Everyone should demonstrate good leadership qualities and behaviour in the workplace. The Champions of Change Leadership Toolkit proposes 10 Tips for all to consider about good leadership, with the ultimate goal of improving culture within architectural offices. Hamish Ginn from SJB takes us through the background, motivations and use of the toolkit.
From 2019 to 2021, the Culture Action Group within the Champions of Change Architecture Group targeted several initiatives to improve practice culture, among them the development of the Leadership Toolkit.
The Culture Action group included employees of the Champions of Change practices, nine of the largest Architecture practices in NSW. The group met fortnightly under the guidance of two ‘Champions’.
Genesis of the toolkit
The toolkit was initially conceived as a collection of ‘tips & tricks’ to assist architecture professionals confront problems they may face in the architecture and construction industry, an industry with an enduring reputation as a hostile, combative and male-dominated working environment.
The toolkit aims to provide a ‘way in’ to understanding the concepts, discussion points and language around issues of gender inequality in our work environments and equip people with responses that could be kept front of mind and employed ‘in the moment’ to correct or diffuse a situation.
Another foundational idea for development of the toolkit was that everyone can show leadership on issues of gender inequality. Whether it’s a recent graduate or a practice director, everyone should be able to step in and say something if they see poor treatment of a colleague or if they see a situation that is structured to exclude or diminish someone else.
The toolkit is constructed to highlight 10 main points. The titles of the ten tips serve as a quick takeaway for readers to check themselves and their behaviour towards others. The titles are further broken down into dot-point statements with the main emphasis of each idea highlighted in bold. For example: Point 03 ‘Be Inclusive : Acknowledge everyone in meetings / presentations. Always introduce yourself and confirm the names of all attendees.’
The ten main points covered by the toolkit are:
- Be open, transparent and generous
- Check in and have conversations
- Be inclusive
- Stand up for your colleagues
- Share leadership
- Advocate and champion
Leadership toolkit at work
The Leadership Toolkit is presented in the format of a poster, including the ten tips within a clear graphical identity as well as an alternate format broken down into ten individual topic panels. The toolkit may also be used as an interactive PDF on social media platforms.
It is intended that the toolkit has a life in our offices, used and displayed in common areas, photocopier and tea making stations. It serves as a prompt, a ‘ready reckoner’ for the wall of your office or as a PDF on your phone. Much like daily affirmations, they serve to reinforce and maintain presence of mind around issues of gender inequality. The messaging and clarity of the information serves as a reminder and prompt for reflection, a way of grappling with preconceptions or prevailing beliefs and to start conversations with colleagues.
The toolkit is successfully being used as a conversation-starter in our office at SJB Sydney. The toolkit was initially presented to staff and the A3 poster displayed in common gathering areas. One of each of the individual topic panels is also displayed alongside the full poster and changed over fortnightly. In the first few weeks, water-cooler chats about unconscious bias were overheard!
It takes everyone to show leadership on issues of gender inequality and step in and say something if they see behaviour or a situation that excludes or discriminates. It is not just up to senior management to ‘trickle down’ displays of good and correct behaviour, though this is very important too. Everyone from a recent graduate to practice director can and must show leadership, and the Leadership Toolkit provides tips on how to respond ‘in the moment’ and keep presence of mind on important behavioural and cultural problems in our industry.
Hamish Ginn has worked in architectural practices in Brisbane, Sydney and Scotland and has been at SJB since 2018. From 2018 he has been a Champions of Change Implementation leader at SJB within the Culture and Gender Pay Gap Action Groups.