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Top Three Takeaways from AIA Grassroots Conference 2017

Grassroots is an exclusive event for leaders of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The 2017 agenda focused on component leadership as well as workshops designed to help component officers become more effective chapter and civic leaders.

Members are given the opportunity to provide input on AIA initiatives, share information and ideas, and best practices with their counterparts from around the country. Although the conference was filled to the brim with information, we found three key takeaways that we found to be the most important: Conflict Management, Speaking Like a Pro, and Tips on Being the Leader Everyone Wants on Their Team.

Conflict Management

Conflict is an inevitable part of any workplace, but this process can help clear the air in any professional environment. The first step is to pair up with your colleagues (that may or may not be involved in the conflict) without any external distraction (turn off phone, email, close the door and blinds, etc.).Start by providing context about the conflict or meeting to the participants. Use “Visual Explorer” cards by spreading the deck on the table and choosing an image that visually represents the nature of the conflict. It can be helpful to discuss the significance of the picture card and what it means/how it relates to the conflict. Use a process called “Stakeholder Mapping” to list each stakeholder involved in the conflict, and what their role is in the project. Determine what each stakeholder may claim is the heart of the conflict. For example, the Owner might say the architect created a budgetary problem, while the architect might say the owner is not communicating, etc. Select a different image from the “Visual Explorer” that depicts where you want the issue to go. When selecting the image, try to keep the following things in mind – what is happening in the conflict now, how do we arrive at a resolution to the conflict, and where would you like to go from here in order to resolve the conflict. Discuss the picture with those participating in the meeting in order to gain perspective in working towards a resolution to the conflict. Take notes and use them to arrive at conflict resolution should the situation arise again.

Speak Liek a Pro

While public speaking tops many people’s lists of fears, these quick tips will help diffuse that stress. The first step is to wear a comfortable outfit that you know looks flattering. The old adage is true: look good, feel good. This boost of confidence will help calm nerves, but what helps even more is being prepared. Arrive an hour early to be sure that all props and/or equipment are in working order. Some people need to burn excess energy, or build it up before they take the stage. Either way, jumping up and down or stretching can help stabilize energy levels. While it might be tempting to open a speech with your name and telling the audience how “happy you are to be here,” experts say to stay away from that tired script. Instead, quickly engage the audience with interesting data or even a personal story. You likely aren’t the first or last speaker that your audience will see in their lifetimes, so be unique, stand out, and give them a presentation to remember.

Be the Leader Everyone Wants on Their Team

When it comes to leadership, some are under the impression that people either “have it” or they don't. If you aren’t a confident leader (yet), don’t worry, that’s only a fable. Firstly, it's important to note that great teams beat great egos. Do not let politics or egos keep you from succeeding as strategic partners. Taking a collaborative stance rather than a controlling one is a great first step. The word, “experience” is overused and diluted. Instead, use the word “experiences” when describing projects. It demonstrates that you have learned valuable skills and implies more than just a quantity of projects. By establishing yourself as a knowledgeable and thoughtful person, it reinforces confidence both from and toward you. The most important thing that a client wants to hear is: “there will be no surprises on bid day.” Clients want to know who is on the team, why are they on the team, and who is going to do what. A final thought: there are always going to be places for personable people, creative people, and strong leaders.

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Posted In: Team Culture, Solutions
Tagged In: Architecture, Leadership, AIA Grassroots
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Logan is an architect based on out BRPH's Charleston office. He has a broad range of experiences in architectural design and contract administration for educational, commercial, hospitality, institutional, retail and industrial projects.

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