ENGAGE, EMPATHIZE, EMPOWER, from page 7
founded in 1953, and now we’re headed downtown. It’s not the first time we’ve had a discussion about moving downtown, but we never made the move because the culture shift was always perceived to be too disruptive. This time around, the pandemic provided a set of unique circumstances that made this the right time for such a move on many fronts, but the culture shift was still a major element of concern. I was trying to figure out how to navigate through it all, when it suddenly made sense to me that I didn’t actually have the right tools to get it done. There were others better equipped to hear the voices of concern, and make sure those concerns were understood and valued. By relinquishing control, I observed different styles of engagement and communication than I might have employed. It didn’t take long to realize that giving up control did not mean giving up my job or role as a leader – in fact, it was quite the opposite. I now understand that leadership can be more than about taking control or responsibility for managing change, it is about recognizing who can be most effective at leading different change initiatives at different moments in time, and providing them both the agency and support they need to succeed. TZL: How many years of experience – or large enough book of business – is enough to become a principal in your firm? Are you naming principals in their 20s or 30s? JM: We don’t have strict guidelines. We’ve had principals named in their 20s, and we’ve been expanding the role of leadership so it’s not dependent upon being a rainmaker. The goal has been to establish a partnership that is made up of a constellation of talent that strengthens the collective and incentivizes collaboration. Under the traditional “seller/doer” model, there is a tendency to create silos because firm leaders can work independently from one another – they don’t “need” each other to succeed. But new generations of leadership want to work together, to share credit, and to build their practices together. And because of that, those being promoted to principal tend to fill a particular need within the partnership that is more about that individual’s skill set than about their years of experience or book of business. TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility? JM: I’ve always been a fan of alliteration since it makes things easy to remember – so here are my Three Es: “Engage, Empathize, and Empower.” TZL: A firm’s longevity is valuable. What are you doing to encourage your staff to stick around? JM: I predict this will be an even more important question this summer and fall, as the economy recovers and people shift their thinking from staying employed to staying engaged. We’re recommitting ourselves to our values, and making sure that our actions consistently align with those values. I think there has been a renewed focus on community, and the workplace as an important source of community and belonging. If we want to attract and retain the best talent, then I think we need to stand for something, and have our employees feel like they are part of something special, not just a place that has good projects or benefits.
TZL: Diversity and inclusion are lacking. What steps are you taking to address the issue? JM: As I mentioned earlier, we’ve taken on recent efforts to focus on and better understand these issues, both in terms of gender and race. From a gender perspective, Sasaki actually has more women than men on the whole. The problem is that there have been considerably more women than men among our employees with 10 years of experience or less, while there are far more men than women among our more senior employees. This creates a gap in role models for women seeking to advance their careers at the firm, and also a sponsorship gap for emerging female leaders, as anecdotally and statistically people tend to mentor and sponsor those of the same gender in greater numbers. This mentorship and sponsorship gap has led to retention challenges and a continued imbalance between men and women at the top levels of firm leadership, in spite of the fact that we have promoted more women to the role of principal than in the past. As a result, we’re focusing on improving sponsorship across gender boundaries, making space for different voices and styles, and making it safe to acknowledge gender bias and how it has shaped traditional definitions of leadership. We’ve also committed to being an actively anti-racist organization. It’s important to state that this is a commitment that will need to span many years and decades if we are to make real change. That being said, I’m excited about some of the things we’ve started to do, especially in our work alongside the Sasaki Foundation which has centered its work around the idea that the “power of design belongs to all of us.” One way the Foundation puts its vision into action is by working closely with community partners to bring the firm’s expertise in design to grassroots projects and initiatives through its community design grant program. One project that has come out of this program has been the G|Code House in Roxbury, Massachusetts, which provides a living/ learning environment for young women of color to learn how to code and pursue careers in tech. The Foundation also supports the SEED Program (Summer Exploratory Experience in Design) which is a paid internship program for high school students in underrepresented communities to learn about the field of design. In the past, SEED students have helped to design pop-up voting places and mobile classrooms. The idea is to expand awareness of the design profession as a career choice to more people of color, thereby helping to expand the pipeline of talent for a stubbornly homogenous design industry. We also engage with middle school kids through a design mentorship program also run by the Foundation. I am excited to see these programs grow at the Foundation, and for the firm to take on similarly impactful efforts going forward. TZL: Is change management a topic regularly addressed by the leadership at your firm? If so, elaborate. JM: With everything that has been going on over the past year, the biggest lesson learned is that it is essential for leaders to engage others in managing change. One example has been our upcoming office move – we’ve been in the same location just outside of Boston since the firm was
© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.
THE ZWEIG LETTER JULY 19, 2021, ISSUE 1400
Made with FlippingBook Annual report