Thursday, July 12, 2018

Frances Martin - DiGiuseppe/ Chief executive needs a couch

Jan. 15, 2018 The Ladder: Frances Martin- DiGiuseppe: Today I found this article in the Globe and Mail:

Frances Martin-DiGiuseppe is founder, principal and architect at Q4 Architects, which has offices in Toronto and Calgary.

I grew up in Aurora, Ont., the eldest girl of six kids, so I guess I needed to be responsible. I probably grew up learning how to be a leader. But I always wanted to be an architect.

My great-grandfather, grandfather and a great-uncle were all architects. My father strayed from the family business, but he was definitely the one who inspired me to become an architect. He was a very creative guy, and he was always building things in his workshop. 

He saw in me someone who really wanted to [pursue architecture], and he would take me around to see my grandfather's and great-grandfather's work in Toronto.

In the mid-1970s, I had a guidance counsellor in high school, an older woman, who discouraged me from architecture. She said, 'It's too hard for a woman, there are long years of study, then there's the internship, and women should be concentrating on husbands and kids.' I'll remember that forever. As a compromise, I went to Centennial College, studying architectural technology. And right away, it was identified that I should be training as an architect.

After Centennial College, I went to U of T. Somewhere in there, I did start a family. So I finished my studies through the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada (RAIC) syllabus. It was a tough way to finish. You had to work to be in the RAIC syllabus program, plus I needed to take care of my kids. I loved it. I was tired, but I loved it.

I went to an architectural firm and stayed there a very long time. I rose in the ranks from junior to principal and it was a good place to work while raising a family. Ken Viljoen, the owner, understood how much my kids meant to me. And at that firm I also figured out that I had a passion for residential architecture. We were doing a lot of social, community housing in those days.

I launched Q4 in 2004. I wanted to follow my passion and work in residential, and create a great place for people to do great work. The best way to do that was to create my own firm. That way, you can surround yourself with talented, similar-minded people that you get to choose.

Peter Gilgan [founder of Mattamy Homes] has been a good friend and my client for many years. He really encouraged me and used to say, 'You can do it, Frances.' It meant a lot to me.

Social housing is at the roots of my career, so I think some of my favourite projects centre around families that are in trauma or marginalized and creating the best spaces for those people. Designing for people who have little, or need a lot, can be a challenge and it's a really rewarding challenge.

Projects like Marnie's Lounge at Sick Kids hospital [an in-patient lounge for children and their families in long-term care scenarios] and Wellspring community support centres [for people living with cancer] – they are the most inspiring projects I've ever been a part of. My team as well, they are really into these [projects]. There's so much pride, because they really make a difference in people's lives.

When it comes to women in architecture, so much has changed now, and I'm really proud to be part of that change. I think as a woman, I can bring a unique perspective to my work, and hopefully inspire other women. 

We've tried as much as possible to attract young women to our firm because they have so much to offer. Here, they can have a better balance of work and family. And many of them have been challenged to do so in other firms.

I find working with women so rewarding. Moms, for example, are so happy to have reduced hours or to work from home, to spend time with their family, that they really pay it back in spades.

What makes me a good leader is thoughtfulness and empathy. I try to always keep my door open and be available for my team. I'm helping to train and inspire future leaders, so I understand the importance of mentorship.

My advice to others would be just find what you love, and really love what you do. Be yourself, trust your instincts and don't be persuaded to stray from them.

As told to Shelley White. This interview has been edited and condensed.

"Why every chief executive needs a couch": Today I found this article by Cathy Thorpe in the Globe and Mail:

President and CEO, Nurse Next Door, Vancouver

It comes as no surprise to me that more comfortable workplaces mean happier and more productive workers. People find happiness in being supported in their work environment; seemingly insignificant things like environmental features can affect employees' physical, functional and psychological comfort.

For some people, these features might be photos, plants or a pool table. For me, it's a couch.

When I first came on board at Nurse Next Door, there was a couch in my office. I liked the idea of creating a space that felt less corporate and more inviting.

So many positive things were associated with this couch. We are in the business of caring for people, and that commitment to care extends beyond our clients to caregivers, franchise partners and the HeartQuarters team.

Now, I never sit at a desk in my office; I always sit on the couch. Here is why I think every CEO needs one:

A couch creates a feeling of home

Our business is disrupting the traditional health-care model. That disruption begins in our workplace. People prefer work environments that put them at ease. At Nurse Next Door, we believe everyone can stay at home. We have brought that vision to the workplace, creating a space that makes people feel at ease.

Some of my best ideas come from working on the couch. We empower people to think outside of the box – and make themselves a little mentally uncomfortable – by inviting them to get physically comfortable.

The design of your work environment can impact productivity

PhD and designer Jacqueline Vischer found that happier workers work harder. It takes more than just financial incentives to keep workers satisfied. Whether it's getting rid of cubicles, letting in more natural light or offering different spaces for the team to work, office design is underrated.

Believe it or not, a few carefully chosen pieces of furniture in your workspace and office can make a real difference.

We can get more natural responses from interview candidates

I have started holding interviews on the couch. People can give better interviews when they are comfortable. Getting rid of the barrier of a desk gives candidates the opportunity to meet our team as equals.

By making interviewees feel like collaborators instead of subordinates, the interview process can be fun. This can change how people view their careers and opportunities. We love what we do, we love what we represent, and we want new hires to feel the same way. 

The first conversation with a potential hire on the couch gives them insight into our workplace culture, and it gives us insight into who they are. If comfort helps people be more open and honest, we can better determine if a candidate's values really do align with ours.

The couch supports our self-led culture and open-door policy

Walking into a traditional meeting setup with a desk and chair can be intimidating. When someone is seated behind a desk, it seems like their opinions are the only ones that matter. 

With a couch, you can create a casual space where people actually want to talk. And I don't just mean a physical space. The cultural structure of the workplace can impact the happiness of your workplace.

It was once said that "culture eats strategy for breakfast." While I believe culture and strategy need one another, Nurse Next Door wouldn't thrive without our self-led culture and open-door policy. People feel like they can come into my office and make suggestions, or verbalize ideas they have been toying with for a while.

Compassionate leadership can disrupt traditional workplace norms and reframe how employees view their careers and goals. The couch creates a dedicated area that's all about the conversation – about us speaking and listening to each other. An inviting space encourages an equal playing field and makes it easier to openly share ideas and collaborate.

As a leader, I believe that I am more approachable when we take formality out of the equation and come together as collaborators.

At Nurse Next Door, we are always trying new things. The couch provides an outlet for conversation, passion and unbridled ideas, which can create a recipe for innovation.

I'm proud to have an office that mirrors our core values of innovation and making a difference. 

It helps us connect with our "why": making lives better. When you think about it, good conversations and ideas often start in a relaxed place. Find a comfortable zone that inspires you to push your comfort level. For me, it's the couch.

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