Webinar Recap: Magic in the Middle


AIA Colorado resumed its online webinar series with the recent webinar, “Magic in the Middle: Fostering Mid-Career Talent,” covering: 1) architectural leadership development, 2) emerging talent retention, and 3) tips on how to navigate one’s architectural career. 

The AIA Colorado Business of Architecture Knowledge Community fostered the conversation about engaging the talent in mid-career architects and how firms benefit from transparent firm goal setting and career mapping.

No matter where one is at in their career, this information is invaluable. Every firm is most likely having these conversations—for the past several years. The workforce template became very fluid after COVID, with expanded virtual work-from-home or work digitally from another region in our state, nation, or world.  

All options are on the table. The Great Resignation could be something else—a realignment or recommitment in a firm. Leadership, communication, and opportunities unpack the way ahead, and AIA Colorado is with you every step of the way to ensure you and your firm have the resources to advance your leadership goals.

The webinar featured insights from the following panelists:

Following are takeaways by topic from the Magic in the Middle webinar:

Leadership Development 

Panelists recommended using internal and external assets to provide a diversified approach to leadership development. PSMJ A/E/C Training was highly recommended as an external source, while in-house training should focus on mentorship and the business of architecture (marketing, law, insurance, and communications, etc.). Vary the dynamics with group and 1-to-1 discussions, both informal and formal. Level up your team! These training tactics will change the way a new architect designer approaches architecture.  

Be a Mid-Career Firm Leader

As Broughton said, “Get curious! Ask questions of leaders who make decisions.” Map out a career based on these conversations and remember that there’s no one correct approach. Lean on your firm’s values and legacy, while embracing authenticity. Be yourself! Do not expect to be fast-tracked by leadership or tapped on the shoulder. Show initiative and be patient, yet persistent. Share short- and long-term career goals with leadership. Serve in others’ organizations, as well.” AIA Colorado is a wonderful place to start serving and building a network to assist in career understanding and mapping.

Professional Traits that Stand Out

Sage advice according to Spatz: “Look out for others. Give your time to help one another’s achievements. Celebrate the success of another individuals.” Understand the me vs. we principle. The long road is the collective, i.e., “we!” brings people together. Foster community and culture in your firm. Develop the knowledge of who you are. Understand who others are, as well. This confidence of understanding oneself and others will help down the road.     

Checking on Growth

“Set goals that are measurable on a quarterly and yearly basis,” said Harding. “Check these metrics often, and have smaller goals to reach big, audacious goals.” Share your goal with leaders. Don’t rely on your firm to track your goals. And bring those goals into reviews. Broughton echoed, “We all need each other right now. It is perfect timing for this conversation. The world is moving really fast.” In this environment, consider what two items need to be removed from someone’s plate.

Balance Career and Talent Retention

AIA Colorado CEO Mike Waldinger started this conversation, “The move up or move out mentality begins early in the career of architects.” Said Harding, “Leaders: Have conversations with employees and discuss goals and needs. Be your advocate.” 

Most businesses are changing, but leadership will carry your firm through its ups and downs. Is your baton ready to pass?

As Waldinger closed, “Anyone who has an interest or current role in organizational leadership needs to be an organizational anthropologist. A firm’s identity is made up of two matched pairs of attributes: market presence and production capability. These are the table stakes.” He continued, “What separates the really great firms is pairing with cultural ethos and architect models. Whether you intend to set those architect models or not, they will be there in a firm.”

AIA Colorado shares your purpose and continues to educate and inform its members to build a better community, membership and firm.

About the Author

JP Arnold

JP Arnold, LEED Green Associate, APR, is Marketing and Business Development Manager at Bridgers & Paxton. He is an AIA Colorado Allied Member and is a member of the Editorial Committee.

Arnold is a retired U.S. Army Public Affairs Officer (PAO) and Signal Officer. As a PAO, he worked with more than 150 media engagements around the world to include The New York Times, CNN, BBC, Newsweek, NBC News, along with Seattle and Colorado Springs media markets. He worked on the National Army Marketing and Advertising Recruiting Campaign alongside Weber Shandwick PR and McCann Erickson Ad Agency.

He is Accredited in Public Relations (APR) and holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Mass Communication from Ouachita Baptist University and Middle Tennessee State University (Phi Kappa Phi Honors). He has been married for more than 20 years to his wife and they have two children and several pets.

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