Editorial: Helping your people succeed?

Jun 26, 2014

Coach your staff on the small things that make all the difference and follow these four tips from Mark Zweig.

So much of one’s success in the architecture, engineering, planning or environmental business has nothing to do with one’s technical, design, or computer skills. Don’t get me wrong – before you fire off an angry email to me, I’m not saying those things aren’t important. They obviously are. That’s the business you’re in and you better be good at doing it. What I’m talking about today is the other stuff. The stuff it takes to be a good leader, manager, and seller – or the stuff you don’t want to do because it gets in the way of success. None of us has enough of these people (those who know what it takes and do it) in our employ. Here are a few ideas for you:
  1. Be willing to confront the odd quirks and mannerisms someone may have. I have seen it all. A principal who snorted like a pig every 30 seconds, a guy who always had both hands in his front pockets, a woman with horrific dandruff, a project manager who wouldn’t look at you when he talked, a department head who dressed horribly, and much more. All of these things have to be dealt with because they could be big negatives when it comes to managing clients and people inside and out of the firm.
  2. Help your people with their writing. It may be as simple as explaining the difference between “your” and “you’re” (I see “your” misused constantly these days!) or “to” and “too” (another pet peeve). Misuse of the language makes you look bad inside and out of the firm. Other common writing problems are those who insist on using “olde” English and start out every letter with “as per your request” and “enclosed herewith.” This stilted style was not good 30 years ago and it’s really not good today. But then there are major problems, such as the person simply cannot communicate their thoughts in writing. Classes may be needed to bolster their skills here.
  3. Help your people with their manners. I was taught by my parents to sit up straight and hold my fork properly, to keep my napkin on my lap, to not talk with my mouth full, and to take some butter off the plate and put it on my plate before using it on my bread. I also learned early on to see if my guest was drinking an alcoholic beverage before ordering one for myself. But not everyone had these lessons. Some people really need to be told this stuff – by you – or they will never learn.
  4. Coach your people and help them with other things. Whether it’s buying them a car wash for their car that is well beyond filthy, coaching them on being at work at a regular time because it looks bad to the troops if they aren’t, or telling them how to pack proper clothing for a business trip, you need to be the coach. You are the trainer and advisor who is looking out for everyone who works for you in an effort to help them avoid mistakes you may have made yourself or have seen others make. That is in all our job descriptions. As the principals, managers, and in some cases owners of the enterprises we work in, it’s our responsibility to help all of our people succeed.
Mark Zweig is the chairman and CEO of ZweigWhite. Contact him with questions or comments at mzweig@zweigwhite.com. This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310), issue #1062, originally published 6/30/2014. Copyright© 2014, ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.