Stop-Look-Listen (Or is it Vice-Versa?)

June 30, 1998 · by Tom Eyerman

Especially in early client meetings, we tend to forget who the client is and for whom we're actually designing a project. The ability to listen is paramount in truly making an attempt to serve the client.

When we were children, our parents, grandparents, or older siblings took us by the hand to the street corner and told us that before we crossed the street we should always stop, look, and listen. Now, as we practice our profession, it may well be that a more applicable version of that lesson is listen, look, and stop.

Listen to what your client is saying. It may be more important in all client meetings to listen to what the client is saying or maybe not saying. What does the client want to accomplish? What is the program? What does the client envision as the work product? All too often, after securing a commission we as designers fail to take the time to listen. Especially in early client meetings, we tend to forget who the client is and for whom we're actually designing a project. The ability to listen is paramount in truly making an attempt to serve the client.

Look at what you are doing. Is it compatible with what the client is saying? If the client does not want to use metal or wood windows, why are you still specifying them in the design? Are we looking at the project through the eyes of the client or through our own eyes as a substitute client? Look at the way we treat the client as well as the manner in which members of the project team are serving the client.

Stop, and with a dispassionate view of yourself, ask the really tough questions: Are we designing a product that we think is important and great, and more significantly, is it consistent with the wishes of the client? Are we giving the client the highest level of professional service we are physically, mentally, and financially able to deliver?

So the next time you're standing at the corner about to cross the street remember to stop, look, and listen then think to listen, look, and stop. It may just open up new avenues for better understanding your role within the A/E/C professions.

Tom Eyerman is a senior associate of The Greenway Group and is president of Delphi Associates, London and Chicago.

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