 weeks prior to starting your role, whilst the second session is scheduled to occur around 4 weeks after. Commonly, this might involve identifying a 30-60-90 day plan; specific skill development; developing greater self-awareness and Emotional Intelligence; leadership capability; or similar themes.
The 1:1 coaching is reinforced through access to our custom eLearning platform and its resources, tools and content. Specifically your RIC Program includes:
- Two Coaching and Mentoring sessions, facilitated online by experienced and effective CoachStation coaches.
- Opportunity to ask questions via email-based Q&A coaching throughout the program.
- Access to learning videos providing insight into how best to integrate into your new role; tactics to maximise your first few months; observations and strategies to apply during this phase.
- Supporting tools and resources to be applied during the program and designed to be of benefit for many months and years after.
- Candidates will be provided with an Ebook providing insights, tools and material consolidating the learning.
Resources and References:
Leadership coaching and mentoring can be the difference for managers.
Managers who are often challenged by expectations of meeting and exceeding goals; achieving KPI’s; leading teams and many other aspects of creating and sustaining successful business. Consistently, evidence and research suggests that the biggest challenge for managers is leading and influencing people. Influencing others is core to the leadership component of the role and the single greatest influence on achieving team/business goals and outcomes.
Yet, genuinely leading team members and employees remains something that is often feared and somewhat avoided.
Very few managers instinctively or innately understand all of the elements of leadership and most struggle in this space to some degree. If you have read this far, it is probably because you are relating these points to your current manager or maybe when leading others yourself. The good news; this is incredibly common.
Related: Coaching Leaders – Learning to Lead
CoachStation was created to assist in these exact scenarios. Being competent and confident to lead and manage is not ‘automatic’ just because you have been given the role and title. However, these skills, attributes and leadership capability can be learned. It starts with you.
Fearing the outcomes because you are not focusing on the inputs and things that can be controlled is both ineffective and inefficient…not to mention, stressful!
I have been fortunate to have assisted in the development of well over 300 clients in the last 8 years, through leadership and workplace coaching and mentoring. Very few clients cannot and do not become more effective as leaders, through focused and tailored coaching. That is the power of targeted development.
Most recently I completed a leadership coaching and mentoring program with two managers working in the public service sector. Tanya and Steve were great coachees. They owned their actions and were keen to practice the art and science of leadership on a daily basis.
Steve and Tanya were very kind in giving me a gift to show appreciation, which was a lovely surprise. This can be seen in the photo of the framed quote above. A highly relevant statement for the nature of coaching, yet just as relevant in leadership.
Their comments and feedback provide a relevant and interesting insight into the benefits that can be gained through participating in a leadership coaching and mentoring program. They are worth reading, as coaching may be an option for you and context and insight of others can be very powerful.
The opportunity to embark on a coaching and mentoring relationship with Steve Riddle through CoachStation came at an extremely fortuitous time for me. I had been feeling overwhelmed with my work, was becoming increasingly disengaged and was struggling with aspects of my leadership role.
Working with Steve gave me an accountability for ownership of my behaviour, standards and expectations.
Steve is an extremely knowledgeable and effective coach; he listens and understands providing support, resources and guidance. It is no magic trick though, there is hard work to be done. Some of the sessions were quite challenging; as a self-proclaimed perfectionist it can be a little uncomfortable to self-assess and reflect honestly.
However the growth and development I experienced through the program is invaluable and ongoing. The process was just what I needed to re-focus and re-energise.
Under Steve’s genuine and engaging coaching style, I have worked to improve my communication as a leader, streamlined my work processes so that I am working more efficiently and I have a much deeper understanding of my personal values and their influence on my behaviour. These changes have permeated into my personal life. I also feel more assertive, organised and in control in aspects outside of work. Thank you Steve for helping me get there in such a positive and meaningful way.
If you (like me) always read the internet reviews in order to make decisions…and are wondering whether CoachStation is right for you and/or your business, I strongly encourage you to take the step.Tanya T, Leader
The points made by Tanya about her coaching experience are just as applicable in leadership as coaching. Skills and attributes such as accountability, behaviour, setting expectations, understanding personal values and listening skills all form the core of effective leadership, just as they do when coaching. Along with the other points made, they also provide a ‘self-check’ for a leader (you?) to assess your performance.
I have worked with Steve for the last 6 months. During this time Steve has challenged me in the areas that I needed to be challenged in whilst allowing me to add growth to the areas that I felt I was already quite proficient. Steve is down to earth, has the experience to relate to the scenarios that I have raised and has provided the guidance and coaching that has allowed me to achieve the results that I set out to achieve in those situations.
After 6 sessions with Steve, I can absolutely say that I am more effective in not only my professional life but also in my home life.Steve B, Leader
Steve mentioned being challenged during his coaching process. To be able to find the balance in challenging someone, without that becoming the focus of the moment is a useful skill.
I often refer to a ‘supported challenge’ as opposed to an ‘unsupported challenge’. When someone feels that you are focusing on them rather than the point, it can feel personal. Then there is a risk of avoidance or blame. Either way this is not an effective methodology.
Steve also mentioned that the benefits have been felt just as much in his personal life as in the workplace. This makes sense to those who have participated in coaching. It is difficult and unnecessary to separate these two aspects of our lives. The coachee is the common denominator and all parts of their lives are positively impacted through development.
Leaders can be developed. The examples and evidence are many, as with Tanya and Steve. Organisational cultures can be improved too. Targeted 1:1 leadership and management coaching is the most effective and meaningful method of development for most leaders and organisations.
If you have been thinking about developing your leadership and management skills, now may be a good time to do something about it. We are very experienced in coaching and mentoring within the workplace.
Contact CoachStation to discuss your leadership coaching and development options.
Read other client comments and stories to see if you may be able to gain similar benefits from leadership coaching and mentoring.
Organisations regularly fail to set their leaders up for success.
When it comes to development, up and coming managers and leaders themselves are just as responsible and culpable. Coaching provides the opportunity and impetus for growth and change.
The statements above may seem confronting, yet the evidence continues to present itself in organisations throughout the world. Few people I know personally and professionally feel that they are supported and developed consistently well by their leaders. Those who do should feel very lucky. Leaders who have sought development and coaching are significantly more likely to engage their team members. Coaching leaders are also more likely to develop and maintain solid relationships and connections with those they work with. This is important as employee engagement rates continue to fall or at best, remain stagnant.
According to the recent Gallup State of the Global Workplace report, 85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. The economic consequences of this global “norm” are approximately $7 trillion in lost productivity.
Eighteen percent (of employees globally) are actively disengaged in their work and workplace, while 67% are “not engaged.”
This latter group makes up the majority of the workforce — they are not your worst performers, but they are indifferent to your organization. They give you their time, but not their best effort nor their best ideas. They likely come to work wanting to make a difference — but nobody has ever asked them to use their strengths to make the organization better. (1)
Becoming an effective leader does not happen by accident. Leadership and management coaching support provides the opportunity to grow professionally and personally. Skill and capability development, along with gaining an understanding of how to work with different people are important attributes. That makes sense, however, possessing the right skills is only part of the story.
Other critical factors are just as important. Knowing the right question to ask at the right time. Genuinely listening and delving to get to the nub of the matter. Learning how to influence. Caring about others as much as yourself, are all vital leadership traits. Beyond standard development, how else can you obtain the right skills and behaviours?
By building on the skills listed above you will earn the right to lead others. Deciding that this is your path is a great first step. Too many of us fail to challenge our comfort zones and follow through on what we believe and who we are. This sort of compromise leads to a lack of contribution and fulfilment.
What’s the secret? It’s this: we rose to our leadership positions because we were good at a certain skill not because we were skilled at leading others. We were promoted because we personally created great results. And, now that our job has shifted into a leadership role, we realise that we’re responsible to do the one thing we were never actually trained to do—lead, inspire, and motivate other people to become their best.
I never had training on how to be a leader, and frankly leadership is earned not given so I’m not sure it’s something that can be learned in a classroom,” said Matt Rizzetta, CEO and Founder of N6A, a public relations and social media agency based in New York and Toronto. “I came from an agency background and couldn’t understand why so many failed to see that the lifeblood of a services business is its people.
If people are what makes your business tick, then that needs to be the first place you look to invest and innovate. You need to see the correlation between the service product and the internal culture. The two should be interchangeable.
If you create a unique and rewarding internal culture for employees you’ll likely create a unique service experience for customers, and there will be performance benefits for both. That’s why I started my own company—not because I thought I was a leader, but because I knew that, by creating a better environment for employees we would create a better product for clients, and ultimately everybody would win. (2) Developing effective coaching skills and capability is one way to positively influence the culture and environment.
If you see this type of time and effort as a cost, not an investment, you will never commit fully. And you will truly struggle to influence and lead others.
- It is imperative to spend the time upfront to identify and recruit the most appropriate and effective leaders. The time spent getting this right is an investment, not a cost. Get it wrong however, and it will feel like a price you have to pay for far too long.
- Dedicating suitable levels of effort in developing leaders internally, prior to the opportunity. This rarely happens in reality, yet is one of the most simple and effective ways to confirm suitability and set up the new leader for success. Success for the leader, team and organisation.
Seek additional understanding and knowledge from whoever and wherever you can. Reinforcement of your existing understanding; exposure to new ideas and thinking; whilst broadening your mindset and skills comes from many sources. Seek them out. Be deliberate.
Being a leader can be challenging. It is also often rewarding, both personally and professionally. However, it takes effort, persistence and time, which it seems many people struggle to understand and apply. There are no short-cuts, but there is opportunity. (3)
The opportunity to improve individual and team leadership is available to most. The chance to make leadership development a priority and expectation within your organisational culture can make a real difference to whether people bother. Leadership is not a negotiable asset. We are all looking for more from our workplaces and our leaders and bosses are the linchpin to make this happen. What does this look like?
Google released two projects over the past few years that provide evidence of where our focus should be. Project Aristotle found that the firm’s best team’s exhibited a range of soft skills. Top ideas often come from so-called B-teams comprising people who were not always the smartest in the room, but excelled in team based environments.
Along with mentoring, leadership and workplace coaching is a great asset to receive and give.
Project Oxygen research in 2013 found that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) expertise was the last of eight traits in the company’s top employees. The seven most important were soft skills:
- possessing insights into others
- being empathetic and supportive
- critical thinking and problem-solving
- ability to make connections (3)
There is no doubt that the most effective and respected leaders in any role or organisation are those who recognise that they are not in their role because they have all the answers.
They are honest in their own self-assessment and seek the same of others. They are successful because they understand their own strengths and limitations, possessing the self-awareness and desire to surround themselves with a team who have supporting strengths and skill-sets that contribute to the effectiveness of the team.
Effective leaders are accountable to themselves and take on the responsibilities for their role, inputs and outcomes willingly and with purpose. This is not a one way street. Organisations must support their current and future leaders and continue to provide relevant and genuine development and growth opportunities. (5)
As we’ve travelled the globe and spoken to leaders from all different industries we’ve come to find the best leaders are open and honest about one simple thing—that they’re in their position not because they were necessarily skilled or credentialed at leading people, but instead because they sincerely cared about other people. They cared about helping others become the best they could be.
This is the one thing leaders need to understand—that a title doesn’t mean you know more, that years on the job don’t always mean you should be making all decisions, and that cheering for your employee’s success is the number one thing you can do as a leader to inspire greatness.
“The question every leader should ask their people is, ‘How can I help you become your best?’ instead of ‘How can you help me?’” (2)
Coaching your employees encourages self-reflection and accountability: two topics that are commonly raised in my coaching and mentoring discussions. A recent article by Amy Bach consolidates these key points. For anyone in a position that involves leading others, the ultimate decision remains.
Will you choose to focus on being a competent manager, or take up the more complex but also more rewarding challenge of committing to being a truly influential leader?
Leaders achieve through others. They develop, empower and motivate people, shape team culture, display courage and resilience in the face of adversity: and underpin all of this with something that cannot be taught, but can certainly be chosen. Lead with passion, authenticity and a commitment to making a positive impact in the workplace. (3)
A genuine leader and manager will read this and feel a connection with the words. Not simply as a concept, but recognised through action. It is too easy to continue on the path of acceptance or avoidance. You have a choice. It ultimately comes down to your answer to the question: what kind of leader do I want to be?
Resources and References:
(1) Dismal Employee Engagement Is a Sign of Global Mismanagement: Gallup.com
(2) The One Truth You Should Know That Most Leaders Keep Quiet: Forbes.com
(3) The Leader Journey is Long and Worthwhile: CoachStation
(4) Forge Magazine: Vol 4, No 1 – 2018; pages 6
(5) Are We Setting Our Leaders Up For Success?: CoachStation
Generations of employees and leaders have been exposed to varying cultures, leadership styles and business practices.
Understanding how generational change impacts leadership and organisational learning has become an interest of mine. As is the transition of students from university into the workforce.
Is generational change impacting the need for different types of leadership?
I am very lucky to be working as a coach and mentor with some great companies and leaders. For a few years I have been consulting and coaching within an architectural company in Brisbane. Two of the more impressive leaders employed there are Luke Madden and Kevin Gerrard. Importantly, we have developed a great deal of trust and strong relationships. From my perspective, it has been genuinely interesting being a part of their developmental path in recent years.
Both Luke and Kevin are measured in their thinking and mature in reasoning. For these reasons and others, I appreciate their perspectives on many topics, including generational change and professional observations. Luke is a 26-year old recently registered architect with an immense opportunity for his future. Kevin is an experienced architect and leader with over 30 years in the industry. Their views are relevant no matter what industry you work in.
It has been fascinating discussing their history and journeys to date within the coaching context. Luke has previously shared some thought-provoking views about his generation; transitioning from university to the workplace; and learning from his career to date. I felt it may be of interest to contrast his views with those of Kevin, to understand the changes and differences that have occurred over the last 3 decades in their respective experiences.
Recently, during a lunch meeting, we spent some time discussing leadership, universities and moving from a educational environment to business.
Is it the universities responsibility to prepare people for the ‘real world or is it simply to educate specific subject matter?
How different is the workplace – has generational change affected leadership inputs and attitudes of employees?
Kevin: In my time as an architectural graduate and in the years immediately following architectural registration, it was generally the case that you progressed in a company by gaining experience on projects and by gaining knowledge to a point where you could effectively manage projects and achieve seniority. In current times, it’s more likely that opportunities for progression can happen through young graduates and recently registered architects becoming specialised in a particular aspect of architecture or showing talent in particular non-project related aspects of the business.
How effective and relevant is that from a practical point of view within leadership and culture?
Kevin: One of the things in architectural practice that has not traditionally been handled very well is succession planning.
Too many architectural firms grow and grow and then die because too few employees and newer leaders have been brought along on the journey.
There should be a genuine drive to keep organisations operating beyond the current directorship. It’s really important to foster people coming through, listen to their new ideas and different ways of doing things.
Is that what a graduate would be looking for in an organisation or industry?
Luke: Yes, that’s pretty right. Loyalty, in the past as I understand it, would lead to reward. You would get a job and wait your time and hopefully someone would retire and you would progress. But, there was almost always a time factor. Now, people want to be given opportunity or rewarded with something. If you can keep people happy in that sense then they are more likely to be loyal. There’s less patience with people my age, generally. Many things are expected straight away.
Kevin: Our younger employees are more likely to move around and try different things.
People of my generation require more security.
This has always been a big thing for me. In my career I have had two main jobs and both of those were very secure jobs. It’s a different mindset now.
Luke: Yes, there is less loyalty now in that sense. It’s very much a look after yourself mentality for people when they graduate. I need to find an employer who is going to look after me. It’s not about finding the first place and sticking with them. People are a lot more flexible – it’s so easy to move.
Kevin: I may be generalising, but people of the younger generations are not always content with just learning what you’re learning. They are often looking to learn other things and other ways to go about things. In architecture particularly there is a vast range of things you can be doing. You are spoiled for choice really but there is generally no hesitation in moving around.
The boundaries, whether perceived or real, have moved.
Working in a reasonably conservative industry, how does a business such as yours support and meet that need?
Kevin: You do that by talking to your staff and finding out what they want. Engaging with people who show aptitude for things and building teams around that.
How does someone show aptitude – when you think of aptitude what is someone displaying or demonstrating?
Kevin: I look for enthusiasm and a quest for knowledge. Improving the product and brand – employees should be always thinking about that, not simply doing what they always do.
Luke: I think one of the key things is that, at least to begin with architects are passionate about what they do.
You don’t get through an architecture degree without being passionate about it.
So, just on that, in your cohort through university how many students started and ultimately completed the degree?
Luke: There was probably a 30% completing rate when I went through.
Kevin: We started with 110 people in our year. Six people from that initial cohort graduated in the minimum time. The largest drop-out rate for us was in the first 6 weeks. Back then architecture was fairly easy to get into. People I think just thought they would try it and after 6 weeks of the first year we were down to 60 or 70 students.
That is a really significant drop-out rate. I am a bit surprised!
Luke: I think the key thing is fostering that enthusiasm and passion.
A lot of people after graduating and when they enter the workforce are really excited. It’s really important to do what you can to keep them excited.
What would keep a 24 or 26 year old graduate six months out of university interested and excited?
Luke: Probably showing them direction and a development pathway. Part of it is outlining the development people need to succeed and ultimately get that promotion or extend their role. For good employees it’s important to show them what is being done to improve and what they can do to give back. It’s one way to harness that enthusiasm and continue it, rather than getting a role and not feeling like they’ve got that opportunity or not knowing what they can get out of it.
Kevin: One of the things that I think has changed is that when I went through university, the courses were much more tailored to give a broad range of experiences. Most of us also worked part time, so by the time we had finished the course you were generally quite ‘well-rounded’ in everything that architecture needed to be. I may be generalising, but uni courses nowadays are much more design-orientated. Input from employers and the ability to learn on the job is less now. People coming out of university courses now potentially have quite a bit of knowledge to gain before they can be confident that they are rounded enough to gain architectural registration. It’s not necessarily better or worse, it’s just different.
Luke: It’s often about educating employees about what you do as an architect. In uni we focused more on the the good and interesting parts of architecture, but very few people end up in a role where that’s what they actually do.
Unless you work and get an understanding of what actually happens in the workplace, a lot of people graduate without knowing what goes on day-to-day.
What about broader business acumen requirements such as EHS, leadership, accounting, cultural development etc. How much of that is covered?
Kevin: No, not much in our experience. There are some very basic principles covered but the study of professional practice usually centres around building regulation and building contract management.
Luke: I don’t think most people understand. It is all covered, but people don’t necessarily enjoy it. They want to focus on the design side of things and miss that there is actually a business side of the learning that they need to be aware of.
One of the reasons I rate both of you as highly as I do is that you have an interest in the business beyond the obvious architectural skills. One of the things you bring is a passion for the people side of business and the broader business acumen. This is not always common with younger people in my experience. It’s often the inter-relationships side of business; how to be accountable and responsible for something beyond the base requirements for the roles. How much of this is about personal preference and attitude?
Luke: It’s probably not drilled into people the importance of those sorts of things. For example, the ability to communicate not just through your drawings.
As soon as you graduate you are dealing with people and working with team members on a daily basis. There is very little emphasis on leadership and things like that in formal learning through universities, in my experience.
Kevin: There has to be a heavy reliance for employers to provide much of this type of learning in on-the-job training, but it’s probably not structured. People usually develop in specific aspects of architecture and have to learn on the job and gain business acumen and people skills through practical experience.
This is one of the reasons I wanted to speak with both of you. It’s about understanding a perspective of inter-generational learning, culture and what different people want. How well does that align with what employers provide? Not just your organisation, but business in general. It feels like a missing element across industries and organisations.
Kevin: I don’t think most businesses provide that at all. Unless individual employees proactively search for it for their own needs to provide for some sort of structure.
Architects usually learn on the job from seeing their peers and how they operate.
Usually if a firm specialises in some particular field of architecture (like Health or Aged Care or Prisons) people will ultimately learn by doing those projects and learning the systems and procedures that apply to those particular fields.
Is that a problem…if universities aren’t really providing it in a meaningful way and organisations often miss the opportunity? Then owners and senior managers get concerned, worried or disappointed that our newer or younger employees don’t have those skills. People don’t just automatically get this aspect of business.
Kevin: I think this is one of the real issues. That can only make practices better at what they do. Most of them probably just fumble along, doing what they’ve always done. They do big jobs getting big fees. I have seen companies that focus on that only. Their structures that are in place for resourcing and developing people are non-existent. Most recently, there has been a bit of a change in some companies.
For example, working with people like yourself, Steve, to improve processes and people can only make that better.
It makes profitability better at the end of the day. But, a lot of architectural practices don’t have a good idea on that. Architects are rarely good managers, traditionally.
Luke: It’s important to take that development approach. People will complain that students graduate and not know enough. All of them are doing the same course, so unless employers do something about it they will find graduates who don’t know exactly what you want them to know.
Kevin: We try to hire people with the right attitude and temperament. The right drive to do things as you would like. It’s not necessarily about their skills. Skills can be taught and learned fairly readily.
Luke: Yes, but it’s also the ability to learn and learn quickly. It’s even more important now that you have that good learning environment. It’s more common to be working in larger teams and not just working by yourself. Having that teaching/learning culture is invaluable.
Luke: The ability to communicate with other people.
The biggest thing thing is that in high school and uni you are always served.
All of a sudden you get into a professional environment and often you are the one serving. You’ve not had to deal with that to that point. You have to be able to work out how to manage those relationships to work best with each other. The ongoing nature of relationships that may last longer than in high school or university requires different skills.
I am really passionate about the transition from university to the workplace. It is a significant gap. One of the observations I have made in recent years is that there is a higher level of expectation from graduates and entry level employees versus the reality of what ‘the real workplace is’ and their input into it.
Kevin, thinking about your 30 plus years of working and your transition from university to work. What is the one thing you wished you were provided, exposed to or sought out, knowing what you know now?
Kevin: An old architect friend of mine once said to me that you don’t really hit your straps as an architect until you are around 40. Although obviously it’s not true for everybody, what I think he was getting at is that after around 15 years in the workforce you have seen most things. You know how to work things, to keep processes moving etc. You don’t have that sense about how things should pan out until you are around 40. For the most part, he was right. I was running jobs on sites at 22 or 23.
When you have that responsibility the fear of failure is immense because the consequences are huge. I was constantly deferring to my seniors or other people for input.
It’s not until you are older and much more experienced that you instinctively know where things are headed. You gain the confidence to make decisions yourself and be comfortable with those decisions. But, up until that point it’s hard to be accountable because you are so unsure of things.
There’s lots of little failures that you can make along the way. A lot of smaller details and things that can go wrong. You won’t get them all right, which is OK. The trick is knowing when to look for help because in architecture and construction, small mistakes can have quite dire physical of financial consequences.
I am interested to know your thoughts about a potential contradiction that exists. Generally, younger employees are more mobile and loyalty is seen as a little different in modern workplaces. Employees need to be more aware of providing development pathways and opportunities. At the same time they are often not as aware of the effort that’s required to translate this learning into actions and sustainable change. For many employees, “If it doesn’t work out, there are other options” seems to be more the mindset.
Luke: Yes and some people graduate and think they have learned what they need to learn. They don’t realise that it takes time to understand all situations that can occur.
Kevin: I find the best employees, when they have a problem, firstly recognise that they have a problem. They will seek advice and guidance and work their way through it. There are other people who are less aware.
Luke: You are always better off to ask the question than having a guess.
You don’t learn anything from guessing.
That takes a certain amount of personal and professional maturity and confidence to become that sort of person. One of the keys to leadership is to not believe that you must have all the answers. Good leaders also have the genuine comfort and self-esteem to ask and seek feedback from those who can help. I think that the systems, both academically and professionally, perpetuate that myth…that leadership is about having all the answers. When people find out that the reality is 180 degrees the other way, it is surprising to many people.
Luke: You never get to a point where you have done it all, or know it all. This type of message is not communicated all that well in uni.
Kevin: You have to be in the right environment as well for that sort of thing. My old boss would lecture that it’s sink or swim.
You have to be in an environment where people are comfortable to admit mistakes or go to others with problems. I have a respect for that.
That’s the difference between a supported challenging and unsupported challenging environment. I challenge you and then leave it up to you to then find the solutions. Or, I work with you to find the best options based on your input. The best leaders I have seen help people to learn how to fish, not just give them a fish, meeting the short-term need. They don’t simply give the answer because it is easy and quick. Teaching, influencing and guiding means that the employee is better off in the long-run and they start to feel respected and think for themselves.
As an employer and senior manager of a small to mid-sized organisation, when employing a graduate or younger employee what are the attributes you are looking for the most?
Kevin: The non-architectural, intangible things like enthusiasm and passion. You might be looking for technical abilities, but generally the technical skills are at a fairly basic level. People quickly show an aptitude for certain things.
How many people at that age in your experience, are aware that that is what you are looking for?
Kevin: Probably not that many, if I’m honest. I have been involved in employing people previously and they haven’t worked out as promised.
Changing attitudes or bad attitudes is a problem. These good attributes are not that easy to find at all.
So, from a university point of view, wouldn’t it be great if we could get that message out. Technical knowledge and what you are learning during your studies is important, but you know what, organisations are looking for more or something different. I continue to work across multiple industries and I don’t think people know. This is an issue for many organisations and cultures.
From that point of view, what did you expect from an employer when moving from university to the workforce, Luke?
Luke: I think that most people graduating in architecture think that employers are looking for creativity, which is typically not what companies look for.
But, if I was running a business and looking to hire someone, I would be looking for someone who has a vast range of experience.
They have not focused solely on architecture. A lot of people go to uni and only study design, because they think that is what it’s about. Whereas, people who have maybe done a trade for a while or completed a minor in a different degree like business or construction, probably understand there is more to architecture than design. They have learned about other things. Sometimes the people who are solely focused on design or one aspect of architecture feel they are let down by the reality.
Is generational change a factor in how we run our organisations?
Probably! Yet, uncertainty remains about what this has meant and what is required for the future. I would like to thank Kevin and Luke for their time and input into this blog. The points raised are not specific only to the architectural industry. They may highlight architecture university learning and reference a single workplace, however the same points are reflected in many organisations and industries.
Through understanding a perspective of two different leaders within one organisation, perhaps it triggers thought. The point is to understand what this means for you and your business. What can you do to better support the graduates, younger employees and others in your organisation? What can you do to take ownership and be accountable for your own growth and opportunities?
I am interested in your opinions and thoughts on this topic.
To genuinely succeed in business, leaders must know their role, continuously develop their skills and be constantly supported to achieve the best they can as a leader and employee.
Finding your own development pathway takes ownership, effort and clarity. However, it is not something you need to do on your own. Whether it is developing yourself or your team, coaching and mentoring can be a powerful tool to enable change and growth, both personally and professionally. When it comes to leadership development, however, one of the keys to success is to start developing deliberately and early.
It is problematic to concern yourself with focusing on developing leadership skills after they are needed.
Setting up leaders to thrive through a development program both prior to and during their tenure is key to the success of your leadership team and business. Training in itself is one source of development, however this learning must be supported and reinforced in practice based on individual situations, needs, understanding and capability. Ongoing support ‘makes the learning real’ within the work environment, reinforcing the content and context provided during training.
As referenced on my CoachStation website, there are many reasons why organisations and people seek coaching and mentoring solutions, with a variety of benefits and outcomes accessed depending on individual needs.
Coaching and mentoring are increasingly sought after tools, accessed by business leaders and organisations eager to dedicate development time and resources at an individual level. Organisations are finding that this form of development is both good for business and employees.
Benefit and improvement is seen in areas such as: improved work performance; better client and customer service; increased confidence; effective leadership; enhanced relationships; more robust succession planning and increased goal achievement. Additionally, personal development improves self-esteem, self-awareness and other attributes which provides a stronger platform for you to succeed at work and at home.
When I am coaching and mentoring, the coachee and I work together on both a professional and personal level. It is virtually impossible to delineate between the ‘home’ and ‘work’ person, with situations, personalities, values and other traits being a consistent influence on coaching success. The benefits and rewards are often significant, however being coached and mentored takes effort and accountability. I recently read an excellent blog by Joanna Maynard which highlights the importance of ownership and accountability in self-development:
I like Ben Franklin’s idea about not giving others advice: “Wise men don’t need advice. Fools won’t take it.” I think this highlights a cornerstone of coaching. Unlike consulting, where the consultant is an expert who gathers information and then gives advice, the coach is more of a facilitator. A large part of a coach’s role is to draw out wisdom already inside the client so that the client may discover solutions for themselves.
I often hear people talk about what to consider when shopping for a coach. They may want a coach who has worked in their industry, or in a similar role to theirs, or at their level of management. I don’t think these should be the only—or even the top—criteria.
In fact, one of the most important factors in whether a coaching experience is successful centers on a quality that must be present not in the coach but in the client. Some call it coachability: the client’s willingness to discover their own wisdom and, once found, to act on it.
Effective coaches employ strong skills to facilitate client-discovered wisdom. Coaches help clients focus on their most important area of concern, define what they want, and determine what that looks like. Coaches ask questions that aid the client’s own discovery—questions that expand the client’s perspective and inspire them to take risks. To accomplish this, effective coaches create a safe, trusting environment in which their clients can do this important work. But the client also has a major role in creating this environment. They need to be coachable. Here are just a few ways you can enhance your own coach-ability:
- Be willing to think and act differently in the future, even if your current ways of doing things have resulted in success.
- Don’t hesitate to break free from old habits.
- Take the time, and make the effort, to clarify your values and the parts of yourself you would like to develop.
Trust yourself enough to take action—sometimes bold action—as a result of your newly discovered knowledge. Since being coachable means being willing to be vulnerable, it must be noted that coaching is not the same as therapy. A coach is not going to ask a client to delve deeply into their past personal life. There is a real possibility that this concern stops some people from hiring a coach or using one fully.
Also noteworthy: in coaching, the client not the coach drives the agenda. This means the client doesn’t have to talk about anything they don’t want to talk about. They must, however, be coachable—willing to explore, discover their own wisdom, think differently, and stretch themselves. If they do this, most of the time the reward will far outweigh the effort.
So when interviewing a coach, think less about the coach’s track record and more about whether you want to take this person with you on your journey of growth and discovery.You might be thinking I’m not planning to hire a coach anytime soon—how does this apply to me? Allow me to challenge your question with a few questions of my own:
- In terms of your own growth, are you actively creating an effective learning environment?
- Are you open to expanding your thinking, clarifying your values, and taking bold action?
- If you answered no, what are you going to do about it? (1)
There is a genuine need for the person being coached and mentored to take ownership of their own development. Interestingly, this can sometimes be a bit of a surprise to some coachees. There is no ‘silver bullet’ or fast-tracking, but the benefits can be very worthwhile when accountability and effort become part of the coaching and mentoring process.
There are a few discernible differences between coaching and mentoring, however the core development and outcomes remain consistent. In coaching it is primarily about understanding the coachees situation and then facilitating and guiding to discover potential actions and goals, mostly derived from the coachee. When mentoring, it is often about the mentor providing advice and using their own experiences to help the person being mentored. Slightly different skills and inputs, yet in both cases the focus is on the future aspirations, goals and actions of the person being assisted. In my experience, the most successful coaching and mentoring environments are created when a person:
- is committed to the program
- is willing and able to develop trust between the coach/mentor and themselves
- is committed and works on the content in practice between sessions
- has a leader who actively supports them in their development
- recognises that there are no short-cuts
- understands that coaching and mentoring are just part of the story or journey.
One of the additional paybacks is that as a participant, your own coaching and mentoring skills develop along the way. This improved skillset provides an excellent resource for you to help others in a similar way, whether they are your direct reports, peers or others within or external to the organisation. When applied well, coaching and mentoring can:
- Inspire shared learning: Leadership can be lonely. Leaders often feel isolated, unable or unwilling to share information with team members and they feel as though they need to have all the answers, which can be quite stressful.
- Encourage people to understand themselves: The CoachStation Coaching model works through the coachees situation, identifying development areas and opportunities for growth and improvement. We use many different tools and resources, all designed as triggers for self-awareness, discussion-points and clarity – targeted and individualised programs focus on the ‘right’ area that will provide the most benefit.
- Inspire and enable honesty: In the workplace, employees are often allowed to avoid confrontation. They sidestep challenges, procrastinate and sometimes actively or passively refuse to address things that matter the most – few people like confrontation, but when avoided, problems continue to build.
- Support change: During inductions, for newly promoted staff and other business needs, change can be supported through coaching and mentoring – the commitment to develop each persons skills and competencies.
- Create opportunity for self-development: Leading to confidence and strength in developing others, a critical step in a leaders development.
When I am coaching the focus of the program is quite often leadership development, however each client has their own unique situation, personality, challenges and other elements to be considered in the process. Experience has shown me that through a structured coaching and mentoring program you will see and feel a difference…and so will those around you.
It is a great time to consider whether you or one of your team would benefit from participation in our coaching and mentoring program.
I am more than happy to be contacted if you wish to discuss how I can assist you, your organisation or members of your team. In the meantime, reflecting on your own development opportunities and accountability is a great place to start. After all, self-development can only happen because you care enough to take the first (or next) steps.
- Are You Coachable? 3 Questions to Consider: Joanna Maynard, Blanchard Leaderchat