In today’s fast-paced business world, effective prioritisation and time management skills are crucial for success. One area where these skills play a significant role is email management. With the sheer volume of emails we receive daily, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose precious time. The good news is that there are many things you can do to write effective emails.
We all have multiple roles, responsibilities and relationships, both in and out of the workplace. Understanding how your various roles interact and affect each other can make a genuine difference in your life.
“It’s all about the levers”, I said. My client looked at me like I had gone barmy. “Maybe you are feeling an imbalance and that you are having to compromise your core values and some of the things that matter most to you”, I suggested. I knew this would require a little more explanation and detail. Once we discussed the topic further, however, it became clearer I was hitting the mark with my coachee.
Since this discussion some years ago, it is now even more evident how important this concept is to almost all of us. Attitude, prioritisation and self-awareness are always critical attributes and skills, even more so at the moment. This blog will explain the concept of choice, time and our various and many roles. A concept that has resonated and contributed to many of my client’s satisfaction, sense of control and comfort as it may for you.
We all have levers in our lives. What does this actually mean?
There is logic to the concept of levers. Each of your roles can be thought of as a separate, yet interconnected lever. Each role could be as a parent, employee, boss, friend, hobby or member of the local sports team as examples. In fact, it could be any aspect of your life that is important to you and you dedicate time to. Consider each role as being represented by a single lever.
Each lever can be adjusted, as required, aligned to how much time, effort and mental energy you dedicate to it.
Each adjustment is also reflective of how much importance you place on the role at that particular point in time. These focus tweaks are often in response to a perceived or real need to better balance your life or respond to some other stimulus. This can be either extrinsic (i.e. originating externally) or intrinsic (i.e. driven from within). The tweak may be required because of the needs of others. Maybe someone close to you expresses frustration or disappointment that you are not spending enough time with them. Or, you may recognise this need for change yourself.
Possibly you are spending too much time at work. Maybe you feel this yourself or there is pressure from your spouse and family to be home more or earlier. Or, you have stopped going to the gym, or taking regular walks and your fitness and mental well-being are negatively impacted. Is it that you recognise that your friends are being neglected? The triggers can arise from anywhere and are generally feeling-based. They can also be managed and influenced.
No matter the trigger, it often feels like something is missing or there is an imbalance in your life.
We all have the same amount of time to spend or allocate to our many roles. However, this time is finite – it has limits. The choices about where to spend this time and allocate to your many roles has a direct and ongoing influence on your overall satisfaction and contentment. It also impacts those you care about the most.
At this point, it is worth looking at where you are prioritising your time and whether this balance works for or against you. Referencing the great work of Stew Friedman, this 4-Way Views assessment will give you clarity regarding where you spend your time and satisfaction as a result.
Let’s extend the concept. I mentioned earlier that each of your roles can be thought of as a separate lever, yet are interconnected. This is true, however every time you adjust a lever or aspect of your life, all your other levers or roles are also impacted. Each lever is connected via an imaginary cable. It is often a small adjustment of maybe 5-10%. Deciding to spend more time at home, for example, will have a natural and direct impact on all of your other levers or roles. To add time and energy to one role, there is a reduction of focus and time in one or more of your other roles. Remember, your time is finite. That’s why your choices and what you prioritise are so important. There are 2 key elements to consider.
Firstly, it is important that you have enough levers.
I have seen many examples where a person has only 2 or 3 roles. These may be work and home, for example. This is a challenge when work or home is not providing positive input or going well. Devastating when both are not going well. Additional roles (maybe 7-8) provide alternatives and options to fulfill your life when one or more roles are not as positive as you would like. I am not suggesting that there is an ‘ideal’ specific number of roles. We are all different and have a variety of needs, capacities and preferences. However, like most things in life, too few or too many are extremes and offer more challenge than your individual, optimum number of roles.
Challenges and difficulties in life are common. How you react and respond to these challenges is critical.
No one lives the perfect life where all of their roles are being fulfilled at the same time. Having enough roles and different levers to adjust and provide a sense of balance is one of the keys. Not work-life balance, but a more holistic and psychologically fullfilling balance. However, it is possible to have too many roles.
Stretching yourself thin and trying to meet the needs of around 10 or more roles can also be a challenge. Imagine trying to fulfill a dozen roles and the allocation of time required? To be fair, I have seen this done. However, the strong relationships and capability to manage this time and roles effectively is rare.
Perspective and resilience are very important traits, particularly in today’s world. Taking control of your time and various roles and consciously adjusting your ‘levers’ as required, can make a significant difference to how resilient you are and in seeing life more clearly. One of the many insights I have learned when coaching and mentoring hundreds of clients over the last decade continues to resonate. Those who struggle with life generally, often do not have enough levers and/or feel they have little choice in what is happening in their life. They see things as happening ‘to’ them, not ‘with’ them. Being in control is not about being controlling. Control is about you – this is good. Being controlling is more about you and others – this is often misplaced and damaging.
Understand your own levers. Reflect on your many roles.
What roles do you have? Where are you spending most time?
Where could you spend more or less time that would suit you better?
Do you feel happiness and satisfaction with this mix? What can you do to find a better and more rewarding balance across all of your roles?
What will you do to feel you are in control and on most days feel happy with what you give and what you receive?
For the most part, you have the same choices, time and ability to influence your life as other people do theirs. Thinking about what you are compromising and what gives you the most joy will lead to change and greater satisfaction. Taking action as appropriate to adjust your levers adds value and lets you meet your core values.
Your life, your choice!
To communicate well, is to be understood and to understand. Communication is key to effective leadership. In fact, it is integral in much of our lives. Anecdotally, experience has consistently demonstrated that most issues in business are, at least in part, caused by poor communication.
Are there different levels of communication effectiveness?
In recent years whilst coaching, I have developed a concept regarding the effectiveness of communication. It highlights the need for depth in conversation. To verbally communicate well provides meaning and purpose. It allows for understanding and often, clarity and context. Purpose influences action and improvement. Unfortunately, many managers do not develop this skill to the level required.
Ultimately, our relationships are better for the higher levels of trust and the investment this provides for future communication opportunities.
Essentially, we can communicate at various levels of depth. However, most business communication (and that at home too!) often occurs at a moderate and superficial level, at best. I would describe this as a level 1 or 2 type of communication. Our goal is to develop the skill and capability to flex to level 3 and 4, where relevant. To communicate at level 5 takes quite a bit of practice, but is worth the effort and investment.
To communicate effectively we need to move beyond the superficial, to greater depths.
This is particularly important when leading people. The goal is to be heard and understood. Critically, this is as important for your team member or colleague in return. This is achieved when both parties invest in gaining a mutual understanding.
As I have highlighted in previous blogs, the skills of asking the right question at the right time and effective listening are two of the most important leadership attributes to develop.
There are certain situations in our life that call for us to dig deep and talk about what is really important to us. When the stakes are high it is important that we communicate effectively, if we are misunderstood in these important moments it can cause much pain and confusion. When we wish to build trust in a relationship, or when we want to be sure we are really heard, things go much better if we can communicate what we want to say fully and authentically. In reality this is no small thing to achieve and it requires both courage and vulnerability.
We often communicate only half of what is really going on for us.
If we are to truly communicate then we need to share all of who we are, not just selected parts of ourselves. The parts that tend to get left out in communication are the things that may make us vulnerable to the other, or cause us some shame or discomfort. Yet these are the very parts of ourselves that we need to share…it is necessary to express these things if we want true communication to flow. (1)
The diagram below extends this concept. The 5 levels of effective communication mentioned already are described in further detail. The goal is to develop your communication skills to at least Level 3.
Why does it matter to communicate effectively?
The benefits of developing your communicating skills are many. Through practice, when we communicate well, there is feeling of power and influence.
It’s easy to get stuck in poor communication habits, speaking or reacting impulsively rather than supportively. But any uncomfortable feelings raised in a difficult conversation can be a short-term inconvenience for a long-term gain if you talk in an honest, open manner.
Supportive communication improves your relationships by focusing on empathy and mindfulness, and it can also help increase positive emotions such as joy, hope, peace, gratitude and love. The body responds to these emotions by reducing stress hormones and increasing endorphins, also known as “feel good” chemicals. Over time, these effects can cause positive changes in mindset and creativity, as well as increase immune function and longevity. (2)
A significant amount of my time when coaching people focuses on their ability to communicate effectively. Effective communication is a skill, attribute and outcome.
The opportunity to invest in your communication skills is one that you must grab with both hands if you want to be a more effective influencer, manager, leader and human. It is difficult to think of a more relevant time in recent history where effective communication has been more important.
Consider the information and model detailed in this blog and assess your own skills and importantly, your actions. All of us have the opportunity to improve our communication. The benefits are clear. Making the choice to do so…well, that is up to you.
References and Resources
Related Blogs By Steve @CoachStation
Trust is the key to meaningful leadership, relationships and influence.
Most of us know this, but how do we develop trust in the workplace and at home?
It is fascinating to see people grow and develop. Like many in my industry, I do what I do because of a deep need to contribute and make a difference when coaching and mentoring. This continues to hold me in good stead as a coach, mentor and consultant. However, developing trusted relationships was also a core belief when I was leading people directly. Now, my goal is to help others learn why and how to apply these skills and attributes to influence and lead their team members.
One of my favourite and most effective tools relates to helping my clients understand their personal values. The process of prioritising an extensive set of value statements and words down to 20 primary and ultimately, 7 core values is always interesting.
A continuing trend is that trust forms a part of the vast majority of people’s primary values.
Based on many other personal and professional conversations, I am confident this is a consistent need for most people. Elements of trust that are identified throughout these discussions show that most people can feel whether trust exists. Fewer can explain specifically how it is built or established. At the end of my Personal Values workshops or coaching process, I ask participants to reflect and act upon several questions. One of the most important is:
How well do you establish and maintain a culture where most people get to fulfil this need most of the time? This is important if trust is so inherently important to so many people, including members of your own team.
I also ask that they reflect on all core values in a similar way. How regularly and effectively are your core values being met at work and at home? The answers to these questions can provide great insight into why things ‘feel’ as they do…both good and bad, positive and negative. Critically, it is what you do with this new learning that matters. However, trust is strengthened or weakened readily depending on your behaviours and demonstrated actions. What you do, what you say and how you say it has a bearing on how well you connect with people.
Connections with purpose and meaning build trust.
- Do What You Say You Will Do: This is the ultimate way to gain people’s trust. It means following through with what you say you will do.
- Trust & Nurture To Develop: To gain trust we need to trust others. It is a two-way street. We need to be patient and give them the time to grow and develop instead of forcing the issue.
- Do The Right Thing: Regardless of whether or not anyone is watching you, integrity cannot be compromised. It takes many years to establish your credibility, but it only takes a few minutes to ruin it.
- Care For Your People: Before we ask our people to do something for us, we must appeal to them and touch their heart.
- Serve Your People: When we serve our people, we ensure that their interest is taken into consideration. By doing so, we don’t focus on who gets the credit. Our focus shifts to getting the job done. (1)
When employees are not having their core needs and values met, they may look elsewhere.
A powerful way to establish trust is to employ one of the mind’s most basic mechanisms for determining loyalty: the perception of similarity. If you can make someone feel a link with you, his empathy for and willingness to cooperate with you will increase. (3) It is much easier to do this when you have a natural affiliation with someone. It may be a shared history; aligned values; similar belief systems, or other form of alignment. This link is key, but don’t think it can be easily faked.
People can see and feel any superficiality a mile off. Even if they can’t explain it.
Sometimes this is described as ‘just not feeling right’. When their is alignment is it often stated that it ‘simply feels like a strong connection’. This cannot always be easily explained or articulated. Yet, the feelings we have about others is powerful and drives many of our decisions, particularly surrounding our relationships.
First, leaders that place people ahead of profit (which leads to more profit, imagine that!) will work hard to promote trust. That means that they create an environment where risks are taken, where employees feel safe and motivated to exercise their creativity, communicate ideas openly, and provide input to major decisions without reprimand. Because there is trust there. But trust is a two-way street. So leaders trust and believe in the people that they lead as well. And when you value people by trusting them, you treat others with dignity and respect.
But trust in this social economy remains a baffling stigma. In 2014, the American Psychological Association published the findings on their Work and Well-Being Survey.
Nearly 1 in 4 workers say they don’t trust their employer and only about half believe their employer is open and upfront with them.
While almost two-thirds (64 percent) of employed adults feel their organization treats them fairly, 1 in 3 reported that their employer is not always honest and truthful with them. But the great news is that workers who feel valued by their employer are more likely to be engaged in their work. In the survey results, employees were significantly more likely to report having high levels of energy, being strongly involved in their work, and just plain happy about what they do. Ninety-one percent were likely to say they are motivated to do their best (versus 37 percent who do not feel valued) and 85 percent were likely to recommend their employer to others (versus 15 percent of those who do not feel valued). (4)
It’s clear that a culture that feels valued, that promotes openness, honesty, transparency and trust are key to high-performance.
When considered as a sum of its parts, the Trust Equation (highlighted below) has much merit. I like the idea that the model highlights the four elements of who we are: words; actions; emotions; and, caring. Once understood there is greater potential to apply these elements and establish greater levels of trust in practice. Check yourself against the four criteria and see where you might be able to strengthen your trust-building skills.
Research conducted by The Ken Blanchard Companies using its Employee Work Passion Assessment has found significant correlation between positive work intentions and a leader’s ability to build trust, use coaching behaviors, and create an engaging work environment. This environment includes high levels of Meaningful Work, Autonomy, Growth, Fairness, Collaboration, and Feedback, along with six other factors. (2)
I see trust being taken for granted in many workplaces. As with any relational aspect, it takes effort to develop trust.
I regularly state to my clients, “whether you like someone you lead is not the point”. As a leader you have little choice in making it all about who you like or dislike. In your leadership role you are obligated to influence, develop and assist your team members. In fact, one of the most rewarding aspects of leadership is seeing improvement and growth in those who initially you may not have affiliated naturally with. Trust is built on many things. Moving beyond likeability to deeper traits such as respect and honesty influence trust more than simply being liked.
The Inc article highlighted in this blog makes several great points about engagement and trust. It is worth reading in full. I particularly appreciate the final paragraph which summarises the essence of valuing employees and building trust, described as the ‘most counter-intuitive part’.
More studies are coming out saying that if you trust and believe in your people first, and in return they reciprocate by believing in you as a leader, they will give their best work.
In other words, although conventional thinking says that people have to earn trust first, in healthy organizations, leaders who put high emphasis on meeting employees’ needs are willing to give trust to them first, and they give it as a gift even before it’s earned. Now that’s valuing people. (4)
As highlighted earlier, the question really is a simple one. Does the environment and culture you are building as a leader foster and develop trust in others and to be trusted yourself?
Take on the challenge of reviewing where trust sits for you. Reflecting on this is one great way to understand yourself and your team members better. It will also be a meaningful way to develop a deeper sense of trust and relationships in practice.
The ability and desire to focus on those areas of our lives that provide the greatest return can often be confusing. Change and growth comes first through understanding and acknowledgement.
When there is understanding, there is the potential for action.
Without understanding and action, it is too easy to continue to do what you have always done. That may of course be justified in your mind, but it rarely leads to progression, growth and development.
In almost every coaching and mentoring engagement I have taken on in recent years, my clients have struggled to understand the difference between inputs and outputs. In nearly every case, managers and leaders focus on the output, result or outcome and ignore the inputs. So, here’s the big tip:
You cannot change, influence or develop through focusing on a result only – understand the inputs and things that influence the result!
Don’t misunderstand my point. Results and outcomes matter enormously. Measuring our outputs and contributions is key to business. KPI’s, profits, budgets etc are critical to business…they just can’t be changed through themselves. Why? Well for three main reasons:
- They are historical, representing what has occurred in the past, hence cannot be changed.
- The inputs and things influencing and contributing to the result are what should be actioned and focused on because they can be changed.
- Very few people can directly translate the outcomes or result back into how they do what they do every day.
Let me provide more context. Most people, given the opportunity, can develop awareness for what they need to do and why it matters. The ‘how’ on the other hand is more difficult to determine on your own. Training will provide the background and broad knowledge. However, expecting the training participant to take this information and apply sustained change as a result, is difficult if not impossible minus follow-up and targeted support. Without reinforcement and personalisation, training has limited sustainable impact. By the way, I am a trainer and facilitator, so I am certainly not criticising training as a method of development in itself.
On its own and without reinforcement and personalisation, training rarely leads to meaningful action and change.
I am confident that many of you can think of times when you, your team or colleagues have attended training and not done anything different as a result. Crazily, I have even seen some managers send members of their team to the same training programs, year after year, expecting a different result. It rarely makes a difference. That is in fact, a very necessary focus of coaching and mentoring and a major part of the reason I now dedicate most of my time in this area.
My wife, Julie, and I have 3 daughters. Our middle daughter, Charli, plays netball. This year she has been selected in a representative team and will be playing in a State carnival in a few weeks. Based on recent conversations with the team coach, Hilary, I had the privilege in being invited to address the team and parents during one of the team training sessions recently. The key messages were delivered to 13 year old girls. I wanted to maintain their focus and take the opportunity to get them thinking differently. To challenge not only how they think, but where they focus time and energy. The link between netball and life was also highlighted. So, I related the core message to the theme of this blog.
The key is to understand and focus on the inputs, not the outputs.
Influence the many, many things that contribute to the result, not on the result itself.
Ultimately, I broke down the content to a key seven points. Of course, there are more topics that could be listed. However, I feel that the 7 themes highlighted are the baseline for development and growth. These topics and potential actions are as relevant to the young ladies who are in the rep netball team, as to people outside of sport. In fact, they are key to all of our lives in order to thrive (not just survive) in our modern world.
1. Self-Awareness: understanding who you are and how others see you is critical to your success. Too often we live in denial or fear about our performance, capabilities and how we are perceived. Perfection is not the goal. Improvement, increased self-esteem and continued growth are.
2. Communication: the ability to influence others; genuinely listen and understand; succinctly put across your views and thoughts; and, consistently ensure people believe what you say is important.
It is not only verbal skills, but also takes into account your ability to communicate through written means. Less obvious is your body language, pitch, tone, emotional levels and other contributors, but no less important.
3. Relationships: are one of the key inputs and cornerstones to satisfaction in life. In a work and sport context, this is not necessarily about developing friendships. It can be, but is more about building trust and respect, so that an honest and real conversation can be held and heard. Understanding what you value most and seeking insight into other’s values is one good way to develop depth in relationships.
4. Teamwork: has become even more relevant than in the past. Much of our learning, work environments; study and learning options are positioned within teams. The emphasis on individuals has reduced in recent years in the workplace, universities and other institutions. The focus on people collaborating and achieving more as a team, rather than individually, has become one of the big changes to how we operate. Your willingness and ability to meet that need will be one of the measurements of success.
Your ability to relate to others, influence, communicate and work collaboratively will define much of your success.
A very relevant point is to understand that diversity between people is good, when we take the time to understand the differences that exist. Understanding provides acceptance and acknowledgment. A lack of understanding often leads to assumption and negative judgment. It is the difference between thinking: “I wouldn’t do or say that, so you are wrong” to “I wouldn’t necessarily say or do that, however I know you well enough to understand your perspective”. It may feel like a subtle point, but in reality is a powerful difference in how people work together.
5. Capability and Competence: clearly a relevant input into your performance and perception relates to your ability to perform. Contribution to your team is reliant on continually developing competence, skills and capability in what you do.
6. Focus on Strengths: there is much greater opportunity for success when working from those areas that you are most interested, passionate and talented in. These are your strengths. We don’t have the opportunity to ignore our weaknesses or lesser talents. However, when you develop the areas that you care most deeply about and have natural ability in, your exponential growth is assured. Too often we are asked to focus solely on our weaknesses. These are the wrong inputs. Performance appraisals and other organisational tools are often designed this way. It is our role as leaders and people who care to make sure we talk about what is working well, not just the gaps and weaknesses. Strikingly, this type of emphasis assists us to build stronger relationships; trust; self-awareness and other elements detailed in this blog.
A shift in focus and mindset to develop talents into strengths can provide significantly greater returns.
7. Accountability and Action: the absolute key to improvement, growth and influencing the inputs. Willingness to be accountable for yourself and maintain a level of honesty in your own self-perception provides a platform for action. It is not enough to know more. It is always about what you do with this information. Practice does not make perfect. Practising the right thing, the right way leads to improvement and that is enough to enable growth. However, you must make a conscious choice and persist with your goals and actions for this to become more than good intention.
After the mini-workshop with the netball team I was talking with the coaching staff. It is fascinating how relevant these themes are for 13-year old girls and within the workplaces in our adult world. Interestingly, this points to the view that what works best for people, works best for people. Whether that is within families, workplaces, sporting teams or other situations where people congregate, the elements that provide comfort and growth remain similar.
The earlier that you develop and focus on the inputs that develop your self-awareness, relationships, confidence and self-esteem the more likely success will come your way…no matter how you measure success.
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.
Influence matters! I used to believe friends were more important than family.
Recent events have shifted my thinking.
The statement above is how our 14-year old daughter, Maddy, has started to understand the importance of influence and relationships. This year has been a big year for her. In response to this learning, a little while back Maddy wrote down her thoughts and perspective. This week Maddy shared these thoughts with me. I asked if it would be possible to publish her writing as the core elements are just as relevant for adults as they are for other 14 year olds and teens. Maddy was keen to share her ideas and hoped that other people and possibly, teenagers sharing similar experiences, may take something away from her comments and writing. We are very proud of Maddy and hope that this blog has the influence on others that it has had on us.
I have always loved my family dearly and they are a very important part of my life. However, upon reflection I realised that I was prioritising my friends, wanting to spend more time and money on and with them. I feel like I have an insight into relationships after a number of experiences this year. I have found that friends are there for you, people who make you happy and you form life long memories with.
But, one thing I have learnt is that people change and they come and go.
Friendships are still important for all the reasons listed, but family is more important. Family members are the ones who you also create memories with. In my case, they will never ever leave my side and who will love me no matter what. That is not always the case with every relationship.
I have come to realise that people come into your life for a reason. The real challenge is understanding why and what they have taught you? Family is the most important thing you will ever have so treasure them, don’t leave them and don’t lose them. Love your family wholeheartedly, otherwise one day you may look back and regret not making the most of the opportunity. Be a role model for your siblings. Spend that precious time with your parents. Put in the effort to build a strong relationship with both your Mum and Dad.
A teacher of mine once told me that trying to meet the expectations of others was the undoing of the world…of relationships, families, self-esteem and self-belief.
I interpreted her statement as a comment on the fact that a large portion of society are living based on the expectations and standards as set by other people. As I grow up, I am discovering who I am and learning that life should be lived how you want it to be, not how others say it should be.
Recently, this thought has crossed my mind many times. I agree with the comment but feel that these expectations are more often than not formed by the media. Whether it be the news or social media platforms, I strongly believe that the majority of the expectations we have of relationships, lifestyles, work, health and body image are influenced on what the media has shown.
Sure, the people we associate with and conversations help to influence our expectations, but the media are the foundation. They influence our expectations – almost like we are being told how our lives should be lived.
Recently I have begun to really take note of the world, of what’s happening around me, peoples values, passions and the expectations of others.
Yes, before I knew what was happening in the world around me but not to the depth that I am understanding now. This has only happened recently however I have been able to realise that I am unconsciously becoming more aware. I am beginning to understand the position everyone has in society and the impact that people can have on others.
In my experiences in the last year involving friendships, school work and conversation I have come to understand the impact one choice, one word and one action can make. One text, a smile, an email, one question. I have seen and felt firsthand how people impact one another. It is interesting how a class discussion can be influenced by one question or opinion. Some of my relationships have changed through one word or lack thereof. I have been genuinely surprised by the impact words and people can have.
Have you ever considered the impact and influence you have on others?
It could be anyone – a relative, a friend or a teacher. After your next interaction with someone watch how they respond to certain words you say or even your body language. Take note of how they act afterwards. Do they smile more, laugh more, talk more?
In a recent class we discussed change in people. A point was made that the most significant time of change in someone’s life is between the ages of 12 and 16 years old. We discussed the fact that people change and grow but you can’t always see it. So, we identified different ways we can see change in others, other than physically. People may change who they hang out with, their passions and interests, how they display their emotions and their focuses. Some people start to identify their strengths and weaknesses.
This lesson was a turning point for me, when I realised it applied to me.
That I had changed…my friendships had shifted…my values and even the amount of time I now spend on social media. I have become more aware of what my strengths and weaknesses are and am working to improve my weaknesses and use my strengths in the best way possible.
Another time that I started to shift my thinking was after listening to Waleed Aly’s speech about ‘fear’ on The Project. It really struck me and made me think about the world we are living in. It highlighted the need to understand different people’s perspectives and points of view.
The main point I took away was that everyone has different opinions and perspectives.
We need to try to understand people’s motivations to understand what they do and have done. It is not an excuse for the tragedies occurring on a daily basis. However, understanding where other people are coming from will help to bring peace and less outrage about every attack or disaster that has unfortunately become the norm.
The majority of people are reacting in fear and are scared. They want to be safe but there are so many unknowns. It often comes down to understanding one another and the influence we can have. I feel like this is how most relationships fall apart. When the perspective of the other person fails to be seen.
Another experience that I have learnt from is when I was asked who my inspiration is and who I look up to. My immediate response was my parents. It may sound cliche’d but my Mum and Dad really do inspire me. The relationships between my parents and I is quite strong and is continually developing. I have become aware of the amount of hard work and effort my parents put into maintaining a happy and healthy life for our family. Seeing how loyal and committed they are to the family is incredible and I truly admire them for that.
My parents are strong advocates of values.
Not only knowing your own but also being able to recognise others values and understanding how to work with them in the most effective way. Being a 14-year-old, there have been the down times in my relationships with my parents. I know at times I have not treated them with respect, but I know that my parents love me no matter what and they trust I will learn from these moments.
As well as values, my parents are also very much about trust. One of the best lessons I have learnt from my parents is that trust is earned and takes a lot of time and effort to build, however can be broken just like that. My dad told me about a metaphor of an oak tree. It takes hundreds of years to grow but can be cut down in minutes. Despite all the warnings from my parents, that is one thing I did learn the hard way but I am grateful that I now more fully understand the importance of trust.
My main points are that we need to realise and understand our impact on others. People should think about how what they are doing, saying or typing will impact others. The need to consider your influence on relationships, both previous and current and learn from them is important.
You need to evaluate who you trust and how you have built trust?
Who has broken your trust and have you ever broken someone’s trust?
Consider how people change and how you influence?
Have you changed? Have your friends changed?
What about your other relationships?
It is important to contemplate your own values, strengths and weaknesses and how they will help you. To think before reacting, consider the other person’s perspective and motivations for the choice they have made.
Most importantly, we can all learn from everything that happens; every event; every mistake; and every achievement. These things define you, they add another piece to the puzzle that is you.
The ability to influence is integral to effective leadership and strong relationships. As is developing trust. I often write and discuss the importance of building strong and meaningful connections at home and in the workplace. Some people interpret this as needing to become good friends and share time out of the work with others, which is not really the point. Relationships and leadership are more than that. In part, it is the ability to reflect on what is happening, honest assessment and the emotional intelligence to understand perspectives and react accordingly.
Some of these traits are innate. A few can be learned or enhanced. Either way, the first step is acknowledgment. Developing yourself and learning about leadership can be learned at any age. Seeking deeper understanding and the impact you can and do have on others provides an excellent platform for self-acceptance, influence and leading people.
What have you learned about yourself and your relationships recently?
Know your ‘why’.
Values and gaining an understanding of your key drivers and motivations matter. I know this because people keep telling me.
Maybe not in specific values-related language, but certainly when they describe how they feel and what is happening at that time.
Knowing your core purpose, why we make certain decisions and the influence of values impacts lives. They affect how we feel about our job, relationships and life in general. What is satisfying at work? What is frustrating? How relationships are going? The joys of a new friendship…or an old. Your ‘why’ influences all of these questions.
It is when values align and we develop understanding of self and our motivations that genuine satisfaction and comfort is felt. Conversely, we are often at our most vulnerable and emotional when core values are being breached. Or, challenged when asked to compromise the things that matter the most.
- the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.
- a person’s sense of resolve or determination.
- the importance, worth, or usefulness of something
- principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgement of what is important in life.
When developing, maintaining and growing my business, I have focused heavily on the ‘why’. Similarly, during coaching and mentoring sessions with clients, I find myself delving into the same theme. Not everyone can answer these questions about themselves easily, however. Understanding your passions, why you do what you do and your core beliefs will help you understand not only who you are, but assist to drive your future goals and direction. (1)
Values and purpose are often downplayed, both in concept and understanding.
Core values are the guiding principles that dictate behaviour and action. Values facilitate self-awareness and help people to know what is right from wrong. They can help organisations to determine their direction and align business goals. They also create a sustained, unwavering and unchanging guide.
It is this degree of self-awareness and self-acceptance that is central to personal and professional development. Taking time to reflect and understand what your purpose is, may be one way that you can learn to describe better influence and connect with others. Ensure that your team members, colleagues and friends can understand your perspective and decisions.
Whether it is your boss, members of your team, spouse or peers, the opportunity to delve, understand and explain has great power. This type of conversation goes some way to breaking down the barriers that exist when we allow others to assume what is most important to us. Be clear about your purpose and ‘why’ and share this detail with those who matter most.
Diversity and points of difference between people can be one of the most important drivers of individual and team success. But, only when the time is taken to improve self-awareness, learn more about other people and the best ways to work together. This rarely occurs without appropriate effort and focus.
I have developed and facilitated workshops focusing on the theme of diversity, specifically the differences that naturally exist between people. Diversity has quickly become one of CoachStation’s most popular themes/programs, when working at group level or with individual clients being coached and mentored. Developing a core purpose, why and set of meaningful values is as important for teams as individuals.
People lose their way when they lose their why – Michael Hyatt
Articulating beliefs and reflective thoughts to people creates a potential common ground of words and language. It certainly provides clarity and opportunity for deeper and more authentic connection. Knowing your values connects with a deeper set of motivations. They help to understand why you make certain decisions, choices and drive your actions.
What we know about people at work is that at the end of the day, they want to matter, to feel significant. They want to be respected, heard, honored, and supported; they want to win, learn, grow, and do their best. What we need are cultures that recognize this principle, and lead accordingly. By creating a leadership culture where people feel they matter, everything else the business needs to do will happen—productivity, quality, customer satisfaction, and profitability. (2)
Help people to help you by providing details about your purpose, values, beliefs and motivations.
The alternative is to foster ambiguity and allow people to make assumptions about what matters most to you. Which would you prefer?
Watch the CoachStation video clip below to learn more about values and their influence on your life.