That is why we call it the practice of architecture

This week I have worked with two new clients. I’m developing a set of tools for small firms and to refine the approach I have recruited a couple of friends that I can work with on a pro-bono basis in exchange for direct experience and, more importantly, feedback.

With the first, an expressive and energetic sole proprietor of a brand new practice I found myself listening carefully and asking lots of helpful questions. “Wow! You are a great listener” was the early and unsolicited feedback.  With the second, when I had to ask for a glass of water, I knew I was doing too much talking. That architect has been in practice for twenty five years, has had a number of partners, and is currently feeling the effects of the economy. He is getting a little tired, and is also more of an introvert.

When working with larger groups of professionals someone else is usually talking. Working one on one the conversation balance is more sensitive. In a situation like that with my second client the temptation is to “fill the dead air” with the sound of your my voice.  And even I know that when I am talking I’m not learning anything. I can see opportunities for improvement and refine my approach in the future because these practice sessions are allowing me to experience challenges that I could not predict.

How many times have you and your colleagues tried to prepare for an interview or presentation and run into “practice resistance?” Any guess what Tiger Woods is doing today? You bet: practicing. How about Bobby Flay, or Johnny Depp? They are all incredibly disciplined and they put in more time rehearsing than they do competing or cooking or performing.

This is why it is called architectural practice. We can always improve the service we provide and the projects we design. And with the competition as fierce as it is for new work you and your practice resistant colleagues will become cannon fodder for your competition if you don’t develop the discipline of rehearsal. Wing if you must, but while you are not honing your communication skills be thinking about that hobby you will take up after your early retirement.