Be OUR Messenger

One of the great things about an organization with the size and reach of the American Institute of Architects is our thousands of messengers. Members are messengers. Local, State and Regional components are messengers. National committees and components are messengers. We’re all messengers. Some are more vocal than others but we all have our own voice.

I’ve been talking for a long time about elevating the impact of the AIA. One way that we can increase our impact is to make everyone a messenger. Local components can encourage all their members to be a messenger. Our regions need to empower Local and State components as messengers and so on.

But here’s the key: we have to work together. We must have a unified message. We must be BOLD and we must communicate that message; with each other and with the public. There needs to be a symbiotic relationship between members and local and national components.

As our National Convention begins today it is the time for us to be BOLD; to have a BOLD message. We will spend the next few days “Building Leaders.” We must be the leaders that we’re looking for. We are Architects and we need to let the world know.

We all have to do our part.

Today, I challenge you to talk to your local Director about how you can be a better messenger. To all our Leaders and Components and Committees, your challenge is to communicate the message to the membership.

We are Architects. We think differently; we work differently; we act differently. Maybe it’s time to lead differently.

We have a BOLD new message; a message about connecting; about value; about engagement and relevance; about passion and about telling our story.

Will YOU tell OUR story? Will YOU be OUR messenger?

How are you spreading the message of the AIA? Leave me a comment below. I’d like to know.

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Candidate Question Series Volume 6

Recently Candidates for the 2014 / 2015 AIA First Vice President / President Elect were asked to answer a series of questions from the AIA California Council and the AIA Center for Emerging Professionals. Although the questions came specifically from those two AIA components, I believe they’re somewhat universal and may be of interest to our membership as a whole.

Over the next week or two leading up to the National Convention, I’ll publish my answers here in a series called “The Candidate Question Series.” This is the sixth post in that series.

What do you think about my answers? Leave a comment below. I’d like to know how you’d answer them too.

Emerging Professionals

Question: Across all levels of the organization members lament the lack of engagement of emerging professionals both in practice and within the AIA. The decline of a culture of mentoring within firms and the profession is blamed for the correspondingly low numbers of new licensees. What can the AIA do to affect a cultural shift to among experienced professionals and encourage all involved in the delivery of architectural services to stay connected with the organization?

Answer: Architects were taught in school to identify a problem and assess multiple solutions to reach a final conclusion. In addressing the generational expectations problem, AIA leaders must actively acknowledge generational differences to engage them on their terms. Some key generational differences that will impact AIA’s approach:

Traditionalist

Baby Boomer

Generation X

Millennial

What they value

Community

Success

Time

Individuality

Approach to technology

Adapted

Acquired

Assimilated

Integral

Sense of entitlement

Seniority

Experience

Merit

Contribution

Repositioning illuminated what unites architects: We want to make a difference in the world! It’s the value proposition that bridges our generational differences and will be the foundation of our future. And mentoring is not what it used to be. Mentoring is at its best when it spans the generational divide and goes both ways.

I have also witnessed the strength of mentoring across generations when our schools of architecture connect directly with local AIA components. I believe our schools have a responsibility to expose and encourage students to explore their professional institution and connect with professionals. Ensuring AIA is a “known entity” to our graduates is an important step in establishing engagement.

So there are many solutions to this issue. Ultimately, I believe AIA will only secure emerging professional engagement when EP’s witness an organization that respects them and an AIA that is willing and eager to take risks. EP’s are willing to explore new avenues, make mistakes, and classify them as learning experiences. That is their culture. So, the question is, can “we” make the cultural shift?

Join me in transforming an organization that is less about self-promotion and more about attraction. I.e. become the organization that they value and “want to be part of.”

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The Candidate Question Series Volume 5

Recently Candidates for the 2014 / 2015 AIA First Vice President / President Elect were asked to answer a series of questions from the AIA California Council and the AIA Center for Emerging Professionals. Although the questions came specifically from those two AIA components, I believe they’re somewhat universal and may be of interest to our membership as a whole.

Over the next week or two leading up to the National Convention, I’ll publish my answers here in a series called “The Candidate Question Series.” This is the fifth post in that series.

What do you think about my answers? Leave a comment below. I’d like to know how you’d answer them too.

Member Resources

Question: While the economic climate has been challenging for all in the design and construction industry, it has been especially difficult for “seasoned” professionals who are often times unable to compete in today’s technology-based delivery environment. How is the AIA positioned to support these experienced members?

Answer: Do you remember when your mother taught you that it is not polite to ask someone their age? Well, that still holds true because age doesn’t always tell us about someone’s career challenges.  Dr. Donald Super argued that people pass through five career stages during their life span:

  • Growth
  • Exploration
  • Establishment
  • Maintenance
  • Reinvention

Many seasoned professionals who were expecting to be safely in their “maintenance stage” are finding themselves needing to reinvent or explore again. AIA can play an effective role in supporting architects at all career stages when they respect each stage and support a culture where “it’s never too late to reinvent yourself.”

AIA can take action to create programs that appeal to “seasoned” professionals; programs that enhance their skills, demonstrate their value, expand their versatility in the marketplace, improve expertise in a specific area, and expose them to new networks of people.

I know of local components (including in California) who are addressing the technology needs of “seasoned” professionals (or re-emerging professionals) directly. Seasoned professionals may never be the BIM tech; however, they can learn the value of BIM, understand how to leverage its capabilities, discover how to open and generally navigate files, and most importantly, bring even greater value to the BIM tech as our “seasoned” professionals really do know how a building goes together.

Organizational Structure

Question: While all can agree that a revitalized, relevant, and robust AIA to lead and support the profession is critical, there is still uncertainty whether the AIA has the will to make the significant and substantive changes necessary. In view of the findings of the Repositioning Study, what recommendations would you make about the AIA’s current service and delivery model to the membership?

Answer: This cannot be a top-down proposition and all members need to possess the will to shift the mindset of services.

When a member pays for three levels of service, they deserve distinct services from all three levels. Please don’t misunderstand my statement. I believe AIA members receive services from all levels; and we recognize some of those services are duplicated at multiple levels.

As I have stated before, we no longer have the luxury of components acting independently. Despite our autonomous governance structure, we need to work together and clearly define the responsibilities for each level.  At a minimum,

  1. Local chapters should urge members to tap into the international network of architects and resources to propel business growth and expand personal and professional development.
  2. State chapters should keep members ahead of state-wide issues, especially related to the practice of architecture and licensure.
  3. National should encourage and support members to actively engage their local chapter to gain access to networking, community involvement, and continuing education opportunities.

Additionally, I believe the current Member Resources Task Force must be BOLD in its wide spread considerations of member service delivery and financial models. It’s not your father’s AIA. Models that maintain a status quo are not the answer.

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The Candidate Question Series Volume 4

Recently Candidates for the 2014 / 2015 AIA First Vice President / President Elect were asked to answer a series of questions from the AIA California Council and the AIA Center for Emerging Professionals. Although the questions came specifically from those two AIA components, I believe they’re somewhat universal and may be of interest to our membership as a whole.

Over the next week or two leading up to the National Convention, I’ll publish my answers here in a series called “The Candidate Question Series.” This is the fourth post in that series.

What do you think about my answers? Leave a comment below. I’d like to know how you’d answer them too.

Positioning the Profession for the Future

Question: The impact and duration of the economic downturn has impacted the design and construction industry in ways we are just starting to realize. While by all accounts the tide has turned, the architectural profession has yet to fully recover. Firms that have “survived” the recession are now looking ahead toward a very different future, one where they will potentially have to change their business practices, and refocus their energies to be successful in a new economy.  At all levels, how can the AIA support members to network and pursue opportunities in a recovering market?

Answer: The expected answer to this question is to intensify exposure, provide more programs, increase networking opportunities, and create more toolkits. Sound familiar? Those are business as usual practices.

We must help our members improve their Brand messaging. Brand messaging is the voice they use. The 30,000 data points of Repositioning results have provided some insights that will allow the AIA to help all members.

Architects like to talk about process and their architecture. Clients (and the public) don’t care much about process. So, AIA can help architects change how they communicate about their work. In fact, studies have shown that just speaking louder isn’t the answer. Clarity and consistency are key:

  • Speak about impact: What is the difference made because of your work? What have your clients been able to do because of the architecture?
  • Speak in accessible and compelling terms.
  • Speak to YOUR audience, not ALL audiences.
  • Keep it simple. Clients want trustworthy information that is simple to understand.

AIA must continue to expose members to opportunities, but we can do more. We can expose our members to research findings that will positively impact their businesses. Repositioning findings are just the beginning to position AIA Architects for the future.

Repositioning the AIA for the Future

Question: The success of the Repositioning requires our collective energy to shift our perspective about what the AIA can do to serve members, advance the profession, and provides a tremendous opportunity for change. If you could make only one change to the AIA as part of the Repositioning Initiative, what would that be? Please be specific in the details and explanation of why.

Answer: Do you remember pre-recession architectural firms that would NEVER partner with another architectural firm to secure a project? Today, it happens all the time! It’s time for AIA leaders to apply this type of business savvy to AIA.

I view the one significant change as identifying shared resources on all levels. The key is clarifying, simplifying, and most importantly making members aware of initiatives and resources available.

We can no longer afford the luxury of each component acting independently. An individual component cannot be all things to all members. We need to prioritize our initiatives and define what each level of our organization does best and support them. We need to take the partner model, I mentioned, to our AIA.

Let’s consider a very visible example. Continuing education programming is provided by all facets of the AIA: local components, knowledge communities, state components, committees, national, conventions, etc. While it’s great we give our members so many choices, we compete with ourselves for attendees and sponsors. I’m confident there are some continuing education programming models that could be shared among components and/or hosted in multiple locations by several components.

Leveraging our multi-level resources will lead to a more effective business model and when coordinated, result in more services to our members.

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Let’s Connect

What do you think is the biggest benefit of being a Member of the American Institute of Architects? If I ask 10 different members I’m likely to get 10 different answers.

Given the fact that the 2013 edition of the AIA National Convention is less than two weeks away, let’s take a minute to focus on the idea of connecting.

Through the various components of the AIA there are endless opportunities to connect with your peers; with partner industries; with friends and sponsors. June 20th marks the beginning of the biggest opportunity of the year for us to get together and connect. It’s the time for us to draw together and re-charge, re-ignite and tap into all the indispensable resources that our network has to offer.

I hope you can join us in Denver. I hope you can be there to draw inspiration from Blake Mycoskie, Founder of TOMS. I hope you can reconnect with the core passion of our profession with Cameron Sinclair, Co-Founder of Architecture for Humanity. I hope General Colin Powell will challenge you to take up the role of Leader.

Most of all, I hope that you can go to Denver and connect. Connect with your peers and connect with all the opportunities that come from engaging in a network that has rich resources for Architects in every stage of their careers.

I’ll be there. I hope you’ll seek me out. I’d like to know what you get out of the AIA. I’d like to know where your passion for the the profession lies. Leave me a comment below to let me know if you’ll be in Denver and what you hope to find there.

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The Candidate Question Series Volume 3

Recently Candidates for the 2014 / 2015 AIA First Vice President / President Elect were asked to answer a series of questions from the AIA California Council and the AIA Center for Emerging Professionals. Although the questions came specifically from those two AIA components, I believe they’re somewhat universal and may be of interest to our membership as a whole.

Over the next week or two leading up to the National Convention, I’ll publish my answers here in a series called “The Candidate Question Series.” This is the third post in that series.

What do you think about my answers? Leave a comment below. I’d like to know how you’d answer them too.

Question: Emerging professionals feel that career advancement is an important issue for the AIA to focus on – how do you intend to address this need?

Answer: Roy Spence of The Purpose Institute encouraged a group of AIA architects last year to “define their own ladder”. Don’t compare yourself to others. Value who you naturally are and define your own ladder. When you determine what you do better than anyone else, your career will advance.

So, how can the AIA help?

Through the AIA, emerging professionals must be able to take advantage of more opportunities to secure new skills, connections, business services, and leadership roles – all which will benefit their career advancement.  When an emerging professional is active in the AIA, they will find many ladders of opportunities and many examples of successful careers. The more opportunities attempted, the more advancement. There is no direct path. Try something and if it doesn’t work, try something else.

You will make mistakes, as we all have. A wise friend of mine once said, “Don’t carry your mistakes around with you. Instead, place them under your feet and use them as stepping stones.” No matter the stage of our career, we can all use this advice to find our ladder through the stepping stones of life.

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The Candidate Question Series Volume 2

Recently Candidates for the 2014 / 2015 AIA First Vice President / President Elect were asked to answer a series of questions from the AIA California Council and the AIA Center for Emerging Professionals. Although the questions came specifically from those two AIA components, I believe they’re somewhat universal and may be of interest to our membership as a whole.

Over the next week or two leading up to the National Convention, I’ll publish my answers here in a series called “The Candidate Question Series.” This is the second post in that series.

What do you think about my answers? Leave a comment below. I’d like to know how you’d answer them too.

Question: What do you perceive to be the cultural and generational differences between Emerging Professionals’ and your own generations within the profession? How have you encountered these differences, and how can the Institute begin to bridge the gap particularly at the leadership levels of the organization?

Answer: In a recent client meeting, there were differing opinions about the goals of the project. We didn’t ignore the differences nor did we try to dissuade opinions. We found common values, which became the foundation for the solution.

AIA leaders must actively acknowledge generational differences to bridge the gap. Some key differences that will impact AIA’s approach:

Traditionalist

Baby Boomer

Generation X

Millennial

Education

A Dream

A Birthright

A Way to Get There

An Incredible Expense

What they value

Community

Success

Time

Individuality

Approach to technology

Adapted

Acquired

Assimilated

Integral

Sense of entitlement

Seniority

Experience

Merit

Contribution

Differences can generate conflict, and conflict can be o.k. when members show respect for each other. Emerging Professionals are great collaborators, and we must meet them where they are, seeking out our shared values, and building upon them. While acknowledging our differences, we must also continue to challenge each other.

Fortunately, Repositioning illuminated what unites architects: we want to make a difference in the world! It’s the value proposition that bridges our generational differences and will be the foundation of our future.

Question: What changes do you think need to be made in education of new architects in school to prepare them for effective careers in Architecture today?

Answer: Preparing students to be practicing, licensed architects must continue to be the foundation of our educational system. However, architectural educational institutions and the AIA need to recognize the many hats an architect may wear and the diversity of roles they will play. Architects make an impact not only through their built forms, but also through their dialogue, planning, and societal contribution.

Architectural students will benefit from increased training in communications skills, outreach skills, and immersive learning opportunities within their communities and around the world. We must graduate well rounded leaders who will actively contribute and solve some of the world’s greatest challenges: aging infrastructure, climate change, obesity, water shortage, demographic changes, consolidation, restoration of neighborhoods, globalism, and education…just to name a few. We shouldn’t overlook the need to think and act locally to impact globally.

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Why do Businesses Need Architects?

Why do you need an Architect? The answer to that question has been a major tenant of the AIA’s outreach for years. Our Institute has developed programs and educational material and our members have invested time and resources, all toward educating clients and communities about the benefits of working with an Architect.

We’ve talked about technical issues and local requirements and promoted the value of strategic planning and good design and even preached on the vital importance of sustainability.

Now I think it’s time we take a step back and talk in more general terms.

Above any other professionals, we’re suited for connecting all the players in the building industry. We’re often the connection between the developers, the builders, the Officials, the agents and the users. It is our work that guides the process and drives efficiency in the industry. Our contributions lead to economic returns.

Architects are good for business.

I’ve asked you before to “tell the whole story.” I suspect that sometime in the next week you’ll have a conversation with someone in the business community. Instead of explaining how the cost of your services are ‘worth it.’ Ask them who else will be the glue that binds their project? Who else can guide them from the planning process to their ribbon cutting and beyond? Who else can help them navigate the process that leads to their business success?

Help them understand that Architects are good for their business.

How are you helping businesses succeed? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

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The Candidate Question Series Volume 1

Recently Candidates for the 2014 / 2015 AIA First Vice President / President Elect were asked to answer a series of questions from the AIA California Council and the AIA Center for Emerging Professionals. Although the questions came specifically from those two AIA components, I believe they’re somewhat universal and may be of interest to our membership as a whole.

Over the next week or two leading up to the National Convention, I’ll publish my answers here in a series called “The Candidate Question Series.” This is the first post in that series.

What do you think about my answers? Leave a comment below. I’d like to know how you’d answer them too.

Question: What are specific examples of things you have done in your own professional activities and in your local component to build future leaders and promote active participation in the AIA by Emerging Professionals?

Answer: “Because of you, I became President of our local AIA chapter.” These words were spoken by an emerging professional from Indianapolis in 2011. Brian has been an active AIA leader, beginning with committee work and through the executive board. He was also named a firm principal after a few short years. When I asked him to explain his statement, he reminded me that I invited him to participate in AIA years ago. This brief encounter was a poignant reminder that a simple invitation to participate makes all the difference.

Just in the past year, I have encouraged numerous EP’s to seek national leadership positions, golfed with three young women in our local golf outing (and introduced them to eight firms for jobs), financially supported two EP’s to attend national convention, eight students at our regional convention, hired an intern, nominated an EP for a state and national young architect’s award (won the state!), endorsed an EP for a local community leadership program, became a national board liaison to the Council of Emerging Professionals.

We must all do our part. Invite an EP to participate so we can find a new question for next year’s candidates.

Question: Given the current status of the repositioning, what role(s) do you see emerging professionals playing in the leadership and future of the AIA?  What are a few specific examples of these roles?

Answer: As the AIA repositions for the future, it reminds me of a family business attempting to “pass the baton” when all generations are still active. To find success, they must learn to work together, share the power, and find an approach that capitalizes on the talents each generation brings.

To that end, I believe all decision-making levels of AIA component boards must encompass diversity of age and thought, ensuring representation that reflects our diverse member base. Emerging professionals must be represented beyond the customary role of associate, young architect, or student representative. Emerging professionals must be valued on their contribution, not just on their experience.

I believe emerging professionals should be involved in every role of repositioning, so it’s difficult to isolate a few. For example, EP’s should be board members at every level of our organization. EP’s should be Repositioning Ambassadors, involved with seeking Innovation Grants, leading initiatives that connect with their communities, etc.

Let’s keep the family intact and find a way to successfully transition together. It begins and ends in the board room; repositioning our board composition is but one place to start.

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Join Me!

By the time you read this, AIA Grassroots 2013 will have come and gone.

As is the tradition at our annual Leadership and Legislative Conference we took care of official business, visited Capitol Hill and talked about the important issues of our time. Candidates for national offices (including myself) gave their first speeches of the campaign season. Our Repositioning partners, LaPlaca Cohen and Pentagram, presented their final recommendations and we talked about leadership.

You can read a transcript of my speech here.

I think I was most encouraged by the level of engagement from our Emerging Professionals and members of the Young Architect’s Forum. After all, THEY are our future leaders.

Heading into the conference this year something was weighing on my mind. Yes, I was preparing to deliver one of the most important speeches of my life, but that wasn’t really it. As I prepared to leave for Washington and practiced my speech, my daughter asked me:

“Do Architects See the Future Differently than Other People?”

Well, do they? It was the “aha moment” that caused me to view the Grassroots conference from a perspective that I may not have had in the past.

As you’ll hear, I incorporated the question into my first national speech as Candidate for First Vice President / President Elect of the American Institute of Architects. This speech was the next step in my mission to answer a challenge from my mentor that started with AIAS and has led me to the post of Vice President of the American Institute of Architects.

I’m asking you for your support and your vote. I want to be your First Vice President / President Elect.

Now, like my mentor challenged me, I’m challenging you. Join me. This is OUR time. Join me in making OUR Institute stronger, OUR Profession more relevant and OUR world a better place.

How are you leading? Whether you lead in your firm, in your community or in the Institute, I’d like to know about it. Tell me by leaving a comment below.

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