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Emerging Leaders Talk About Performance Development

Heavy workload and managing expectations are at the forefront of this month's conversations.

The April session for the 2022 ELP Class focused on defining performance development. Pete DeLisle, Hon. AIA, discussed the importance of communication when it comes to delegating tasks in a workplace, especially when task is high and/or a new firm is established. We reviewed The Fran Sullivan Case, which is a case study on leaders and staff development. The case study was a story about three classmates who started a medium-sized architecture firm and brought on an additional principal to help bring the firm to the 21st Century: Fran. Fran, while highly skilled in many aspects of her field, it became evident that even the best can feel overwhelmed with multiple tasks, especially when these tasks come from two different individuals who do not communicate with one another. Ultimately, Fran’s work load became so large that her performance at work and relationships with people were compromised.

The class was divided into groups of 3-4 to answer a rather difficult question: “Should Fran be let go?” It was concluded that ‘communication’ and ‘setting expectations’ could’ve prevented the situation from escalating toward an undesirable result. Leadership needs to understand that there is a high risk when not everyone is on the same page. If leadership does not know when someone’s workload is high, this will often lead to high stress, underperformance, losing a job, and/or the person’s mental health/general health gets compromised. Correspondingly, if a leader is fully aware of the high demand but does not recognize the amount of time it takes to get the job done, similar consequences can occur. To Pete’s point, it is important to understand that someone’s performance development is contingent on the level of effective communication within a firm and to allow people to prosper in the area that they excel in. Letting someone go is not always the answer, rather, allow room for full transparency and mutual understanding so that everyone can perform at their best.

              After Pete’s lecture, the performance development discussion continued with three guest panelists as they answered questions posed by the AIA ELP class. Darren L. James, FAIA, President of KAI Enterprises, Matthijs Melchiors, CEO and founder of MEL/ARCH, and Luis Ayala, AIA, founder of Luis Ayala Studio, all had different life experiences that ultimately led them to the success they have today. Darren, despite taking on difficult and politically challenged projects, he perseveres by continuously showing up for the community and making an everlasting impact. Furthermore, hearing Darren speak of the challenges he faces as a minority was humbling and inspiring. Amongst all of this, James makes sure to find time for friends and family by unplugging from technology on a Saturday and spend time with loved ones. That is important.

              As the AIA Forth Worth President, Matthijs faces a larger level of responsibility and emphasized the importance of time management: “The busier you get, the more organized you have to be in order to keep everything afloat.” Matthijs also spoke about the importance of communication during construction. This mitigates the chance of issues on a job site.

              Luis discussed the importance of having the ability to say ‘no’ during your quest of your professional career. He invested over two years into a project that didn’t correlate with his personal views. Today, Luis gets to pick his projects and utilize is photography skills, which came by chance early in his life. It started out with him taking photos of his projects in architecture school, and fellow classmates asking him to do the same for their architectural models. Not only is Luis an Architect, but an avid architectural photographer as well.

The April session concluded with the class dividing up into four different groups for the class project; Dreyfuss Club at the White Rock Lake Conservancy and Dallas parks and Recreation Department. The groups included: 1. Community Engagement, 2. Marketing Materials, 3. Site Design & Master Plan, and lastly 4. Building Design.  Along with that, milestones were defined for deliverables.

Special thanks to Concept Surfaces for allowing the AIA ELP class of 2022 to host their April session in their showroom. The class was concluded with a fun rooftop happy hour overlooking downtown Dallas, where the students and lecture guests got to collaborate. Jocelyn Valles, Sanja Zilic and Brian Ortiz could not have planned this without the help of David Carothers with Concept Surfaces