Eloise Atkinson and Adam Haddow will explore leadership in difficult and uncertain times – in a Q & A session with Justine Clark, Naomi Stead and our highly active and engaged audience. What do we need from our leaders now and what are the particular challenges they face? How do different leadership styles enable and what limitations do they bring with them? What is the potential for rethinking modes of leadership?
– Thank you for being here, it's lovely to see you all again, popping up on their computer screens. My name is Justine Clark and I am part of Parlour.
I'd like to start by acknowledging on behalf Parlour, acknowledging the traditional custodians of the many nations across Australia, where we're all joining from today, and recognising their continuing connection to the land, waters and culture of the country. We pay our respects to the elders past, present and emerging and to the Indigenous Australians who are part of the Parlour community.
As last week, we also want to acknowledge the kind of difficult environment that's happening and the really strong activism around racism at the moment, across the country, across the world. And we'd like again to encourage everybody here to make an effort to increase their knowledge of indigenous Australia, and particularly to listen to indigenous voices.
So, welcome to the fourth, in our Light at the End of the Tunnel series, these have been taking off, we're really pleased with how they going, and we're thrilled that so many of you are joining us even more every week, very exciting. So we sit these events out as many of you know to continue to develop the mutual support, solidarity and camaraderie that we really value here at Parlour, and to develop some quite informal and interactive sessions to help equip us all for the current circumstances of what's going to happen into the future and to really be actively involved in making the future of our profession
So, it's really wonderful to see many of you who've been here, for at least some of the earlier sessions and many of you all of those sessions, that's very nice to have a Friday lunch date with everybody. So as you know we firstly, we had Misty Waters who talked about work and employment in architecture, Helen Lochhead focused on the profession as a whole, Jess Murphy last week, looked at the changing shape of work in the workplace, and what we've learned that might be taken forward productively to remake and rethink how and where we work. And today, we have a session focused on leadership, which many of you might have seen was Naomi brain child in the middle of the last session. So we are very responsive here at Parlour.
We've got Eloise Atkinson and Adam Haddow joining us, this is the first time we've got to speakers, so I'm sure it's going to go smoothly, but if there's a few glitches as we move between the four of us, please bear with us. So Naomi's going to introduce Adam and Eloise in a moment. Some practical things, of course, make sure your microphones are on mute, I think many of you have done that. If you can, and your internet allows it, please leave your camera on, we really love the sense of everybody being out there, and that sense of community, rather than a kind of audience who we can't see.
As you probably know, the format is a pretty informal question and answers, and Naomi and I will ask questions and keep things going, but we'll also be taking questions from the floor. And we're doing that through the chat function, so if you can pose the questions that you have into the chat, our really fabulous colleague Suzy is in there watching them and directing us to some of those questions. We will then ask you to take yourself off mute and pose that question yourself. So we're not going repeat, we might pick up some of them but, we would mostly like you all to be visible and present as you answer that question.
Please also use the chat function for comments. We're finding it to be an incredibly productive and useful way to get a sense of what's going on. We're not going to be able to get to all of your questions, but we are keeping an eye on them and they are informing of what else we are doing with this series but also other Parlour activities. So thanks everyone for being here and take it away Naomi.
– Thanks Justine. Yes, as Justine said, we kind of invented this last week. This time last week. But I guess I and many of you presumably have a kind of ongoing personal interest in leadership, and it seems to me that the pandemic has been pretty revealing in terms of what has worked and what hasn't, in terms of leadership styles and modes and so forth. So, it seems to me that the demands on leaders at this time have been quite intense, but also the rewards have been quite pronounced. So it hasn't been all hard work, that's for sure. And really, I think it's been quite clear that some leaders have really risen to the occasion whilst others have floundered, and I think that can be revealing for us all.
Justine tells me that the ACA COVID-19 poll surveys at first were indicating everyone was concerned about the well-being of junior staff and not surprisingly, but that in later surveys, it revealed that the senior staff actually were kind of on the rise in terms of how they were coping how their well-being was being affected by the pandemic situation. So, I suppose our hope for this session is that it will be helpful for other leaders to hear from Eloise and Adam about their experiences and learn from their insights. But I hope also it's very useful to those of you who are not in leadership positions or not formal leadership positions, to see from the perspective of those who are leading in managing practices and understanding what they're going through and the kinds of pressures that are being brought to bear on them.
So, briefly introducing our speakers, Eloise Atkinson who comes to us from Brisbane today. Eloise is an architect with more than 25 years experience in design and advocacy for public and affordable housing, working with local and state government, community organisations and private developers. She is the independent chair of BHC, Queensland's largest not for profit housing developer and director of the Cross-Disciplinary Design Practice, Deicke Richards of about 28-ish people. In practice, her broad knowledge of housing and development models informs current work for seniors living in an aged care clients. She's also involved in design and collaborative master planning work within education. Eloise is a Churchill Fellow, and is committed to working with clients who might not otherwise access professional design services.
We're also joined today by Adam Haddow, who's coming from Sydney. Adam is the director of SJB Architects, of a scale of around 85 people. Haddow is an architect and urban designer, also a Churchill Fellow, something we as speakers have in common. And on his Churchill fellowship, Adam investigated alternatives to conventional models of urban design, which resulted in a research project entitled, Shall We Dense which is quite a brilliant title. An examination to the state of modern density living in Australia. Adams diverse experience and creative expertise is recognised by numerous architectural accolades, including international awards for Kasbah, the famous Kasbah. Winner of the 2015 World Architecture Festival award for mixed use completed buildings and Cleveland Rooftop, the winner of the 2018 Architizer A+Award for a Residential Apartment. In 2014, he was creative director of the Australian National Architecture Conference. And Adam is also part of the Architects Champions of Change Program.
So, I wanted to start by asking both of you, just to give us a quick sketch of what's happened in your practice, during this pandemic period, let's say over the last two months, two to three months. How has the practice responded and how his work life changed for you and your staff? Adam or Eloise?
– Shall I go?
– Go on.
– All right. I suppose as Naomi said, we are a practice of about 28, we've got two staff that are currently on maternity leave, so 26 in the office. We probably all of those 26, we already have about one third who are working part time for various reasons, either for family or for study, or teaching or that they've got other roles in different places. So, I guess just to set that, we were used to some flexibility I suppose, around different ways of working. And we pretty quickly on about the 20th of March, decided that we would work remotely and then everybody would go. It was over a couple of days, but pretty much, it was a pretty quick decision that everybody would return home, would go back home or go to home. Three people stayed in the office for various reasons, and one of those was a most junior staff member, and that kind of worked for her. So we did a quick survey about whether people had enough, had space at home that they could work, whether that was a safe space, and whether they had the technology that they could work with, but otherwise, and once we sort of established that we already had the technology to login from home for those of us who were working, sometimes at home anyway. But we had to quickly get that right across the staff of 26. We had one afternoon where a couple of people spent the day delivering desks, chairs, computers, lamps, anything that anybody needed at home, to make that workplace set up. So yes, since on the 20th, we've been working remotely, we had some access to the office, but under some strict protocols.
And I guess the kind of big change is we needed to become very much kind of outcome and task focused, rather than perhaps less outcome and task focused. By the way that people were working remotely. So we had our first group have gone back two weeks ago, and that was just a group of five, just to sort of test things out. And we've got a stage program in another couple of weeks to bring back another eight or so, and then at the end of the Queensland school holidays, which is the 13th of July, everyone will be hopefully back in the office. So in terms of how it's affected the business, we work in areas of aged care, housing and education, so not in hospitality, not in retail, not in private residential.
So in some respects, the kind of work we do, has put us in a reasonably good place in terms of work. But of course schools, there's been a lot of pressure on schools, so a lot of the decision making has slowed down and projects we thought were coming up have slowed down while the schools try to manage their 500 to a 1000 kids and what they're trying to do there. So things have certainly slowed down, but we haven't lost a whole lot of work.
One thing we do do a lot of inquiry by design workshops, and that is one thing we have discovered is really very difficult to do over zoom. So we've given it a couple of go’s, but I think even with the technology, you really do need to be in the room for that. So that's one hard work we're certainly looking forward to getting back together.
– Great, Adam.
– So from our point of view, I think what really happened was we already had a top-down flex policy I suppose you could say, or we had an overall office, all roles flex policy across the office. Which meant that anyone had the opportunity to speak to one of the leadership people in the office and place a position to be flexible in their role. And I think the important thing about that is there's flexibility from the business but also from the individual. So it's a kind of an ongoing discussion between the individual and the office about that level of flexibility. But we have a kind of inherent top-down flexibility because as a partner, I think Justine said that to me years ago, partners in the practice have the most flexible work environment of anybody, because as a partner in the practice, you essentially make your day up based on what's happening around you. So really, the big shift was to get into a position where everybody was working remotely and taking control of their workday with much less visibility and control over that.
I think the biggest challenge has been at a leadership position, I mean, having everybody in one place is incredibly easy for somebody like me, because I can come into the office and quite quickly jump in and see what people are working on and what they're doing, and it's much less about watching people and much more about being able to engage with them.
So one of the biggest challenges at a leadership level for me has been how to better engage and organise my time more efficiently so that I am touching in with people who I would normally touch in with as I walk pass their desk, but it takes more effort to touch in by dialling them up on Teams. I think we had a kind of a SWOT team in the office to manage that. So there was kind of the physicality side of the SWOT team, which was have we got the infrastructure and the facilities, and have people got the capacity at home to deal with that?
And then there's kind of the more of the emotional side of the office. How do we support people to deal with what was... For some people it's been a hugely different response from individuals about their level of comfort or discomfort in this environment. So it's been super important we instigated quite quickly, a morning catch up not with people that you're working with. So it was always chaired by a partner or a senior person in the office limited to 10 people, and those groups changed every two weeks. And that was really just about mental health, without checking in with people to see how they were coping in that environment or not, so that we can have kind of early indicators. And it's quite easy to see when you've got everyone on the screen who's coping well and who you need to check in with after, after that meeting to see that they're okay. We didn't have a forced evacuation of the office. We took a position that, everyone who could work at home should, but anyone who couldn't work at home didn't have to. So I think over the period of the shutdown, we've had maybe six people working from the office, some of that was by choice. People who didn't have an environment that enabled them to be productive or safe at home, and I pretty much was in almost every day. And that's really just about trying to keep the office happening. So if somebody happened to switch their computer off remotely, that I could walk over and turn it back on for them. Which was incredibly prosaic, I think one of the difficult things I've found is, just trying to make sure people don't fall between the cracks. So particularly in the junior staff, when somebody has finished their task that they kind of feel comfortable about, finding the next task or who to turn to for that.
We have a fairly organised structure in the business, so that has helped. But nevertheless, there have been a couple of people that have fallen through those cracks and trying to make sure that we can support them to find the next job or the next piece of work for them to work on and give them the right amount of feedback has been the most challenge.
– Oh, there's a lot of very good questions in there. Maybe to start with Eloise, Adam's talked a little bit about what his practice did in terms of managing the well-being of staff. Did you have special programs or any kind of particular activities that happened at Deicki Richards as well?
– Yeah, we did. I'm sure everyone's had that experience where there was such a... Particularly at the beginning with the health crisis, it was very much in crisis mode. There was a really diverse range of people’s anxiety levels. And one of our staff members family are all Italy, so he was already seeing what was happening there and his levels of anxiety were very high, other people who had family overseas. So I guess in the first instance, it was trying to manage before we went remotely, manage those different levels of anxiety with other people going, " What pandemic?" "What are you talking about?" Everything's fine”. So part of that was I guess while we were making decisions, we were trying to keep everybody informed that we were actually thinking about it and it wasn't that were pushing it under the rug. But we a similar system, we have a what we call buddy catch up every morning and that's only about four or five people. It's not led by anybody senior, anyone can start the conversation, we do it over Teams and that was really the same sort of thing. It was just to check in and make sure that people were actually getting up each morning and if things weren't going well, there was people that they could talk to, who you could then tell them to talk to other people if they needed to. A great opportunity to see everybody's cats and dogs and kids and workplace yeah, homes and people doing lots of show and tell around what they had in the house.
So that I guess was the core thing was to just make sure that no was falling between the cracks and gave an opportunity for people to talk to people that they don't usually talk to. Even though they were only a practice of 26, you tend to work with the same people a lot, so it was trying to mix those up and change them every few weeks to make sure there was a mixing and people getting to know each other.
We also have a two weekly show and tell, where we bring everyone together for lunch, and it can either be an internal kind of conversation or we might get external speakers. I can see Sasha who runs that from our offices, is here today somewhere, I can’t see her. So we, we tried to maintain some of those things, and that actually works really well. And Sasha and some of the other staff came up with the idea that well, since the office wasn't paying for the lunch each fortnight, maybe we could do a pool each week and get that money donated to some organisation that needed it at that particular time, when it was around the topic. So that's been another way to keep that regularity.
You know, we've had drinks on Friday afternoon, get the same people really coming to drinks are the ones who really want to check in. But I mean we've got a lot of people who've been in the practice for a long time, so we are already a fairly close-knit family. But it was about just making sure there are some structures that people knew that no one was too busy to listen to them if they needed assistance.
– One of the themes that's really come up a lot in this series, in the previous three events that we've done is about trust, and perhaps more junior staff members feeling like it was a great opportunity to demonstrate that they were trustworthy and feeling that the practice trusted them because they had to be trusted because they were working alone. So how has that played out in your respective practices? I suspect, they were relatively high trust environment anyway but has that shifted?
– Oh, the it would be interesting to get that from staff, to see how staff feel about that. But, from our point of view as directors, what we have experiences is a lot of appreciation and trust coming the other way, of people saying yeah, thanks for thinking through things and making quick decisions and being decisive so we know what's going on. So I felt that it has been a huge responsibility to be making decisions both from a health point of view and an economic point of view. And so there's been a lot of appreciation that's come back to us that we have handled that well, which is great.
But yeah, you're right, from a trust point of view, it wasn't, we certainly trusted that people weren't going to jump up and spend the rest of the afternoon playing in the backyard. We'd already dealt with flexibility for a long time and trusting people to do that. But I guess it has brought in another kind of faith that the whole system can work and as leaders, we don't have to get kind of concerned that it'll all fall apart and that people will just make it keep working.
– Yeah I think Naomi from that point of view, there's always been a high level of trust in terms of the individuals in the office. I think the interesting thing in the process has been about enabling and showing a level of vulnerability at a leadership level, and sharing that trust I suppose in a reverse way. Because it's been an environment where we really haven't known what's going to happen and we can't kind of set up scenarios when moving forward based on certain factors that we think are going to happen. We've really got a play it fairly lean, and we've tried to be quite open about that, and really transparent about that, which does cause some challenges for some staff who like more structure.
Some people like more structure and like to have more knowns I suppose, in terms of their life. But for other people it has created opportunities in that, I mean, we've encouraged people. One of the biggest challenges is to stop people working actually, when they're working from home. Where you can see on their timesheets that someone last week did 60 hours, and it's like, oh my gosh, there is no reason why that should be happening. And it's just kind of people get into a role and they just keep working. And we're thankful that they actually put that on their timesheet, so that we can see it. But at the same time, it's about saying, make sure you get up away from your desk, make sure you stop working at 5:30, make sure that you go and have a glass of wine with your friends. Whatever it is, the quantum of hours that you're putting on timesheet are not the way that we determine your productivity, your productivity is determined by the type of work you produce and your ability to interact with clients and us and consulting.
So, I think there has been a new kind of awakening of trust, suppose, but in a slightly different way in terms of us trying to trust ourselves to expose ourselves a little bit more to the office, the vulnerabilities of trying to work out what's going on. I think as a practice leader, if you haven't cried in the bathrooms over this period of time, you're probably, you're probably, you're kidding yourself 'cause it's been incredibly.... Personally it's been incredibly confronting to try and think about what we should be doing, and that's probably no ‘should’ but what is expected of us, what is expected of me, that's been really challenging.
– I want to come back to that, but Justine, do you want to ask any thing? Your still on mute Justine, rookie error.
– All right. It's just we've got construction going on in our house, which is very exciting, but it also noisy. I wonder if we might, I asked the audience about trust, because I think as both Eloise and Adam have suggested, the kind of experiences of people within the business may be different than the experiences of those leadership. And Sara Aldridge has pointed out that in a small practice, trust is absolutely essential from the beginning. But I wonder if we might throw to Anita, Anita Morandini who's got a good question here. Where are you Anita? Maybe we won't…
– No, no she's there.
– I'm here just struggling with mute.
– Hi Anita.
– Hi, how are you?
– Very good, look at your beautiful bookshelf.
– Yes, it gives me credibility. So, my question is about COVID-19 and the way it's highlighted skills in staff members that previously were unidentified. And that you realise that effective leadership just doesn't reside in one individual, it's a collective agency. So I'm just wondering, how does this collective type of leadership develop and what does it mean for the profession? Adam's just talked to the trust issue and staff stepping up, so it's an interesting development and an opportunity I think, for the way architectural practices actually elevate that collective type of leadership model.
– I think it’s also, in an interesting way, at least from my point of view, working with a group of people on the Champaign’s of Change, there has been a greater sense of trust between practices in terms of sharing information and sharing knowledge, sharing experiences about what has worked, what hasn't worked. And I think traditionally, there has been a lot more barriers placed between businesses and between practices about what they are prepared to share what they're not prepared to share. But I think it's been getting better over the last decade.
I think the COVID process has probably accelerated that exponentially in terms of just the ability to pick up a phone and speak to somebody in another practice and say, look, I'm thinking about this, what do you think? What are you guys doing? You know, so I think that it has been… or girls to, it's been a really interesting growth, I think. In terms of that level of trust, but within the profession itself.
– Even within the actual architectural practice of an office what kind of frameworks do you set up to support a more collective type of leadership?
– Yeah that’s interesting, I mean, good question. Yeah, which we...
– Very good question.
– Collectively struggling within our office about what is the right thing to do, how to elicit information from people within the practice. So it's more of a custodianship relationship with the structure of the business rather than an ownership relationship with the structure of the business. That's an ongoing discussion we have in the practice about this idea that the practice is not the people who are leading it at that point of time, it's much bigger than that. And everyone contributes to that setback kind of structure of the business or the presence or the culture of the business. So I think why it's enabled us to think more about culture rather than necessarily ownership. But I think it's an ongoing thing, it's not there's no silver bullet to that.
And we are continually doing workshops across the entire office about what it is that we value, what it is that we don't value, how do we engage people in the decision making processes of the office, and who wants to be involved in the decision making process. Because some people want a job, and they want to come in and know what they're doing and work, and other people want to be involved in the leadership. And I think it's good to acknowledge that as well, not to assume that everybody in your business wants to lead the business. Some people really love doing details, and that's what I want to do. I want to come in at nine and know exactly what they're doing and leave at a certain time. Other people want to be far more involved and gregarious in the way in which the practice evolves and changes.
So, yeah, I think for us at least, it's a long-term evolving process of how to get more people's voices in the future of practice.
– We know that, well certainly remember back to January, and they were in the middle of a massive bushfire crisis. And at that time, there was a lot of question about leadership in Australia, particularly around failures of leadership, early in that crisis, and then later people rallying around the leadership, which is usually what does happen in a crisis.
So, Eloise is that something that you've observed as well in terms of people? You mentioned before that the staff have kind of fed back to you that it was I guess felt reassured and glad to be led in the way that you and your colleagues were leading? Where am I going with this question? I mean what are the insights for you I suppose around leadership styles? Has there been any change or have just continued as you were?
– Yes, look that is a really interesting question. Just looking around at different leaders and I'm not sure that I feel like our leadership has changed. I think we are a people centric practice anyway, not that we always get it right by any means, but that is a big focus for us. And I think that we are certainly in a in an era where kind of a sense of belonging and a sense of well-being has to be part of the workplace as well as other parts of life.
So I think we acknowledge that the workplace can't be everything to everyone, but it does need to deliver I think that sense of belonging and I guess this is testing that because before you could kind of see. You might be feeling like they weren't included, so having to watch that remotely.
As you said before I chair with a housing company and I watch a lot of the leadership, the CEO. It is a very diverse… a very diverse staff group because there's people right at the front line who are dealing in very vulnerable places every day, dealing with tenants and difficulties and other things, right up to the CFOs who are… So it's quite a diverse group and watching how she has managed the amount of care she's giving, not only the staff, but tenants through this is extraordinary. And that's a different kind of a business than an actual practice. But I looked at that quite a lot, because I'm there quite a lot, too to see how different things work. Yeah.
– But then I guess this kind of gets us to the heart of the question really and Adam's already alluded to it because I guess it seems to me that what is required from leaders now, is a greater degree of care than what we might have been accustomed to before. That we've previously we might have felt that, we could more or less assume that everyone was going okay unless they came to our attention. But maybe we haven't assumed that in this circumstances, we've been much more careful about checking in and looking after people. Which involves providing care as you say, Eloise, which comes at a personal cost, as Adam has alluded to. So, amongst your senior leader colleagues and yourself, what is the kind of cost of this and how long can you keep it up?
– Well, it's a good question. I think, for me that was very, you know there was that… sort of been in different phases. The first bit was well how deal with the immediacy of this. We've got to make sure everybody else is feeling comfortable and safe. Everybody was dealing with their own family situations. In my case, my daughter came home for Monash to study here before the board is closed and she couldn't get in. So people dealing with all of that, but also, as a director, you've got to be thinking about the practice and what's best for the practice. And obviously, the people are the practice, but the practice also has needs of its own, which means so that it can continue to pay everybody.
So I think that balance and now the balance is probably tipped much more to how we're looking after the practice financially, which at the beginning, was sort of low down the line in terms of leadership. So for me, it's now thinking about the next six to 18 months and that's a different pressure than thinking about the immediacy of everyone being safe and also having enough work for them to be able to do comfortably remotely. So, and I suppose I've been able to let that go a lot more and just trust that the team leaders are going to make sure their teams are working through that.
– Yeah, I think honestly as a leader in the practice, I think part, most of our job, a lot of our job is about cheerleading, keeping spirits high and not just cheerleading within the organisation but outside the organisation. I think a lot of people don’t quite… a lot of people who have probably never been in the position don't recognise the amount of energy it takes to keep a client moving on a project, which then ultimately keeps a project moving which then can keep the office moving which then can keep people employed.
So I think the most challenging thing over this has been having to dial up not just one of the dials, but like six different dials, and so you to kind of dial up the one internally, I have to dial up the one with clients, I need to dial up the one even with authorities in terms of trying to kind of get a project into a position.
Say for example to get an approval and solve the problems we need to solve to be able to push it forward, to be able to kind of ensure that we don't miss a funding deadline, that if we miss it now, it's not going to happen for the next six months, because we can just see what's the economic situation is looming?
So look its been, I've probably drank more wine over the last six months than I've ever drank in my life and not in a kind of, down a bottle at night, but just trying to find some space for some me time, just away from the office and away even from away from my husband. It's to kind of take some space just to say, I just actually need to not talk to anybody at the moment. I've used all my words for the week, I need to kind of sit for a while and just recuperate a little bit.
So it hasn't been anything particularly proactive in that sense because there's no ability to go away and take a holiday. It's been more about the small things about ensuring that I walk to work or I ride my bike and there's little things that go on that nourish me, rather than trying to rely on the big things. But it has been, and feeling incredibly, I am feeling quite exhausted at this point in time. I'm not quite sure how to kind of combat that.
– Yeah, because I guess the thing is, Adam, I totally agree with you on the cheerleading point, but it has to be authentic at the same time, it can't be an empty kind of cheerleading because I mean, I was reading a fascinating piece of research the other day that said, a really high proportion of people who've received a compliment from their boss or what their boss thought was positive feedback, it's actually made them demotivated because they felt that it wasn't authentic, either because the boss was just saying and it was empty words, or the boss didn't really know what they were talking about. So,
– Yeah I think it's
– Your cheerleading when it was kind of like rah rah emptiness. Well, that would actually do more harm than good.
– Yeah, so I think it's not necessary about just cheerleading for the sake of it, but it's about trying to ensure that you find the good things that are going on. And I suppose explain the situation in a more meaningful way. So not just trying to push through a project to kind of we need to have this finished by five o'clock, so I can get to someone to get it someone to get someone. But explaining why it needs to be done by that period of time, or why the timeframe has been shortened from six weeks to three weeks.
We've been doing some work for a government agency, and they've reduced their timeframes from what should be a six-month program into a kind of six-week program. And that can be incredibly demoralising at a certain level for the office, because it's something that you should be spending a lot of time on and be engaging with is just not possible and it's not about the government agency saying they don't want to spend the time on it, it's the government agency saying we need to get these ready to spend some money quite quickly.
So what can we do within that context to make that happen? And I think explaining that to people and ensuring that there's a kind of common understanding about why we're doing it and what the broader benefit or the broader obligation is that we have is important, not just saying not inward focusing, but trying to get a little bit more outward focusing.
– But I think in relation to that, we've got a question here from Chiara Paolini who can't answer because your microphone not, can't ask it because your microphone's not working, about handling anxiety issues that young architects have around their job security, which I think is very very real for many. And I think that goes also to a question that Kim Pearce has. And Kim, do you want to ask your question about hitting the mark?
– Yeah, it's something that's come across from other staff, when you get those sort of like in emails, saying, how's everyone going? Is there anything you want to discuss? And everyone, I guess after the first few weeks and when the adrenaline kind of wore off, there was a noticeable drop off in team Zoom events, that normally would have been quite spontaneous in the office. How do you be genuine with your care and concern? How do know that it's really resonating or it's doing the work it needs to do in a way? That's either or.
– I think that's true certainly at the beginning. When everybody's in crisis, when it felt like it could go either way, no one knew which way it was going to go. Then I think that from a leader's point of view, it was really about setting the tone and making sure people feel calm and looked after and could work, autonomously and all those sorts of things. I think from Adam, I guess leaders have got more tired and got more complex sort of things to be thinking about, so maybe some of that has fallen off. But I also think that's a real opportunity for other stuff, that kind of care doesn't need to come from somebody that's got leader as their name, it's really very much about looking after each other. And I've certainly seen that in our practice, as I said before those two that we were running show and tell really taking initiative that kind of brought staff together in a really simple way, but everybody being able to think about the charity they most wanted vote on it. And so I do think that there's an opportunity for other people to step into that, as the thing goes on I suppose.
– I'd also say that I think that, it's important to acknowledge that everyone's different in the course of business, and we send this weekly survey out to people and it's a two-survey question. And we have a bit of a bottom, which says, 'Do you want to add anything else?" And we always get a group of people saying, there are too many catch ups and another group of people saying there are not enough catch ups. And so it's kind of like, you can't be everything to everybody. So its about this, from me at least, it's about ensuring that we're just being authentic and that we're being honest. So if we can be authentic and honest, from a personal perspective, people will acknowledge that and they are much more likely to understand the position that we're in.
But equally as Eloise said, there's not just one leader in our office. I mean, why everyone's a leader of what they're doing. And the big challenge, the big kind of structural challenge I think that will probably come out of this is that we could do, in a big practice at least, you can do with having more people who are actually directors or owners or partners. The kind of ratio that you used to be able to manage as a partner in a practice has probably decreased. Being able to look after 20 staff or a project of x, you kind of need more people in leadership or ownership positions, where you can really ensure that people are connected, and I think that's probably the biggest thing from my end.
– Okay, I think we've got a very good question here from Marisa Kurtzman about, which also goes to a question that Gordana has put. So Marissa, would you like to pose your question about sensitivity?
– Sure Hi. In the face of economic uncertainty, how are you balancing sensitive decision making around things like salary reductions, furloughs, layoffs, etc, with your staff’s desire and your desire to involve the staff in collective decision making and leadership. How do you go about reassuring your staff and doing that cheerleading when you're not all that sure yourself that what the future brings? And then, if you have to implement some difficult changes, how do you maintain that trust?
– So we went through a process right at the start of the COVID, where we had a discussion with the staff about salaries. And across the office, there was a reduction in salaries between 5% and 60% of people's salaries. Obviously, partnership level, massive reduction in salaries at junior level, much or in some cases, no reduction in salary. And that was done in a really open way, it was talked about as to why we thought it was necessary. What was going on? How long it would occur? What would happen if we made salary adjustments and then needed to make people redundant?
So I think it was an ongoing discussion, individual ongoing discussion, where everybody met with and discussed if they had issues or concerns, they could meet with and discuss it with a partner or a senior person in the office. So, I think it is just about being open and available in a lot of cases. There were some people who had.. you know, you have to ensure that you can deal with specific situations as well, so it's not just a one size fits all. People have different pressures on their lives, and it's about acknowledging that at the same time acknowledging that as we said, the practice is important as well as the individuals and they both have to work together. Like one can't outweigh the other or neither of them will exist. So it's an ongoing thing.
The whole challenge I think moving forward as a business is that I don't actually think we've seen the worst of it yet. I think that the worst of it is yet to come. And the health crisis component of this has been, I think, possibly the easier thing to manage actually, as a business because everyone's been going through it. And it's had collective attention from government, whereas the kind of future economic outlook is, from my point of view, challenging. And that will be where it'll hit different businesses at different to different degrees and different levels. And that's where really the need to dig deep, from a leadership point of view has got to come.
– Yeah, I mean, we've been lucky. We haven't had to reduce staff, reduce hours, reduce salaries yet, but we've certainly done that at other times in the past, so we've had those conversations plenty of times before. I agree with Adam that we're coming out of the crisis bit and we're going back into the next stage, which is going to be much harder. And you're right, Marisa, it is a thing I think about a lot. It's balancing the amount of information you give to people to keep them informed, so things aren't coming as a shock. With that, also keep having them sort of on high alert constantly, you know, so it's that balance of kind of trying to give enough information to be useful, but not so much information that everybody has kind of paralysed by fear. So and I'd say that's the role of leadership to kind of balance that. You don’t, I say always get it 100% right. But yeah there is no doubt that we are going to have lots of those conversations in the next 12 months, I think.
And all I can say is that at least architectural practices are extraordinarily resilient in that respect. We've been through recession. We're 25 years old last year, so we've been through recessions, whether they’re officially economic ones or not but and we've made through changes of government, which I've mean work stops overnight, we've been through the GFC. So I think we've got some information of better ways to do things, but doesn't mean it's not going to be… its going to need some good leadership.
– So this is really fascinating conversation, and, obviously, both of our speakers have very high degree of emotional intelligence which obviously plays into their leadership very strongly, but what about the dark side? I mean, not necessarily within your own practices, but it's a classic response to uncertainty and fear to move to a command and control style of leadership. And I guess I certainly have seen that from some people. Who have you seen not responding well to this environment?
– I mean, I think I see it myself like I see, when I get kind of backed up against the wall in terms of a position of where I'm finding it incredibly challenging. It is easy to revert to a command or control like, okay just draw this please. And so this entire time is trying to rebalance yourself to say, hang on a minute, I just need to trust the fact that there is a process in place for a reason, and that actually, the command and control is not great.
I think there's exceptional examples of bad command and control coming in through politics. And I think obviously as the role is looking after more people as it expands to get bigger that impact has such a massive effect which is why I think, you're seeing what's happening in the U.S. going on at the moment, is that there is this kind of command and control situation, which is not working.
Closer to the home we have seen moments of that, we've been spared of that to a certain extent, has been a much more collaborative, conciliatory relationship I think, between governments and not to say that I agree with everything they've done. But I think there has been a much better response to the way in which we've managed this.
As a business leader you sometimes just think I wish someone would make a decision, like when there was a whole discussion about whether we're closing down or keeping closed or opening up and when it's going to happen. It's like, Oh, my gosh, if someone could just make a decision, I could then make a decision. And that kind of gives some certainty to what we're doing, and I think as we got into the whole process, it was realising that no one was going to make that decision. And we needed to be incredibly nimble and flexible in the way in which we were going to respond, and things could change within 24 hours. And that was really hard actually, I think to get my head around that I didn't really know what was going to happen the next morning and that we may have to shift our entire thinking over a 24 hour period and keep the practice running.
That was the biggest thing for me, it's like oh my gosh, I have to think about all of this stuff, which has nothing to do with actually delivering work which is going to generate income, which is going to ensure that we can take care of staff or keep clients happy or keep whoever happy, or keep projects moving at the same time, you've got oh my god my heads full of a whole lot of stuff about how I just need to answer the question from the 22 year old grad about, can I have a seat or not.
– Okay, we.
– Did Eloise want to answer that, or you don't have to you can pass.
– Yeah, look, I think there was a point in which staff wanted that kind of… somebody to make a decision and take control. And I guess the question is when you let that go, you've done that job and you've moved on and you're listening again. And I think poor old Annastacia Palaszczuk is getting a lot of pressure from Victoria and New South Wales to open up. And she's holding a ground and making decisions. But there is going to be a point that I think she needs to be thinking, rethinking about the questions as they are now. And it's probably, I think she's done a great job, but I think you've got to move with the decision making as well. And it's probably time to let go of command and control, in that respect of being a good decision making, making things definite everybody being clear.
– So we're nearly out of time, Justine what should we do? Should we ask one more question or
– Well, I think, look, there's thousands of great questions here, I feel that we need another session. But there's a good question here which might be good wrapping up one from Nehchal Narula about how the pandemic has changed... He's asking has the pandemic changed the way you approached leadership. And so maybe we'll just throw straight to Adam and Eloise about that and sorry Nehchal, we haven't got you to ask the question directly, but what would you say Adam, Eloise? How has it changed how you approach leadership? And the other the other part of your question is, what would your advice be to young leaders, to people who want to step into leadership?
– Eloise, I think you've got the microphone.
– So I guess it's a very good question and I thought, at least long and hard, short and sweet about that. Look, I think from my point of view, personally, the difference about not being available in the same kind of physical space and therefore, some days I feel like I don't actually get to the end of the day and I've really done nothing because all I've done is respond to stuff. And so for me, being working remotely is giving me a lot more time in my own headspace to actually think through things. And my availability, I can curate a bit more because I can turn everything off.
So, I guess that's changed a little bit and I think that's good for everybody. And I hope I can actually be a little bit more measured about my availability when we are all back together, not to not be available, but to just give myself a bit more time to make sure I can address all the kind of more strategic things that sometimes get done at 10 o'clock at night rather than during the day. In terms of what I'd say to about leadership is just take it, just step up. Don't wait for somebody to ask you, yeah just take it on. In whatever capacity that is, and find yourself a good mentor.
– I think that is the very, at Parlour, we often ask people what advice they would give to someone in all sorts of situations and pretty much just the above is the most renowned, most popular answer to all, almost every situation. So I think it's very good.
– Yeah. Adam.
– I think from my point of view it's about I suppose, just being a bit more vulnerable. And I don't mean that on a kind of an emotional level, I mean more on a business level, like allowing the vulnerability to be within the business and passing the trust on much more quickly. To find balance between giving people trust and knowing that if something fails, knowing that you can do it yourself, knowing that it's important that this doesn't fail because it really keeps six people employed or keeps projects happening. But at the same time, creating the opportunity to ensure that people can step up I can find their own space.
So I took a year off, 12 months, two years, three years ago, and part of that was about creating space for people because my business partner always tells me, "you fill the room Adam," that occasionally I need to get out of the room and let other people fill the room and create that space and that's super important. So I think why not being physically present in the office all the time is super important because it does give the opportunity for people to take that position and it's not something I try to do is to fill the room, it's just my personality type. And I have to I have to kind of check myself and ensure that I don't overwhelm a situation or overwhelm people.
And so I suppose in a way, COVID has been quite good for that because it's taken me out of the space. It's meant that the new space, the digital space that people have been able to work in has revealed things which have been really, quite fantastic, actually.
– Yeah, it's so fabulous to have your insights Eloise, and Adam and I guess for me in my leadership role, one of the hardest and most revealing lessons is that sometimes when you ride in on your white horse to protect someone or make life better for them, that's the worst thing you can possibly do. And you shouldn't do, and you have to let them defend themselves
– As a person. So look, it's been a fantastic session, I really feel like we could do... Maybe we should do another one. Don't worry, we won't put you on the spot right now. But it's been really great. Thank you so much Eloise and Adam. And I think Justine has some announcements about next week.
– I don’t think we have dreamt up next week yet. I just also want to thank Adam and Eloise. I think it was a very generous conversation and it's very generous to be so open. I think the sessions we've had to date have been, all been amazing, but I think you two were really particularly talking probably more directly to your own experiences than our previous speakers who were talking kind of big picture stuff. And I think it's a very very generous thing to do. So thank you very much. And I also want to thank our
– Incredibly engaged and thoughtful and smart audience and all those great questions. So we are going to keep trying to go with it. But, look, we don't quite know the topic of next week's event yet, but we will soon. Naomi and I are very good at being spontaneous about this. But one thing that is happening next week, I think I may have mentioned last time that Parlour and the MCC is collaborating on an industry wide survey to try and understand more and collect more data about some of the kinds of things we've been talking about. And we've been working very very hard on this. It's taking up a lot of my time, and I know that some of you are a bit surveyed out, but we are planning to release that next week. And I really would love it if you could all do it and encourage everyone else you know to do it. I think it is really important that we have a kind of understanding at kind of data level as well as at the level of anecdote. So please when that turns up in your inbox, don't go, "Oh, can't be bothered. " Go "yes, great." This was what Justine was talking about. The other really good news is that, I'm very pleased every week I've got great news about sponsors. So the Institute of Architects has just agreed to sign on as a Parlour partner for another year, so I'm very happy about that. And I'm hoping next week, I'll have someone else to talk about, so thank you, everybody. Naomi do you?
– Oh, yeah, we usually do a virtual round of applause. Fairy claps there. I think that's all other than the fact that we forgot to announce that this was a co-production between
– Oh! Parlour and Monash
– It's all right. Go Monash Architecture. I think that's it. Thanks, everyone.
– Thank you. Thanks for having us.
– Thanks, everyone, see you soon. Bye bye.