The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: How do you build authentic relationships at work? is by Haril Pandya, principal of CBT Architects.
Over the course of my 25 years in the architectural and design field, I’ve seen first-hand the mistakes people make when lead and manage others. I’ve come to the realization that many of these mistakes can be attributed to a lack of authentic relationship-building. Building strong connections with your colleagues is essential to the happiness and success of your team and, ultimately, to the profitability of the business.
Architecture is inherently an apprenticeship; a ‘more time equals more experience’ profession. There are no algorithms on how to run an architectural practice, but one thing is definitive: it takes humanity to design for humanity. Every day the goal is to listen, solve a problem, and create something meaningful. But the success of our designs depend on the relationships I have with my employees, both inside and outside of the office because after all, people are a business’ greatest asset. Here are three leadership strategies I use to build meaningful and productive relations with each of my colleagues:
Don’t define what equals success or failure
The moment you try to push your opinion on others about what defines success and failure, you take a step back in the process of developing authentic relationships. You can’t expect people will subscribe to everything you say. We’re all wired differently in the way we absorb, retain, and react to information so it’s important to get to know and understand the people on your team on a more intimate level.
Whether you hold a senior position at a multi-billion dollar company or you’re the CEO of a small business, it’s critical that you’re constructive and positive in how you communicate. You can explain a task to the best of your ability, but what’s going to resonate most is getting them in the trenches right away and showing them. This is also important for identifying employees with a true passion for their work as opposed to those who are simply putting in their eight hours to earn a paycheck. Despite the level of enthusiasm some people may show, it’s crucial to treat everyone equally. When you give people the freedom to determine what they define as success and failure, they won’t feel as discouraged from taking chances.
Invest time in your team
I reinforce innovative thinking for every project because each property has a rich history and great story to tell. In architecture, repositioning is about leveraging a building’s existing features and amenities, while maintaining the essence of what makes the building unique in the first place. Similar to the buildings we work on, people have their own story to tell about their lives. It’s necessary that I understand who each person really is; this includes where they come from, what interests them (personally and professionally) why they chose this profession and, ultimately, what drives them. Only once I have these answers can I know how best to utilize people in a way that illuminates their strengths so they feel encouraged and proud of their work.
I want and need to know what motivates everyone. Building these types of authentic relationships at work takes time, but in the end, it’s the most important part of the job. You have to care about your colleagues — not as tools for a business, but as human beings. You have to show them the respect and support they deserve, while making them feel like part of a greater good.
Infuse entrepreneurialism into the work culture
It’s very easy for a boss to take control of a situation and make all the important decisions because they’re “entitled” to. I’ve learned that while this may be common practice, it will never spark people’s curiosity or push people to be entrepreneurial. I have made a point to enforce that everyone is considered equal — from group leaders to project managers to interns. Everyone not only has a seat, but also a voice at the table. I try and use simple techniques like using the word “we” instead of “I.” When you allow people to be entrepreneurial and take ownership of a project, that’s when you usually see the most innovative thinking.
Being entrepreneurial also means that you have to let people make their own mistakes, which as their boss can sometimes be a risk, but a necessary one for their professional development. What’s most important for me is to give people opportunities that let them grow and challenge themselves. It takes a positive attitude to achieve positive results so I make sure people know I believe in them.
When I started my career, I remember waiting for my managers to tell me what they wanted in a design or end result. I was simply their drafting arm and not part of the solution. Let’s face it; architecture can be an egotistical profession at times, highly subjective and vulnerable to critique. So, why take the chance when you can wait until someone gives you the answer? This did not help my professional growth, so I decided I wouldn’t let that happen to others. Managers give out tasks, but leaders show people how to accomplish them. People are inspired by what they see and those they look up to. By giving my team the freedom to take charge and assume responsibility, I gain their respect and inspire a culture of passion for what we do.