You are a hardworking, passionate senior architect and leader, or you'd like to take on more leadership responsibilities. To take on a leadership position, you need to wear many hats:
Monitoring the work of other Architects and making recommendations
Guiding subcontractors like builders, plumbers, and electricians and helping them interpret design specifications.
Liaising with clients to ensure project requirements are met.
Ensuring the team works together to achieve set goals and targets.
Acting as a mentor to new Architects and helping them fine-tune their design skills and improve their industry knowledge.
Networking and consulting with various industry professionals.
On top of this, you should also display excellent interpersonal skills, relay important information, and be open to criticism and learning opportunities.
However, what if you feel like your English ability is holding you back in your current position, or you're stopping yourself from going for senior positions because you're worried about your English?
I speak to many people who can sometimes hide behind their team members - delegating tasks like meeting minutes or reports where they know their shortfalls with English will show up.
What should you do?
Firstly, I would say what I always say to all my clients -
"Your second language gives you the powerful gift of an alternative perspective. Own this and take it with you into everything you do."
“We embrace a diversity of language, but it does not form preference of employment. We are leaders in the discourse of architecture. The quality of the design thinking and innovation is far more relevant in a global market, but language is always an added benefit in expressing communication of that design intent,” says Woods Bagot Melbourne principal Will Hosikian.
In this post, I will share some tips for Senior Architects and leaders or professionals who dream to work in a more senior position to maximize their English learning.
Tip #01: Understand more about yourself and your personal values as a leader
It's important to know more about yourself as an individual and what you value as a leader. What is your leadership style? What is your communication style, and how are you motivated? You can take a free quiz or complete a complete one with a certified trainer.
Inevitably, your cultural tendencies will influence how you operate within different places and teams. Being more self-aware of your styles and values will help you reflect on essential questions such as how others might perceive you.
If you have grown up and lived in more than one culture, you are likely to have the ability to self-reflect as you have been exposed to many behaviours and cultural tendencies.
Tip #02 Be aware of cultural tendencies
Miscommunication and cultural differences can arise when people from different backgrounds do not take the time to learn about one another's culture. Culture has an enormous influence, both on society as a whole and individuals As a leader, you have a responsibility to do what you can to learn about society, people, and values So it makes sense that you not only understand the importance of cultural values as a whole but that you understand your cultural tendencies and values.
Suppose you know more about your cultural tendencies and the rest of your team's tendencies. In that case, you're more likely to get the balance right between being straightforward and diplomatic and avoiding miscommunications, which is not always easy.
It's important to ask yourself these key questions:
What cultural tendencies are influencing the needs and ethics of my team?
What do we value most as a team?
What do you value most as a leader?
How do you work best with your team?
What are your strengths?
What are your team's strengths, and what do you find most challenging?
Tip #03: Be clear and diplomatic
Knowing how to be clear and diplomatic relies on understanding more about the cultural tendencies discussed above. Being diplomatic and learning how to do that can be quite complex because we need to understand more about how others perceived what it means to be diplomatic. My communication style as an Australian can be pretty informal but explicit, with some softening and politeness when it comes to feedback. However, working with other cultures, such as in Thailand, I have learnt that the communication styles are more indirect and nuanced, having to read more between the lines. So being diplomatic relies on context and understanding more about the dynamics of your teams.
I discussed using diplomatic language and developing strong negotiation skills in Episode 16 of Think Big English for Architects.
Tip #04 Use the writing and note taking tools you have available to you
The number 1 tool I recommend to all my clients is Grammarly. This writing software is free and checks for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors on the fly as you type. For meeting minutes that require more focused attention, if possible, try and use voice to text meeting notes such as Otter.ai (if you have the permission), so you capture as much of the conversation as possible and put it into summarised text notes quicker.
Otter.ai is a notetaking application that uses artificial intelligence to find, transcribe and extract text from audio files automatically.
Being prepared for these conversations also helps when you have a standardized template ready to go to fill in, saving you time and stress.
Another strategy I suggest is having a library of different documents you can draw upon that will help you write quicker. For example, use example emails from your colleagues to help you structure your emails or example report templates.
Tip #05: Practice Conversational English and giving presentations, and ask for feedback
It seems obvious but improving your conversation and presentation skills with the opportunity to have feedback is a great way to improve your language skills. Often, people, I work with express frustration at no one giving them feedback when they speak. Setting up a time to do this is essential. You need to make it explicit with the mentor or person you are working with what exactly you want them to give you feedback about and what will help you most. It's also essential to think about who your audience is. With many of my clients, we do a lot of work around trying to understand the different motivational value systems of their team using reputable assessment tools so that we can adapt the language for the audience.
Tip #06: Practice real situations related to your role
This means practising, reflecting and debriefing certain situations such as negotiations with contractors, negotiations with clients and other consultants, presenting design concepts, and understanding what the audience perceives when you speak.
I believe that confidence is not something you arrive at after a period of self-improvement It's about going through the process of knowing your strengths and where you're starting from and learning to accept what you can and can't change.
Tip #07: Observe people who you believe communicate well
This means observing people you think are good at it and learning more about the positive features of their communication styles Observing someone else can be a very powerful way of learning because we learn by imitation and copying what others do This is the best way to build your own personality as an architect that communicates well in English Often I suggest that my clients observe their colleagues, bosses and mentors They try to answer these questions:
In what ways do they use language to move meetings along?
How do they use language in a diplomatic way to ensure people feel heard?
What do you notice about the way they structure their speech or deliver their presentations?
Some great examples of communicators in the public eye:
Tip #08: Keep a record of your reflections
Keeping a record of your reflections will be essential for future opportunities. People are constantly learning from their mistakes, so make sure to keep in mind that it is not a bad thing What matters the most is what we do after making our mistakes, Do we hide, or do we take responsibility for what happened? It also includes being willing to sit with the discomfort of getting feedback.
Having a record of your progress and reflections about your learning is a great resource for you to draw material from for job interviews and exciting future job opportunities, presentations or articles.
Tip #09: Say "Yes" to every opportunity that will help you learn English better
This includes saying yes to opportunities at work or outside of the office. It can also include learning from others especially one with an affinity for inspiring people! Saying yes opens doors for you, and you will learn more than you ever imagined.
Tip #10: Have a game plan
Having an idea of what you want to learn or how you want your English skills to progress is essential. Having a game plan will give the motivation and seriousness that every learner needs to succeed. Take some time and think about these questions: What are my priorities and what are my goals.
Taking the time to understand more about English and communication tendencies is important for anyone but it becomes a priority if you want to maximize your career. With this blog post I hope to inspire Senior Architects and Leaders, that even if they are not where they want to be in their career or personal life, we all have a lot of power inside ourselves - just waiting to be unleashed!
👉 Want to build your confidence in English to express your ideas? Ask me about my ESL coaching for architects and landscape architects. You might be interested in my Coaching Program - Build Your Authentic Leadership Voice for leaders who speak English as a second language and want to take their communication skills to the next level.