Empowering talent: David Keith Design principal and CEO at Hanbury, a firm that is a global resource for its clients that specializes in higher education, civic, and commercial environments.
By LIISA ANDREASSEN Correspondent
K eith has centered his career around creating environments that promote great people, integrated design approaches, and innovative design leadership. He believes that architects and planners are great problem solvers and that, together, great things are possible. “Empowering talent is great business,” Keith says. A CONVERSATION WITH DAVID KEITH. The Zweig Letter: How do you balance leading the firm and projects too? Any organizational management strategies that you find work better than others? David Keith: In preparation for Nick Vlattas’ retirement, we divided up leadership roles to create a variety of leadership and strategic teams. Last year, we decided that we wanted to include more voices at the table, so we expanded our teams to include leadership and strategic “councils” that provide a diversity of voices from a variety of experience levels and focus areas to complement our leadership and strategic team leaders. This has proven to be a fantastic move. It provides
growth opportunities for many of our younger staff while also understanding firsthand many of the priorities and concerns of our co-workers. It has also relieved some of the leadership time commitment from top leadership, allowing more time for strategic project, mentorship, and firm initiatives. TZL: What concerns you most about the future of AEC? How is your firm working to address those concerns? DK: Our profession has a difficult time keeping the best and brightest. Most architectural businesses have one to two outstanding leaders who have success, but often don’t know how to grow their next generation of leaders. Because of this, the profession has become over-saturated with mega-firms which typically have uninspiring or unsupportive environments for creative freedom. Many of our most talented people have a difficult time finding where they fit in. To attract and keep our talent, we need to be more relevant – adding intrinsic value to every client, project, and initiative we lead. We must be artists, managers, cost-experts, presenters, caretakers, and leaders. We must lean into everything we do.
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