Many design leaders amass a considerable portfolio of skills needed for their roles. Their toolboxes consist of solid education and training, hands-on experience, and a hefty dose of confidence in their ability.

When it’s time to bring the past forward, they’re ready to step up, especially if they’ve taken the time to focus on the specific skills that will position them as a leader in architecture and design.

Successful Design Director Skills

Taking on a leadership position in an architectural and design firm is not without challenges, especially if you’ve always concentrated on design and worried less about the industry’s business aspects.

I have shared four critical skills necessary for design leaders who want to succeed in past posts:

  1. Project management. Become familiar with every aspect of project management, including budgeting and scheduling in each stage.
  2. Change management. Recognize that change is continuous. For example, technology moves rapidly, and leaders must keep up with it. The ability to react and pivot is not only powerful but necessary.
  3. Business management. Learn how to read profit and loss statements, become familiar with hiring (and firing) protocols, and absorb the ins and outs of running and growing a business.
  4. Self-management. Know your strengths and use them. Hire for your weaknesses to build a more comprehensive team.

With these critical skills mastered, there’s one more characteristic to embrace.

The One Skill You Must Master

You’ve probably been preparing for a leadership role for at least a decade. You studied, built a portfolio, took the lead on projects, and started honing the four skills listed in the post.

So what is the one skill you must master?  It is how well do you respond to constructive criticism.

As hard as it may be, not everyone will appreciate your designs or even how you do business. Keep in mind that you have little influence and less control over the opinions of others. You can – and MUST – control- your response to the criticism.

Recruiters prefer to attract design leaders who:

  • See criticism as a learning experience. Embrace the feedback because it is meant to move you closer to success.
  • Ask for more information. Even if it’s painful, ask questions such as “Can you tell me more?” The goal is to show that you want to improve.
  • Avoid wallowing in negativity. Criticism hurts, but the goal is to bring about a positive change. Accept the feedback and move forward.
  • Listen with an open mind. Let the other person talk without interruption. To show that you understand, summarize their observations in a few words.

If you’re preparing for your next opportunity in design, take a moment to reflect on not only your management skills but also your ability to accept constructive criticism.

Are you ready to step up into design leadership?

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