Finding direction and finding your feet
Whether you’re making decisions about how you lead your life, how you lead your team, or run your business, it’s a big help to have a good guide. Increasingly, professionals in architecture are seeing the benefits of consulting career or business coaches to help them make more confident choices as well as accelerate their development. And in our industry, we need it.
Architecture firms lag behind larger corporate businesses in their ability to develop leaders
As a profession, architecture does a great job of developing creative talent and technical skills, but it lags behind in its ability to develop leaders. For many corporate businesses, investment in their people is a priority and may partly account for their long-term success. It’s an approach that helps individuals develop the skills they need to be effective leaders.
In architecture that support is far less prevalent. Many are small or medium sized businesses and awareness of the importance of leadership is patchy. While practice owners use consultants to advise on the running of the business, they are less likely to offer coaching to their teams. Individuals are consequently seeking outside help from leadership and career coaches to find the support they need to develop their skills and build a successful career.
You can think of all these things as questions of leadership — business leadership, people leadership and personal leadership. The first two are pretty obvious, but personal leadership really means you taking charge of yourself in your career. That might of course mean working toward becoming a better leader, but more broadly it’s about taking command and being proactive with your career to ensure that its path is aligned with your ideas about yourself and your life.
This last point may explain the growing interest in coaching, especially by younger generations at work, although it applies equally to any age. At the moment, what’s really important for the younger generation is meaningful work. That’s not to say that older generations either didn’t or don’t worry about that, but there is a perception that lifestyle and values matter more strikingly for younger workers today. It is tempting also to think that the pandemic’s upheavals might have contributed to a general re-evaluation of the role of work in one’s life, particularly for a generation that finds the certainties of long-term employment and mortgages less relevant. There’s also much more discussion about purpose, not just as individuals but for businesses too. What is my purpose? What is my why? Why am I doing this job, and so on. Those used to be the concerns of the mid-life age group, but younger generations are asking themselves these questions almost from the start of their careers.
Take time to plan your career if you want it to be a success
While purpose or work life balance may influence the choices we make, the fact remains that we’re just not very good at taking the time out to really think in a structured way about what we want out of our careers. And this is why we’re offering a new programme through Locri in strategic career planning. It’s really around self-awareness and being really clear about what’s important to you.
Coaching is really good at helping you clarify where your real talents and strengths lie, what your values are and where you want to get to in your career. For some people it can be really specific while for others it’s more about a general direction; either way, a coach helps you to figure it out and create a plan. When you’re happy that you understand your direction, you can much more clearly plan to make progress. So, it could be looking at what additional skills you might need or what would be the best career path as well as the right companies to be working for. All of this is quite normal in the corporate world where individual development is seen as key to wider business success. The support is also there from your manager, who might be a trained leader, but in architecture, especially in smaller firms, it’s still lacking.
Get some outside help to make a good start in a new role
In addition to the strategic planning aspect of careers, we’re also offering some more tactical coaching support when you need it most. Our first 90 days programme is a really tailored package of support aimed at more senior leaders to help you in the first three months of any new role.
That early period can be challenging as you’re getting to grips with a new company culture and a new team that you’ll be leading. It can be bewildering and unsettling and it’s important to be able to stand back and look at the situation clearly to map out the most effective approach to all the obstacles that you’ll face. Coaching sessions have a big value here because they create really focused thinking time that uncovers insights. It can help you take command of the role, work with the team you’ve inherited or the projects or processes and find the best way forward.
Together, these programmes in strategic career planning and support for the first 90 days are exactly the kind of things you might find in a much larger corporate business, but it’s not so common among architects’ practices. By seeking the support of an outside coach you’re giving yourself a big advantage in your career first of all, but you’ll also be getting the balance right in personal and professional life. Rather than ignoring things and thinking a change of job will help, it’s so much better to have a plan.