On Thursday 28th March, 10 architects gathered to attend Museum of Architecture’s Business Academy at Build Studio to gain insight on how to promote a culture of high performance within their company. The talk was provided by Sue Austin of Sue Austin Consulting, a consultant with 30 years’ experience in directing both large and small scale businesses going through rapid and disruptive periods of growth. The majority of Sue’s clients are London-based small to medium sized practices.
Many of those who attended were managers of their own businesses and had experienced significant recent growth, but were unsure of what actions to take next; they felt that they were spending too much time on assisting their staff with menial matters rather than on fostering new opportunities for their company and enjoying the creative aspects of their role. They were all looking to transform their office culture, to improve efficiency, and to ‘learn the language’ of a high-performing business.
Sue first set out the ‘nuts and bolts’ of promoting a high-performance culture. She emphasised the importance of upholding core company values and goals, effective communication, empowering staff, and of adopting a continuous improvement mindset. She then ran a ‘culture diagnostic exercise’ during which the architects reflected on their practice and discussed which areas they struggled with. The most common issue which the architects shared was how to encourage their staff to take accountability for their own work. They were provided with practical leadership tips on when to support, coach, delegate or direct their staff, and on the importance of measuring both individual input as well as output when monitoring staff performance. As Sue explained, good feedback is ‘fundamental’ within a high-performance culture; staff who are encouraged to ‘own’ their successes are more motivated and likely to complete high-quality work within shorter time frames, which in turn promotes greater profits.
By the end of the evening, the architects’ appeared inspired by Sue’s insightful presentation and ready to take the first steps in shaping a performance-focussed culture within their businesses.