Wanted – two kinds of people
Inspiration is necessary for technical/design professionals and those who manage projects to be successful.
I’ve been saying for years that having two tracks – one for managerial and sales people, and one for design and technical people – is largely a myth in this business. My conclusion was based largely on money and supply-and-demand. There are less people who can sell and manage, and they are worth more than someone who only does project-related worth.
Now, I’m going to backpedal a little on that. I’ve always known that we need those technical and design people – particularly leaders – who turn out outstanding projects. It goes wrong when we don’t do a good job of communicating exactly what that standard is. It’s high.
What we need in these outstanding technical/design people and in those who manage projects is inspiration. They need to be able to inspire everyone else on the team to ever-greater performance. I define that performance from the client’s point of view: The project has to exceed their expectations. They should be calling and writing letters and emails to you expressing how great a job the firm and your people did for them. And the workers who report to these people should be coming to you on their own to express their admiration and appreciation for the outstanding leadership that has been provided to them.
See, the problem is, we act like project-related work isn’t important and, instead, only achieving certain business goals is. If you know anything about the best, most passionate, and creative architects, engineers, and planners, you know that only talking business with them is alienating to them. They want and need to know that what they are doing is important, worthwhile, and appreciated. Their heroic efforts cannot be consistently ignored if you expect them to be repeated. They do not just want to drive business results; they want to do projects and have relationships with clients that they can be proud of.
We need project leaders and discipline experts who demonstrate that they want to keep learning. We need project leaders and discipline experts who don’t act like they are superior to everyone else on their team and help others learn. We need project leaders and discipline experts who are responsive to questions and engaged and who know how to treat other people they work with. We also need project leaders and discipline experts who work hard and don’t act like unionized blue-collar workers. The expectations are high – even if you aren’t a big seller of work or manager of people and “just” a project person.
So, in this business, we desperately need good, inspired, passionate, and committed architects and engineers, who take tremendous pride in their work. We have to make sure we don’t only talk about business but also devote airtime to their project accomplishments, both inside and outside of the firm. We need hard-working leaders who love their work so much they have to be pried away from it. When we have people like this in design posts and project leadership roles, they will inspire others – Gen-X, Gen-Y, and Millennials – to work harder and longer and be better at what they do. That will produce even better projects and more accolades you can share and one more of the “virtuous cycles” of this business is established. This pattern will create a culture that leads to BUSINESS SUCCESS as well; it is the outcome of it.
The $50,000 question is: “Are you creating high enough expectations for all of your project staff?” If not, start now. And are you really touting their accomplishments? If not, start that now. You will be more successful if you do. Don’t let the design and technical track be a dumping ground for people who not only aren’t good managers or business developers, but also aren’t effective inspiration project leaders and team members.
MARK ZWEIG is founder and CEO of Zweig Group. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.