As the Generations collide in the architecture profession, I sometimes feel the barriers of communication between the “young” (people born in the early 80's and later) and “old” people continues to be a constant struggle.
I regularly watch some of the most brilliant people in the profession be the absolute worst at communicating and connecting with the younger generations. At times I think they are just completely naive to the communication mistakes they make, which is what inspired me to write this blog post.
This blog post is a list of things to please stop doing when trying to interact with the younger people in the profession.
Oh, But Don’t worry.
Before you get defensive and start preparing to attack me for pointing out the obvious. I want you to know I have also written a blogpost for the Millennials, titled:
How to Clearly Communicate With Your Boss and All Those Old Timers in The Architecture Profession.
The problem certainly isn’t one-sided. I have some very frank advice for the younger generation as well.
I’ll get that gem published sometime next week.
So let’s get started…
5 Common Pitfalls in Communicating with Students, Emerging Professionals, and Young Architects.
1. Stop reminding them that you’re older (and possibly smarter) than them.
They figured this out before you started talking. Then you completely lost their attention, once you reminded them and started using that as a reason why they should listen to you.
You’re creating a barrier each time you do this. An authoritarian, meaning giving orders from the top down, military style, form of communication does not work with talking to this young generation.
I’m sure you have a lot to offer, and make them want to listen to you rather than using your age, experience or authority as the first reason why they should listen to you. Be engaging, dynamic, interesting, and possibly even funny. Humor can be a powerful tool to connect with the Millennial generation.
2. Understand that your actions are SIGNIFICANTLY louder then your words.
The Younger Generations are watching your behavior much more then they are listening to your words.
They don’t care for all the “feel good talky talk” about what people are “…going to do.” But they care EVERYTHING about what you’re actively doing and have done. That’s what they are paying attention to.
You can give the best speech in the world about how you admire and support the next generation of Design Professionals, and unless your behavior is aligned with your words, you’re wasting your breath.
In fact, I’ll assure you that everyone is talking behind your back about how the speech you gave isn’t really aligned with your actions applied as you run your firm or the local AIA chapter.
Stop talking so much and focus more on the message your behavior communicates.
Did you know one of the most powerful forces in the world is when everyone else talks about the positive actions you take, rather than you? You can toot your own horn all day long, and it’s when other people start talking about you that things will grow, gain momentum, and people will start to support you.
We want less of YOU talking about you, and more of EVERYONE ELSE talking about what you've been doing.
3. In employment situations, they want to be provided feedback and checked in with often, in positive and constructive ways.
Millennials want to get better, grow, and be competitive in the workforce. They want and need you to help them get there.
When you hand back a pile of redline drawings, your tone should be “Let’s discuss these redlines. I want to answer all your questions and help you understand anything that isn’t clear.” Stop being the Boss for a moment and try to be their Partner, Supporter, Coach, and Cheerleader in their professional development.
All young people working in your office MUST have regular employee reviews. In a comfortable open conversation, you need to listen to their goals and discuss how they can become an asset to the office, team, or business.
A significant amount of growth and development happens in the early years after graduation. If you aren’t giving them regular feedback in a positive and constructive way to help them grow, then you a doing them and the profession a disservice and that’s not OK.
4. Ask how you can help and support them, rather than tell them what they cannot do.
It’s all about removing obstacles.
For me, being in my cubicle for 40 hours a week from 9am-5pm wasn’t productive and didn’t work for me. There were lots of problems, and the biggest was constant disruptions. It happened so much, I couldn’t get my work done.
Luckily, I had an amazing Boss and we struck a deal. As long as I got all my work done, maintained a 40-hour week, was always available by phone and spent most of the day in the office, then I could work from home or a coffee shop for a few hours each day.
The hours I worked outside the office were extremely productive. It helped me get clear and focused and significantly helped me to deliver a better project to a happier client. Most importantly, I was grateful to have a supportive Boss in a situation that was open to trying new things, which resulted in a win-win-win.
The best part was no one even noticed.
5. Stop sending them so much email. They’re blatantly not reading them. Start communicating face to face.
It’s true that Millennials love technology, and that doesn’t mean you can bombard them with hundreds of bullshit emails all day long. Nowadays millennials are savvy enough to make sure your bulk emails never make it to their inbox, so there will be one less thing for them to delete, let alone read.
This is a common problem in offices and across the entire profession. I’m looking at you, AIA National, State and Local: everyone needs to chill out with the amount of email pollution you create. I wish the AIA email marketing strategy would be: Less is More.
When two people look each other in the eyes and have a conversation, it’s powerful, real, and human. An energy transfer takes place. The most effective form of communication will always be face to face.
So stop relying so much on email and social media to communicate with Millennials. They want you to talk to them, yet you think they want you to send them a ton of emails. It’s insulting to them.
Most importantly, your message is being muted because you've abused this channel of communication. Just because it worked four years ago certainly doesn’t mean it works today.
Focus more on creating personal and human connections with the employees and chapter members with whom you’re trying to engage with.
Please stop making these mistakes.
I just want everyone to communicate better and for the profession of Architecture to thrive. That has always been my number one goal.
…you also have to stop abusing the email and social media.
Stay tuned for my letter to the Millennials next week; I have even more stuff to discuss with them.