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The Studio: Ep2: Growth, Building Relationships & Dealing with the A-hole Syndrome

Are any of you old enough to remember Pat Benatar?

Wide awake in dreamland……..That was an album to remember. Killer hooks! The dying notes of that song fading……now you’re wide awake in dreamland, in dreamland, in dreamland…….as I step into the office on this lovely crisp Friday morning.

Man, I tell ya, that first cup of coffee in the morning sure is great and as I take my first sip I notice the rising sun is throwing long bands of gold throughout the studio. If you could only bottle that feeling, huh? My computer is waking up to a new day. Hey there, Bessie! Yeah, I nicknamed her.

There are always so few people here this early. Just me and Sylvan so far.

Peaceful.

We recently welcomed a new employee, Clare, to the team. She joined us to open up an opportunity and help further the career of one of our team members who after a few years with our client account is looking for a new challenge. Having some new blood to shake things up a bit is a good thing or so they say.

But why the change when it is all going so well?

We always seem to be asking ourselves that question.

In times where companies are flourishing and equally when work is slow it is customary for companies to make changes to address gaps in their workflow. The ebb and flow of business, you know. It’s natural progression but the one thing that we are always doing is looking for good talent regardless of economic conditions.

Strategically, and in this particular case, the firm looks to promote talent from within the organization so that people feel they are being heard and see the firm’s recognition of their career progression. Positive progression, from within the firm, works exceptionally well to raise the bar and build the talent pool.

What better way is there to attract and retain?

It’s a win win.

There is an opportunity for everyone to advance beyond their roles and move into new areas of expertise in order to fulfill their career goals. Many firms talk the talk about mentorship, coaching and say they listen to their staff’s desire to grow and learn but do they actually act on it?

I have often wondered if many firms are actually looking beyond the commodity based attitude that is so prevalent in the Architecture and Design community or if seeing staff as chattel is even a concern of today’s modern design firms.

We all know that to become a licensed professional diverse experience is a necessity but that doesn’t mean moving from firm to firm to get it is always the best solution. Constant personnel change is not necessarily the most financially viable way to conduct business either, is it?

Hey, where did my coffee go?

Bessie is blinking at me…….waiting…….patiently.

Login.

Clare seems to be settling in well after only a few weeks. We have a lot of work to do to get her fully up to speed on the basics of the firm’s operations and more specifically the needs of this client group.

It takes time and we have some plans in place to ensure the tools are there for her to succeed.

She seems very eager and that’s a great thing. Time will tell how she handles the team, the client and her peers. It’s cool to watch a new personality fit into this tight knit group. I remember the time it took for me to integrate myself and get to know these characters. She is doing well, seems like a natural and it appears that we chose well. Like they say if the talent is there you can shape the will.

I am hoping I will always remember how I felt in my first few weeks.

Nervous exhilaration.

Early on I devoted a lot of time getting to know my team and found that it really made a difference in how we work together now. I took it slow instead of getting too immersed in the other aspects of the firm’s business. I was able to take my time and get to know the people on my team first and then immerse myself in the firm’s process; their underlying MO.

“It’s about time you woke up!” drifts in from the ether.

“Thanks Sylvan. Will do!” I shoot back sarcastically.

You know, I love Sylvan.

One of the other leadership in the firm, Sylvan works very hard but he has a bit of a different approach to his staff. He’s a family guy (two young kids) so I know he gets the value in leadership, growth and mentoring but he is a bit of an old school architect kind of guy.

A tough nut.

You know the type, right?

Everyone can figure it out for themselves and as long as no one has any broken bones it’s all fair game. He figures it works and for the most part it does. There’s nothing wrong with bruising a few egos. It’s good for the soul.

He’s fair but doesn’t have time for too many questions. You can see the frustration building when he’s faced with an inquiry that he feels is redundant. If you can bring a solution, great, but otherwise sit the f**k down and get on with it until you find a way to get the job done. If you talk it better be good.

He is respected because he’s talented. Hey, Alex hired him.

Talent trumps being an asshole on occasion, I guess. Sylvan’s motto? No one ever got anywhere being Mr. Nice Guy. I don’t really understand that but there it is in Technicolor.

“So, what’s going on today, Sylvan? Kicking ass and taking names?”

“You know what they say. Enthusiasm is half the battle.”

I thank him for his witty retort and settle into my day.

 

 

 

 

  • From the storyline: What are you doing to advance your career in your field of expertise?
  • From the storyline: What do you see as the benefits to building relationships with your team?
  • From the storyline: How do you deal with difficult personalities in your workplace?

 

 

About this Author: Ralph Dopping (198 Posts)

A quirky sense-o-humour coupled with an indelible sense of stylish sarcasm makes it difficult to take the world too seriously doesn't it? My faves: fun, passion and hard work. I work here everyday: www.designdialog.ca


23 comments
Jeevanjacobjohn
Jeevanjacobjohn

Well, I can't really answer all the questions (because I don't work), but I guess I could add something based on my blogging experience, right Ralph? ;)

 

Building relationships with other team members is a key aspect of working with a team (you want to communicate well and clear and that can only be done with a trustful relationship). I think that new folks should spend more time getting to know others and building the relationship before they actively immerse themselves into the given work (it helps in the long term, don't you think to build the relationship at first?)

 

Dealing with difficult personalities? Well, I haven't had any tough experiences in blogging (everyone seems to be cool, I guess that's because we don't see that many "bosses" blogging out there :D. Bosses usually are tough (or that's what I have heard).

Late_Bloomers
Late_Bloomers

Hi, Ralph, welcome back, how's the change from stick gear to automatic going? And where was the mastiff when you left Montferrat?

 

Arghh, no thank you for Sylvan, you may keep him. Your ruler with the iron brains and heart. My system shuts down when being confronted with such people. And btw I think I have met Sylvan before but he used a different name. 

Latest blog post: How To Prolong Your Summer

CrossBetsy
CrossBetsy

Personally, I can't produce well- nothing deep, risky, or innovative- for people who "rule" that way. And if I do it's because I've found another job and don't mind getting fired. Aggghh! Got my blood boiling! HA!

Erin F.
Erin F.

Unfortunately, viewing staff as chattel isn't a problem only in the architecture and design community. I've decided if Write Right ever is large enough that I will not run the company in such a fashion. I believe in valuing everyone. Seeing a person as chattel or in terms of dollar signs demeans him or her.

 

I also don't agree with a-hole mentality. It may get the job done, but it hurts a lot of people. I know my experiences with that mentality only discourage me. I'm all for criticism, but I can't stand that sort of mentality. It's another thing that won't be allowed at or in the Write Right workplace.

Latest blog post: Who’s in My Audience?

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR

Why change when everything is going well? It's because companies and individuals get complacent, bored, stilted and lacking creativity and the mojo to go after something new. Same for bloggers and solopreneurs. You have to drive yourself to the next level; if you don't, no one will.

Latest blog post: This Business of Breasts

Mark_Harai
Mark_Harai

I think we may have cussed just a bit too much for the professionals that visit this site... My apologies, Ralph.

 

But it was fun while it lasted, haha!

 

Again, glad you're back in the drivers seat : )

 

 

bdorman264
bdorman264

Hey Frenchy, hopefully you brought some good wine back and you will drag it down to Florida with you. Is golf done for you this season or is the weather permitting a few more rounds? Do you have indoor driving ranges there? 

 

My youngest is starting with us next week so I hope to be a worthy mentor for him; I'm excited about working with him, I hope to have a lot of fun and help him get through the rough spots. 

 

Welcome back. 

Mark_Harai
Mark_Harai

Hey Ralph, glad to see you back in the office :)

 

I've cut the air off these types before. It's effective at getting to shut the f**k up, but destroys any long term relationship :o

 

I really don't have time for assholes. Don't tolerate them, never have.

 

It's really quite simple in my book; treat others as you would like to be treated - build up, don't tear down... Life is too precious and too short to allow ass-holes my space.

 

I've done lots of business with some incredibily 'nice guys' who have built fortunes not being assholes.

 

Cheers to all the nice guys out there!

rdopping
rdopping moderator

Boy, I want your life  @Jeevanjacobjohn  No work? Nice.

 

Yes sir! Relationships first. Totally agree. Without that you get nowhere. 

 

You better believe there are a lot of "bosses" out there blogging. There just aren't that many that are so tough or if they are they're not showing it. Keep searching, you'll find them......;-)

 

Thanks, as always, for dropping by. Appreciated.

rdopping
rdopping moderator

@Late_Bloomers Ha. Ha. Barbara. I take public transit in Toronto so the automatic stays in the garage most days. I loved driving stick though. Broughtback some fond memories of my youth. Yes, my character Sylvan has received a fair bit of commentary. I need a character like that to keep the story spicy. Maybe we can make him a little less of a negative influence. We will see. Thanks for dropping by. As always I do appreciate you taking the time. Cheers! BTW, I love your recipe for bacon you suggested to Brian. Must try that next weekend. Ciao for now!

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @CrossBetsy Thanks and that's the point. To get some reaction! I appreciate you popping by and yes, that type of personality is not what we aspoire toward.

 

Funny how the other ideas here got zero traction. Huh? I see what get's people charged up. Hope you are well! How's life treating you?

rdopping
rdopping moderator

yes, right you are  @Erin F.  seeing staff as commodities is not the best way to be successful but happens too much to ignore, huh? Why is the idea that if your people are happy, engaged and trusted that it relates directly to your clients being much happier such a foreign concept in the corporate world? Gotta wonder.

 

No one likes an ass, do they? I injected that character type here because a storyline needs all kinds of different characters to keep it interesting and besides we all love to hate that type of character. There are always great lessons in a personality like that.

 

Thanks for coming by and lending your support. Always appreciated Erin. Cheers. :-)

rdopping
rdopping moderator

Bingo  @timbo1973 ! Now there's a concept and the next chapter in the storyline so thank you for being intuitive. I started this idea simply enough with the intent to demonstrate the peaks and valleys of big firm life and it has just after two episodes sparked so many ideas for me. Just drawing on my own and my wife's experiences gives us enough fodder for a long series.

 

Mentoring, building confidence and sharing in the successes and failures makes for a vibrant workplace. I applaud that attitude and share it wholeheartedly. I think it's called servant leadership and is not a common style in the A+D industry which gives me a ton of work and fodder for my future as a professional. 

 

Thank you for sharing your thoughts here Tim. I always appreciate your insights. Good to see you. Back in Canada today so as i write this you are likely just having lunch on Sunday. Enjoy!

rdopping
rdopping moderator

Well hello!  @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing So glad you could drop by. You have been killing it out there the last while and I am, personally, loving what you are doing. Podcasts, killer posts, killer guest posts and brilliant comments. You are a #rockstar!

 

You know, it's awesome when someone can take a certain experience (working in big firm Architecture) and relate it to their niche, industry or work. I agree wholeheartedly that you have to drive yourself to the next level. There are plenty of folks in the firm where I work that are happy where they are and over time they prove their worth by being consistent, solid and by working hard, however, eventually they can risk becoming redundant. That is reality.

 

The fact that a firm allows people to push themselves, offers the opportunity for people to express their goals and helps them get there is rare indeed. As a solopreneur it becomes exceedingly more difficult because there is only you and your ability to help you drive yourself forward. You have to build the support system around you yourself.

 

I have never worked on my own so tell me, how do you leverage a support system to help you grow when others are concerned primarily with their own growth? For me, the sharing of information, knowledge and offering moral support via blogging, for instance, is great but I have never had to take it to a new level because of the security of an employer. Having said that, I mentor others where I work and it is not mandatory. I love my industry and I want it to get better and I love to see people grow so I do that out of my own volition. I wonder if that's the same thing?

 

Sorry for the long response. Love that you can make a short comment and get me thinking. Powerful words. Cheers Jayme!

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @Mark_Harai Hey, I don't remember any foul language here? The professionals that visit this site can take it. They probably drop more expletives than you can imagine they might. Not sure who we are talking about here but if @DannyBrown is part of that lot then we are safe.

 

Thanks Mark. Yes, glad to be back and in the drivers seat. Ha! It's going to be nice not driving for a while. We put 900km on the rental car in 10 days. That seems like a lot of driving. Good to see you!

rdopping
rdopping moderator

Thanks  @bdorman264 Golf is not done yet! I might get another round in if I am careful. I golfed my last round on November 7 last year. Lucky. Plenty of indoor driving ranges and better yest golf simulators where you can actually play a round. The putting is weird though.

 

So, he took the bait huh? Congrats. I hadn't seem you mention it in a while but then again I am not everywhere you are. Good news and good luck to him. I am sure your experience will help him immensely. 

 

We drank enough wine there but did bring back a bottle of Remy Martin XO and some Veuve Clinquot to celebrate the trip. We thought about shipping some wine back but never rally got around to it. The next time I am in Florida I am sure we can find some good wine at the local Publix but I would bet beer would be a better alternative.

 

Thanks fro dropping by. Appreciated as always. Cheers!

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @Mark_Harai Agreed. It's good to see that it can be done. I wanted to build a little controversy into the storyline and since these characters are coming from real life experiences I thought that would be a good one to play out. Let's see where I take it but rest assured the intent is to learn from the mistakes and attitudes and not just expose issues.

 

Thanks for your comments, as always. I hope you are well.

Late_Bloomers
Late_Bloomers

 @rdopping  How can Sylvan be a good father when he is so south pole orientated? How would he react if something really bad happened to one of his children? Would such an event trigger some thinking process? Or send him to some self-help-find-your-true-self-by-kissing-a-troll weekend?

Thanks for liking my bacon recipe and please, tell me all about it! Ci vediamo!

 

Latest blog post: How To Prolong Your Summer

Erin F.
Erin F.

 @rdopping I don't know. I really don't. I would think a high turnover rate would make higher-ups take notice, but the rate doesn't seem to have much of an impact. Perhaps because the focus is on money? 

 

I had a conversation about silos several weeks ago. I was adamant about demolishing them. The other person said he had a few years on me. I quit talking after that. I didn't see the point in arguing with someone who already had dismissed me.

Latest blog post: Who’s in My Audience?

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @thejoshuawilner  @Mark_Harai Good way to look at that one. So, assuming by your comment you simply ignore, then? I am sure there's more to it than that.

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @Erin F. There you have it! I would take the same approach, for sure. No point discussing something when the door is closed.