As design professionals and business managers, this is your only real path to business sustainability and personal freedom.
As design professionals and business managers, one of the things we all have to do if we want to train competent people who can do things without our constant involvement is impart any knowledge or wisdom we have to them.
You won’t feel comfortable delegating anything to anyone if you don’t have confidence in their ability to do the job to your standard of excellence. Some people never develop that confidence in their people and as a result are trapped. It takes a conscious effort if you really want to do this.
Here are some of the best methods I have observed professionals use to impart their wisdom on the people who work for them:
- Take them with you to meetings. This is always one of the best ways to train people. My old bosses – Don Smith and Irving Weiss – in the first A/E firm I worked at – Pickering in Memphis – used to take me everywhere with them. I went to client meetings, meetings to sell work, professional society meetings, and more with these guys. Then you always had the conversation in the car on the way there and back to go over what happened. It was invaluable for me.
- Move them into your office or you move into theirs. This is a great training technique if you are willing to do it. Move someone in with you. That way you can see and hear everything they do and you can provide that same opportunity for them. The consulting firm I worked for fresh out of grad school did this as a part of their training process. We all had to office with a VP or higher level person for the first six months or so. That gave them a lot of time to train us in all aspects of the business. Compare this to how most A/E firms do it. Most principals wouldn’t consider letting someone move in with them, nor consider moving in with someone else. But it is a great way to really train people.
- Invite them to listen in on critical calls. You can always bring someone else into the room when you are on an important call so they can listen in. Just tell them to be silent. If necessary, tell whomever you are on the line with that “so-and-so” is going to listen in as a training exercise.
- Hold design review meetings. Nothing novel here, but how many firms do it on a consistent basis and how many invite people who have nothing to do with the project to the meeting as a learning exercise? Not many in my experience. These are such great opportunities for people to learn, so as many people as possible need to be able to benefit from these reviews.
- Write articles and blogposts. Your writing is a great opportunity to impart knowledge on others in your own business! Get into the habit of regular writing to your employees. Blog and send your blogposts out to all. Don’t underestimate the value of this practice if you do it consistently and relentlessly. Some people even write books of their stuff. Bill Caudill – one of the founders of the old and famous firm CRS in Houston – published a book of his “TIBS” years ago. TIBs were little bits of wisdom from him – statements of “this I believe.”
- Practice open-book management. I know I have been pounding this drum relentlessly for some time, but the reason I am doing so is because open-book really works as such a great training method to get a wider range of employees understanding the financial dynamics of a firm in this business. It works – and it costs so little to implement. Do some Google research on it yourself if you don’t believe me. Maybe it’s time to throw away your Good to Great book and instead start reading about open-book management and how it can work for you!
- Establish a real mentoring program. Mentoring works. It is hard to formalize it, but there are things you can do. I say it is difficult to formalize, because both mentors and mentees need to select each other. But you can always insist that it happen – and have your people name their specific mentors and mentees – and then get those people to share some of what they are each getting from the process.
To conclude – imparting knowledge on others is your only real path to business sustainability and personal freedom that I know of. So what are you waiting for?
Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.