Monday, August 15, 2011

Managing Up: Lulu, this is the print button....

As I've moved into a more managerial role in the last 18 months, I've had to rely on my interns more and more to do things that I used to do for myself when I was an intern or new architect.  While I'm answering an onslaught of emails and phone calls about the project, someone else is doing the redlines instead of me.  And that's a weird feeling, handing off something I used to do all the time to someone else, hoping they do it right.  I've gotten more used to the process now, and my interns are good, solid folks.  They know what they're doing and how to do it, and if they don't know, then they ask.  

The same goes for me--if I don't know, I have to ask, and sometimes the people I ask are my interns.  When I began working on a large project in Revit with an intern, I grew frustrated when I would print out a floor plan and find that notes had still not been picked up from my redlines.  I finally confronted him about this, asking him if I wasn't giving him enough time to complete the redlines.  Turns out that I was printing from the wrong plans in Revit--some of the notes he was making were view-dependent, so of course they weren't going to show up on what I printed out if I didn't print the plan he put those notes in.  Fortunately for me, I had a good intern who did two things right away: one, he assumed ignorance and not malice and began problem-solving and troubleshooting; and two, he taught me how to do what I needed in less than five minutes.

The first point is important regardless of who is giving you criticism and regardless of the setting (architecture firm, graphic design, English department, etc.).  While I did try hard to approach my intern with a mindset of that I'm causing the problem (i.e., not giving him enough time to finish the job), it would have been easy for him to jump to a defensive posture: "how dare you question if I'm getting my work done!"  Instead, he approached the situation with a problem-solving mindset: "huh, that's weird, I know I did those, show me how you printed them out and let's see if there's a setting that funky on your computer...."  By troubleshooting the problem instead of taking personal offense, he figured out that I was printing out the wrong plan views.

The second part of my intern's smooth move was to show me what to do instead.  He showed me which plans I should use to print from and what settings to use in order to print the plans correctly.  Moreover, he made that process easier wherever and whenever he could.  I would get an email occasionally that explained briefly how to print something or find something with only one or two mouse clicks.  This was brilliant on his part--now, not only do I not feel quite so stupid, but I also have the knowledge to print something for myself on a late night or weekend, or if he's busy working on something urgent for me and needs to stay focused, not printing random plans.

While not everything might be solved this simply in your office, it's a good lesson overall.  My intern figured out how to manage up, how to explain and make simple for me a quick lesson to help me get what I want, even if he's not available to give it to me.  Just as interns need to learn from architects, the opposite is also true.  Bear in mind that not all of your bosses have worked a lot in Revit or Illustrator and don't always know what to do when they need something.  They don't always know what they're asking you to do; they may not realize that asking you to change how something looks means a laborious three-hour process of practically rewriting the software itself.  Anytime you can teach your boss how to do something or how something works in five minutes or less (ten for really big stuff), you not only help them help themselves, you also decrease your own stress a little.  Plus, the added benefit is that, as weird as this seems, your boss feels kinda cool--suddenly, they know a little more about this complicated, futuristic thing you work with all the time.  Knowledge is power, and giving your boss a little power and actually helps him/herself is, well, empowering.

Got a topic you'd like to see discussed here or a question you'd like to ask?  Feel free to leave it in the comments or ask me via email int he sidebar.  I've gotten some good questions lately on mentoring in a small firm and on looking for jobs long distance, so i'll be getting to those shortly.  Thanks!

1 comment:

  1. I am interested in becoming an architect but I don't know if I will be prepared for college or for actual practice in a company, do you know anything that could help high school students get ready for the architecture world?