Motivating staff

Motivation comes in many forms, here's a way to think about motivating staff that you might not have considered.

I’ve spent some time over the last few months reaching out to architects to talk to them about their experiences in practice. One thread that regularly comes up for small offices, on the challenges they face, is staff. It’s usually in some form about managing staff and the implications of growth. That’s growth of the office and the growth of the staff. How to nurture staff, how to manage them, how to keep them, reducing the churn of them growing up and leaving home.

Managing, supporting and caring for the humans employed in architectural practice is arguably the most important part of running a practice outside of delivering the actual work. Yet this part of practice is not part of any architecture degree that I’m aware of. It’s not a criticism, merely a reflection of the incredible complexity and breadth of architectural practice. Most architects pick it up as they go along. They’ve either learnt lessons at the feet of past employment or mentors, or just managing best as they can. Unfortunately the profession is also littered with ex-employees with appalling employment stories. There is no justification for the way many employees have been treated and the culture of many architectural practices, it’s inexcusable. Nevertheless being an employer is hard.

Architectural staff is a broad topic, one requiring multiple posts that I will continue to write on over the next few months. I’ve been developing some ideas on the particular challenges of small architectural practice and the churn that is almost inevitable. In this post, I want to write about one aspect that is small, almost incidental, and incredibly important. An idea that caught me off-guard when I came across a quote by James Clear,

“Most people think they lack motivation when they really lack clarity.”

James Clear

When he wrote this my guess is he was thinking of it as a personal reflection. Yet the more I thought about it from an employer’s perspective on staff motivation, the more tantalising it became.

Clarity for an employee comes in many containers…

Clarity in communication. Have they received clear instruction around the specific task or tasks they’re asked to do? Are they clear on their role in the office, what is expected of them and what they might receive in return? Has their future been discussed with them and do they know what career trajectory might be available to them? Are they clear on what they need to work on improving in their work and skills? Conversely, do they know they’re valued and what is valued about them?

Personal clarity. Do they know what they want? Are they clear on where they want to go? Is there clarity around how they’re feeling? What might be the source of these feelings, their work, the office culture or broader culture of the profession, the relationships they have, or something else impacting on their emotions? Sometimes these things need to be clarified at a deeper level. Are they communicating all of this clearly to those people it’s relevant to? Are those that are leading them ensuring they are considering all this for themselves?

Clarity of vision. This overlaps with the previous two, but is worth identifying separately. This is the vision for the office, both now and into the future. Is their place in this future clear? Similarly do they have a clear vision for what they want in their work, career and future? Do they know where they are now and where they want to head? Are they clear on what they need to do in order to achieve all that they want?

It’s tempting to suggest that, in part, the last two are not the responsibility of an employer, but a good employer is both a mentor and leader of their employees. It is important that an employer provide clarity to all their staff and consider their wellbeing.

Where do you think you might need to provide more clarity? To yourself or others.

How might you help others to find clarity?

Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels

Hi! I’m Michael

I’m an architect and coach. I help architects rethink their practice and support them as they uncover better ways to work. I’ve worked in architecture for over 25 years, and I ran my own practice for 14 years. I understand architectural practice from the inside out. Fun Fact: my NSW architect’s registration is #10 007 and I have a license to skill.

I believe improving practice takes asking hard questions and deep listening.

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