Improving culture within architectural offices starts at the top, but everyone has a role to play. The Champions of Change Architecture Group offers ten tips to become a better leader – complete with downloadable posters for your practice.
1. Be open, transparent and generous
- Foster a co-operative spirit vs a competitive one. Consider it a collaboration.
- Be open to learning something new.
- Teach something new.
- Be a mentor to someone. Be a role model. Lead by example.
- Offer career support.
- Share responsibilities.
- Be a clear communicator – explain why you are asking someone to do something.
- Live the value of diversity. Champion representation of different points of view.
2. Check in and have conversations
- Make time for regular conversations / morning teas / coffee catch ups.
Create a safe space for team members to confide in you.
- Know your colleagues. Express interest in them, get to know them as individuals. Tune into their needs.
- Pay attention to team members’ wellbeing. Ask, “How are you feeling? Are you ok?”
- Provide prompt feedback in a constructive manner.
- Ask permission to provide feedback: “Is there something in particular you would like feedback on?”
- Advise colleagues to be kind to themselves and to practise self-care. Share your own experiences of hardship and explain how you overcame them.
- Direct colleagues who may need help to the office policies around mental wellbeing.
- If you know someone is struggling, give them space to recover and let them know that you are there if they need you.
- Listen and show empathy. Be a friend if needed.
3. Empower representation
- Celebrate diversity.
- Treat team members fairly.
- Say no to favouritism.
- Contribute towards visibility of those who may be marginalised (women, LGBTQI, younger, older, ethnic minority team members)
- Accept diversity and listen to all opinions. Open your mind to other perspectives.
- Acknowledge everyone in meetings/ presentations. Always introduce yourself and confirm the names of all attendees.
- Say no to disrespectful behaviour.
- Improve cultural awareness. Actively learn and improve your knowledge of alternate cultures.
- Be aware of unconscious bias. Discuss this concept with your colleagues.
- Ensure zero tolerance on bullying and harassment.
- Acknowledge inappropriate behaviour and act on eliminating further situations – do not sweep under the rug.
- Show respect to earn respect.
- Be consistent – when people know what to expect from you, they will be equally consistent in their respect for you and your leadership.
- Build respect in your communication. Every element of your communication matters whether it is spoken or written, public or private. Be mindful of your tone. Communicate with the utmost respect.
- Remember your view is just that – your view. People can have different and equally valid views to you.
- Show trust in your colleagues.
- Be approachable by creating regular opportunities for open conversation to take place.
- Encourage and provide genuine and constructive comments.
- Show confidence in others.
- Delegate assignments fairly and give others space to grow by encouraging ownership of work.
- Build others confidence with your behaviour.
- Value the individual. Accept diversity. Build inclusion.
- Engage in the growth and development of colleagues.
- Always show willingness to assist. If unable, arrange alternate time.
- Believe in the potential of your colleagues.
- Inspire and motivate – lead by example.
- Create a positive and safe environment for your team.
- Maintain positivity.
- Show ability to look at issues with a positive spin. Enjoy the problem-solving process and use it to build team spirit.
- Employ a growth mindset – look for opportunities and minimise negativity and limitations.
- Use supportive words – make time to show appreciation to team mates verbally in person. Be especially considerate to include those who are not in the office as often (e.g. working remotely or flexibly).
- Recognise the strengths of your colleagues. Implement their suggestions and ideas.
- Regularly celebrate milestones (eg, team lunches).
- Regularly celebrate success within the organisation.
- Give credit where credit is due.
- Acknowledge formally – let senior leadership and management know when a teammate has achieved or excelled.
- Try making appreciation a daily habit – you don’t have to wait to say thank you until a milestone is achieved.
8. Stand up for your colleagues
- Stand up in conflicts – have the back of your team. Don’t finger point when they make mistakes or throw them under the bus. Have a united front to external parties.
- Do not tolerate unfair treatment and comments coming from anyone or any party. Report back to relevant authority.
- Unrealistic deadlines? Stand up to long hour work culture and unrealistic deadlines. Lead by example by not sending emails outside office hours and leaving on time. Flip the mentality of working late from being hard-working to being inefficient.
9. Share leadership
- Avoid practising micro management – give colleagues room to grow and work their way.
- Encourage your team to set goals for themselves.
- Pay consideration and attention to your colleagues’ ideas.
- Involve your colleagues in the decision-making process.
- Allow your colleagues to take pride of ownership in their work tasks.
- Credit colleagues with their contributions to the work.
10. Advocate and champion
- Nurture talent through ensuring a supportive environment in which to learn and grow.
- Offer mentorship to team members.
- Be an advocate for the contributions made by team members. Report their efforts back to practice management and clients.
- Provide opportunities for team members to shine.
- Lead by example as a champion of:
_ gender equity
_ calling out bad behaviour
_ issues of injustice you feel passionate about
Read Hamish Ginn’s article about the genesis of the toolkit with suggestions about how to use it – then download and print to put to work within your practice.
It is intended that the toolkit has a life in our offices, used and displayed in common areas, photocopier and tea making stations. It serves as a prompt, a ‘ready reckoner’ for the wall of your office or as a PDF on your phone. Much like daily affirmations, they serve to reinforce and maintain presence of mind around issues of gender inequality. The messaging and clarity of the information serves as a reminder and prompt for reflection, a way of grappling with preconceptions or prevailing beliefs and to start conversations with colleagues.” – Hamish Ginn
From 2019 to 2021, the Culture Action Group within the Champions of Change Architecture Group targeted several initiatives to improve practice culture, among them the development of the Leadership Toolkit. The Culture Action group included employees of the Champions of Change practices, nine of the largest architecture practices in NSW.