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The coach: ‘As we take on bigger jobs, I feel I'm burning out’

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AJ careers expert Matthew Turner advises an architect who urgently needs to learn how to delegate

I have been running a practice a number of years, and our projects have always been small and manageable, needing no more than the two partners. Last year we won a couple of larger projects, and hired two more architects. Despite this, I am almost burning out. It seems as though even more pressure is landing on me, and that as I am spread ever more thinly, our clients will quickly feel we are underdelivering. How do I keep a handle on all projects? 

Matthew turner

Matthew turner

You need to adapt quickly to having someone else handling aspects of your projects. While letting go may be uncomfortable at first, you will have to learn to do it if you are to successfully manage larger projects. 

I think architects can tend to overestimate the importance of individual control. Most clients will understand that you cannot handle the whole project personally. In fact I would suggest they might be worried to hear that you thought you could. 

Hopefully you don’t think your colleagues can’t do things as well as you do; it’s that you don’t think they can do things as quickly as you need them to. 

Learning to delegate is a skill most people have to acquire, rather than it coming naturally. So here are some suggestions on ‘letting go’: 

There is a difference between someone doing something ‘wrong’ and not doing it the way you would 

Starting small, delegate something that is not mission critical. Initially hand over something modest, and work your way up to delegating larger, more important tasks.

Choose tasks that are a good fit for the particular person you’re delegating to. This doesn’t mean employees shouldn’t stretch to develop new skills, but if possible look for areas where they have unique ability, interest, or insight. The ideal task, while new for them, pulls on their natural strengths and provides them with a ‘confidence cushion’.

Remember that there is a difference between someone doing something ‘wrong’ and not doing it the way you would have done it. Style differences are just that, and architects tend to get overly hung up on this kind of ‘my way or no way’ mindset. Encourage them to bring their unique approach.

Ask your employee what level of support and communication they want. The worst possible position is to become a micromanager who ‘half’ delegates. Avoid this by asking them how often they want to check in with you. If they propose a timetable that you don’t believe provides enough feedback, ask if you can check in more frequently initially and then reduce the frequency as the task progresses.

It also helps to make a wider group aware of the roles you are conferring on others. Having consultants or others constantly deferring to you is not going to either instil confidence in either your employee or your professional contacts, so ensure your delegation is communicated. This isn’t easy, but it is required if you are to successfully free up your time.

AJ coach Matthew Turner is an architect and careers consultant who runs the Building on Architecture consultancy. To contact him with your questions, tweet @TheAJcoach or email him in confidence at hello@buildingonarchitecture.com

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