Help me help other architects! This blog is an excerpt from the first draft of my book: Breaking the Box: Explode out of Architecture School to a Successful Career as an Architect. You can help me make it better by leaving a critique in the comment section below. Thx you rock! -Steve
I remember architecture school at the University of Maryland being a very social environment. The architecture school building was designed to encourage collaboration and engagement. Each studio class had a group of tightly arranged workstations gathered around an open atrium that was referred to as ‘the Great Space.’ The ‘Great Space’ was really not that all that great but it did provide an opportunity for people to sprawl out large drawings and models or engage in an impromptu game of trace paper ball baseball.
We did most of our work at our workstations that slightly resembled office cubicles. Each student had their own wooden desk that had 3 cork board walls that provided just enough privacy but still kept it very open. We were constantly chatting, sharing ideas and borrowing supplies.
It was fun.
The professional office environment is a bit different. It tends to be more….well……professional! There is not as much chatter and I feel like people miss out on opportunities for connection.
It is O.K. to be Social in the Office
In an architecture office it is ok to be social. In fact, it is encouraged. Our architecture school teachers put us in a certain environment because they wanted us to talk. They wanted us to collaborate.
This tradition should continue into the profession. Architecture is a collaborative profession and being social helps promote that collaboration. Being social will help you on your projects and it will help you become a better leader.
Here are couple tips to help you develop stronger relationships in the office.
Welcome the Newbies
You should make it your goal to welcome new employees at your firm. Starting a new job can be a stressful time for people and you have the opportunity make them feel at home. And don’t wait! Go out of your way to make an introduction at the first chance you get. Even better would be to take them out for a cup of coffee or lunch.
This person may have just moved to the area and may need assistance with other things like finding a good daycare center or the best Indian restaurant.
The Water Cooler Talk
I have never worked in an office that actually had a water cooler, but each had it’s own kitchen that served as the proverbial water cooler. These locations are opportunities for casual run-ins with your colleagues. Talk about work, talk about kids or about Tiger Woods. It does not matter. The point is to strengthen your bond between your team members.
The Unexpected Visits
The print room in my office is on the 3rd floor and my desk is on the 2nd floor. Rather than complain about having to go up a flight of stairs every time I print, I use the commute as an opportunity to visit with my colleagues. Assuming I have a couple minute to spare, (which I almost always do) I will stop by the desk of a colleague to say hello. It may just be a hello or sometimes it may be a “hello, how was your weekend.”
You may think that small talk is corny or a waste of time but it does serve as a vehicle to something greater. Your small talk may lead to a conversation about project responsibilities in which you discover that you have valuable resources you can share. “Oh, you are working on a glass and steel canopy design? We just did one a few months ago downstairs and have some great details.”
This small talk may also lead to a discussion about Game of Thrones. That’s ok too.
I discussed headphone usage at length in the previous section. Just rememer to moderate your usage of headphones in the office. When you are connected to your headphones you are disconnected to the rest of the office. This is not helpful for collaboration or for building human connections at work. So just remember to mix it up.
The Pre-Meeting Banter
If you are punctual for meetings then that means that you are actually early to meetings. Anyone who is regularly early to meetings knows that there is this uncomfortable 5-minute period when the punctual folks are waiting for the late folks. The usual practice involves everyone sitting silently and playing with their iPhones while they wait for the late folks.
Use this opportunity to connect with your team. This is especially important if these meetings include your design consultants and your client. Ask them if they watched the game or better yet, ask them how their families are doing. You might find out that you have a common connection or that you both hate the Patriots.
In just a couple minutes, you could developer stronger connections and besides..what else are you doing?
Human Good, Robot Bad
Suggesting that you engage in small talk and hang out at the water cooler may seem counter-productive. I mean…this is an office not a social club, right?
Just like headphone usage, moderation is key. I engage in these casual encounters when I am on my way to doing something else like heading to the printer or filling up my water cup. Think of it as killing two birds with one stone.
Life is about relationships. The more you strengthen the relationships with your colleagues the stronger the team grows. Stronger relationships will lead to greater synergies and effective collaboration.
In addition, when it is time to give annual bonuses and promotions you want your name to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue. If you are the hermit that never speaks then people could literally forget you. It happens.
And most important: we are humans, not robots. Live a little!
I'd love to hear your thoughts and critique on Chapter 11. Give me a shout in the comment section below. Thank you in advance! -Steve
Another chapter in the books!!!!
Chapter 11 by the Numbers
· 3,179 words
· 12.7 – Translates into approximately 12.7 pages in book form.
· 5 – Blog Posts
· 8 – Stretched over 8 calendar days.
· 1.58 – Average book pages written per day.
The Book by the Numbers
· 25,101 – Total Words
· 100 – Total Pages
· 35 – Total Blog Posts
· 220 – Goal for final page count.
· 21 – Straight Days of Writing
· 1.69 – Average book pages written per day.
· 71 – Estimated days to completion of First Draft. (220-100) / 1.69) = 71
· 10– Chapter down.
· 20 – Chapters to go.
· 0 – New subscribers to the Breaking the Box Email Newsletter
· 30 – Total subscribers to the Breaking the Box Email Newsletter