Human Resources

You’ve asked:
How can we motivate our staff to do their very best?

Harry Nicholas, a Principal and former Head of Resourcing at Melbourne architects Hayball, answers:

In December 2010, Jodi Glickman wrote a piece for the Harvard Business Review, encouraging employees to, “Operate at 110% always, whether you’re talking to your assistant or the CEO of the client.” In doing so, she promoted the idea that “Your boss is your Client”, a line of thinking that has been the topic of many similarly voiced articles.

Effective working relationships embrace active listening and empathy as core components for successful collaboration. These are traits that, amongst others, form the basis for sound communication, trust and teamwork at all levels, whether engaging with clients, consultants or employees.

Empathy promotes then, that where Glickman’s mantra calls for employees to “treat your bosses as if they are your clients”, the reverse could be said to hold:

Treat your staff like your most trusted consultants.

As Managers and CEOs, you depend on the productivity and quality of output of your staff, whose performance and motivation are paramount to successful project outcomes, client satisfaction and practice growth. By extension, your employees could be considered your closest and most trusted advisors and consultants, so your collaboration with them should employ related principles for engagement:

  • Hire people who do things better than you can;
  • Brief them well and explain how and why their contribution matters;
  • Grant them ownership over a defined scope or portfolio;

“People often ask me how you control a large firm. You don’t.  I learned a long time ago that to build a great organization, you hire people smarter than you are and then get out of their way.”
– Art Gensler, address to the American Institute of Architects, 2000

  • Recognise that to own the delivery, they must first own the offer to the Client;
  • Treat them as subject matter experts;
  • Recognise their contribution and reward them for it, often;
  • Be open and honest with critical feedback;
  • Map a business and career development path together, for mutual benefit;
  • Promote innovation and provide a safe place for testing and failure;
  • Get to know them, as they get to know you; and
  • Listen before leading.

Empathy and communication with staff equals commitment and engagement. Having processes in place that encourage and promote the above thinking can lead to active mentoring and coaching that is intrinsically embedded in the day to day operations of your team. This has the potential to greatly accelerate success and growth for all team members.

Above: Mentoring at Allen Jack + Cottier

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