Show Notes: Purpose, Values and Behaviours

In the second episode of The Colour Works podcast, James Hampton, interviews Eric Sey from Brightspace Architects. A creative team with over 20 architects, Brightspace had enlisted the help of The Colour Works to help identify a new corporate purpose and to align their personal and team purpose. Working with The Colour Works, Brightspace have benefitted from an enhanced employee sense of purpose. The Colour Works will continue to work with Brightspace to transform purpose into practice.

This episode focusses on Purpose, Values and Behaviours, The Colour Works can offer workshops on this topic to align personal and team purpose. By the end of the workshop, delegates will have identified a shared sense of purpose and will have agreed on a common set of values and behaviours that reflect the high standards they intend to work to. The team will also have committed to holding themselves and one another to account for bringing these values and behaviours to life. For more information on our areas of delivery, contact The Colour Works.

Brightspace Architects have worked on a wide range of projects in the Bournemouth area, including, Madeira Road, Berry Court and the Winters Gardens development. Connect with Eric Sey on LinkedIn.

Tune in to the next podcast where we will be talking about Trust and Healthy Conflict and the value it brings in organisations.

Episode 2 – Transcript

Disclaimer: If you would prefer to read a written transcript of our Purpose, Values and Behaviour episode please see the transcript below. Great care has been taken to ensure the most accurate transcription, although grammatical errors may be present due to the nature of spoken language.

James

Hi and welcome to the podcast. My name is James Hampton and I’ll be hosting today’s show. My role here at The Colour Works is to support our team and to design and deliver bespoke programmes based on our client’s team, leadership and culture needs. In the second episode, we are going to take a deep dive into purpose, values and behaviours through the experience of one of our recent clients, Eric Sey. Eric is a Director and Chartered Architect for Brightspace with a proven track record in end-to-end design and delivery of developments for both public, private and public-private partnerships. Eric has been instrumental in the realisation of a number of regeneration initiatives that have benefited from his experience in land promotion, negotiation and consultation throughout the planning process. Eric leads a practice, design directorate and staff training programme. He is responsible for driving the continued development of Brightspace’s people and the value this brings to the business. Welcome, Eric and thank you for taking the time to join us on the show today.

Eric

Hi and thank you for having me.

James

An absolute pleasure. So to start the ball rolling Eric can you tell us a bit about Brightspace and some of the standout projects that your team has designed.

Eric

Yeah, Brightspace was formed 9 years ago by myself and 3 friends. We had all worked together previously for a number of years. We had to leave behind the environment we were in but took the opportunity to take back control of our work. So in that time we’ve built a great team of 27 people, moved into a great office in the countryside in Fordingbridge and we’ve done some really good work with some really great people. We kind of love all of the possibilities and opportunities we have as individuals and as a business. You have to take the underutilised, the unloved, the missed opportunities, the forgotten, the broken and try to create something new. To create something that should be amazing. We want to create amazing places for people to live, to work and to play. In terms of the projects that we’ve been doing, our track record includes residential homes across a wide spectrum from land formation through to the recent process with the government asking for a new line for homes for people to live in. Also through to blocks of flats and bespoke homes and also individual homes for affluent individuals; both in the UK and abroad. We also work on a lot of local regeneration and mixed-use projects in the Bournemouth area. For example, Madeira Road, which some people might know locally as well as Berry Court, which was one of the first build-to-rent schemes outside of London. Also the Winter Gardens Scheme, which is a major transformation within the town centre. We also work in a commercial capacity, offices and factories for people like, REIDsteel, a local steel fabricator and subcontractor, and Wallgate, who makes all those fancy machines in motorway service stations that wash your hands. Plus many more local firms who wanted to move on from their current premises or develop their premises to make them more efficient with a better working environment. We’re also involved with a great portfolio of hotel projects across the country; particularly with an innovative hotel brand which we really enjoy working with. We also do other smaller projects. We will be sorting out the changing rooms at Fordingbridge Sports Ground. So it isn’t all big, shiny stuff we have a wide range of projects. We take everything from an idea which might just be a chance conversation, right the way through to a concept to planning approvals, working drawings, tendering processes and contract deliveries. For us it’s not an intellectual exercise, it is going out and getting things done and we want to see an outcome to the work that we do.

James

It must be a fascinating process when you arrive at a site or location to see the potential of it. You must have these x-ray vision goggles that you put on before you arrive there to see what it can be and the possibilities.

Eric

The opportunities and the possibilities are really what fires us up. It’s exciting! Usually, the first few months or years of a project are a real rollercoaster and sometimes you arrive and you talk to a client and sometimes they don’t really know what they want to do. It’s down to us as visionaries, as people who can think blue sky without the restrictions perhaps. The early days of thinking about budget or construction methodology, just looking around and seeing what can be achieved particularly when you’ve got an urban site or town centre site where you can see opportunities to improve the environment and create great places.

James

Wonderful! When you talk about this I can see the passion oozing from you and particularly when it comes down to that regeneration piece. Where did this all start for you?

Eric

It tends to start with your Mum and Dad. I joke but my mother is an artist and my father is an engineer.

James

A healthy combination.

Eric

Yeah I loved creating stuff with my father. I used to build crazy stuff. But my passion was really building, creating and inventing new things. It was really all about creativity and school was inconvenient to me; it was just a waste of time. I was pretty hopeless. My mum actually said to me, you’ve got to find a way forward, you can’t just dirty your hands and make stuff. There’s nothing there, there’s no output to this, this is just crazy. You’ve got to find something which can use your practical skills and creativity and she suggested architecture, which to be honest with you, I didn’t give it much thought but it sounded like a good idea. It was somewhere where I could use my creativity and it was very challenging because designers are always being challenged and the sense of achievement, I absolutely loved it. It was the making of me and I really excelled in both my University career and then forward into the real world. It was great to be able to use my passion and purpose in life.

James

And that purpose is known to be the reason that something exists or why we do what we do. At what point did you really realise that this is my purpose, this is what I want to do?

Eric

It was probably two weeks into arriving at the University of Dundee. I realised that somebody had just given me all the ingredients and all the tools that I really needed in order to satisfy my motivations and purpose. That was the point, but then you as you move forward through University; which is really an intellectual exercise, university is all about practices, learning and it’s about developing. It was really when I was allowed in the working environment to actually do something real, to actually take a real site, a real client, a real brief, a real opportunity and actually create something. I had taken someone’s thoughts at work, we worked with them on their brief and we worked out what their aspirations were and we created something fulfilling that actually worked. It had a benefit to not just the client but a benefit to the end-users and actually it benefitted everyone because it took something which was broken and unloved and made it into something.

James

Lovely and that gives me the essence of your why.

Eric

Yeah, that’s my why.

James

Well, some people move through life and don’t have the opportunity to actually explore this. What sort of value do you think being able to consciously and clearly articulate this purpose has brought to you?

Eric

I must admit, I spent a lot of time not really understanding my why and it’s really only come to me the last few years through speaking with a good friend of mine, who is also a client who introduced me to the concept of why. So I’ve been on a journey of post rationalisation of my life, trying to work out what is my why and how did this all come about; because there’s something moving me forward and compelling me to do things so it’s been a bit late for me but I’m not really sure whether that’s normal or not normal. But in terms of how do I move things forward, I’m starting to understand more about myself and starting to make a conscious effort to align my work life and my personal life to my why. As well as to minimise all the things that get in the way of the why and that goes for the kind of business I want to do, the kind of projects I want to work on, the kind of way I work with people in the business with my staff. Things that I really enjoy doing – I want to do more of. I want to also cut out and make conscious decisions about who I work with, who I am friends with, how I share my personal time and to minimise the negative and take that away. So if you like the knowledge of your why is actually helping to make my life better it will hopefully make me more fulfilled. It will make me happier and I also think having a very clear purpose in life. You can’t help but communicate that to people through your actions and your behaviours, through what you do and achieve. I think people genuinely like other people who are very clear and concise about what they are doing, they can understand them and they can latch on to that. I think I have already found people who share, who understand that. They know their why and we’ve got together as friends. I am hoping that I will attract and be able to find other people who also have that clarity as well. Because I think people with that kind of clarity have an advantage in life, they are going to go somewhere and you can see where they are going, that is really interesting.

James

Really, really interesting and in answer to your question around that time of life that you might find why and focus on it. At the core of our why and our purpose lies our values. Since the day we are born and we are progressing through life, our values will evolve. Our values evolve when we discover what we need in our lives and those we need to surround ourselves with and so the progression of our values as we move through can change. The core of our subconscious lies a core set of values which are shaped over time but they inform our thinking and our perceptions and our decision making. It’s our values that are the springboard to the future that we might shape. My most favourite value to quote is that “values are like fingerprints, nobodies are the same, but you leave them over everything you do”. Which is actually by Elvis Presley.

Eric

Right I didn’t know Elvis was that insightful.

James

That is probably why I like that one, it came out of the blue. Okay, could you please tell us a little bit about how your values surface when you are with a client and consulting on design.

Eric

Yeah we’ve done a piece of work with The Colour Works around our mission and our purpose and also our values and I think fortunately I’m blessed. I’ll divert slightly here. I’m blessed with the fact that I am in business with two guys that share a lot of my values. We’re quite different people, different strengths, different market sectors, different abilities and we have this diversity but we share very similar values and there’s a great degree of commonality in what we hold as important. We’ve actually done a piece of work on this as part of the programme that we have been on with The Colour Works and actually the values for our business are actually perfectly aligned to my own values and the values of how we deal with our customers and our people in business. They are common to everything, which is a great place to be in. We actually have three very simple, one is ‘be creative’. That’s a major thing for me and for the business. There really are no boxes or stupid ideas. There are kind of good ideas and we can recognise that they can come from anywhere and anyone at any time. The second one is ‘be proactive’. It’s about taking the initiative to find solutions and to create new relationships. It is all about being out there making it easy for everyone else to engage with you. The third one is ‘building relationships’. Its all about the people. We are all about people. There are really only two things in life that matter. One is people and one is the planet. Our business is driven by people. We like to believe that we have an influence over the planet in some small way and we are working on that one. But people, it’s fundamental to what we do and who we are. We actually have a fourth one, which is an under the radar value. Which is ‘get shit done’. Because otherwise it really is all for nothing and in the creative industries, I include graphic design, architecture, car design and it really could be anything. There is a lot of time and energy effectively expended in very intellectual exercises of creating design, creating an output but sometimes it isn’t manifested in anything with any material value. I think that we are not one of those architectural practices and I am not the sort of person who wants to dream about architecture, dream about design and dream about new places, making a difference and exerting positive change around the world. We don’t dream about this we want to get it done. Originally, the ‘get shit done’ value was known as get it done but the shit bit does really underline the imperative.

James

Presumably, that one isn’t getting published on your website?

Eric

I’m actually a fan, because of my character. I am very straight with people so we can wait and see. It’s a debate that we will have, whether or not that is a public one. But certainly, we will be talking about it.

James

One for internal dialogue then! I have to divert briefly and compliment you on your website. A great interactive page and I also like your bio pictures. There’s a picture of you at a young age.

Eric

Oh the baby pictures. It used to be sporting pictures and hobbies. I would have been just over a year old, I suspect. I’ve been living my life one crayon at a time ever since.

James

Quite a nice philosophy there. So back on track. So have you done this work around the values with your Directors? What has been the immediate impact on relationships and communications within your leadership team?

Eric

I think the biggest thing for us, that we’ve been talking for probably 3 or 4 years now is about what you want to do. This question of where we are going is one that my co-directors and myself were really struggling with. When we set up nine years ago, our mission was to survive and to create an architecture practice the way that we wanted it and it was really exciting! That mission now is really substantially complete and we started to question ourselves, what did we want from our business? Where did we want to take it? And what did we want the future to be? Our business has prospered. It has been amazing but it has been a product of our collective values and ambitions but really it has been done subconsciously.

James

That has organically happened.

Eric

Yeah so we really had no clarity on our mission or our vision for the future so already we feel more energised and we have come up with a great why statement and we have come up with some values that we are really 100% behind. We are excited about these things. We’ve started working on our vision and the tangibles. How it will be driven through our business plan. How it gets delivered by the people in our business and how they have a role to play. So if you like, its a process that has re-energised us as individuals and as a business, it has given us some clarity it has given us a bit more confidence. Through our vision for the business, it is going to give us some real tangible direction for all sorts of elements of the business, whether it is the design for our customers, our people, the way we manage ourselves and how we deliver our financial profile. It’s about our future and it has been a very empowering thing.

James

That’s brilliant and some really good descriptions around the actual impact. So at what point did you realise that it would be important to take this step and what was the process behind getting here.

Eric
I’ve got a very dear friend who kept banging on about purpose and kept asking me questions about the business. He is a very interesting character, very driven, very intelligent and reads an awful lot. He was sharing all of these insights with me and at the time when we started to sort of wonder about our future it was an opportunity to throw into the ring that we really did need to understand where we were going to go and we needed to go on a journey together to make a new future. We had a go at it ourselves, we had a number of conferences where we would actually talk about what we wanted to do and we didn’t really have a context. We lacked a framework, there was no underlying glue that would stick it all together. So we got to a point where we started to think about staff and development and we understood that we do need someone to help us with this and to stand amongst us and tell us how to do it and also to act as a sounding board for some of the stuff that comes out of it. And to help us, we are architects, we are not experts in this sort of stuff, we needed to reach out to somebody. So on a recommendation from a colleague, someone who I had worked a long time with and also a friend, we invited The Colour Works to a meeting and Giles turned up for a chat with myself and one of my co-directors. And he started asking questions about our business which was actually beyond the brief that we had sort of come up with. And one of the questions was what was our mission and what was our purpose. There was silence. I had a bit of a go at answering the question and totally fluffed it. Came up with a load of random things that weren’t well connected and Giles turned around and said bullshit. Bit of a quiet moment after that really but The Colour Works was in and we starting working on the answers.

James

Brilliant, so I guess it wasn’t the beauty parade to have won you over, it was actually the direct questioning.

Eric

I think it was the cutting through, well we were looking at more of a process-driven solution, the reality staring us in the face was the fact that Giles immediately sort of found that weakness, the missing piece and came out with it. I think the direct approach was something that I found quite refreshing, I didn’t want all of the technobabble and all the speakers and the flow charts, you know all that stuff. We really did want some real answers and we wanted to ask ourselves some questions and wanted to ask them properly. We thought that Giles’ response was exactly the response, we probably didn’t want to hear but it was what we needed.

James

Sometimes the answers that you are searching for, live in the places that you don’t want to look. And seemingly that is what got brought to the table that day.

Eric
Yeah and I must admit it has been an exciting journey and actually really enjoyable. We’ve learnt a lot about ourselves and it has brought us together, I think it is very easy for us as business people to work away in our own little spheres of experience and client bases and work that we do. We all work differently, my partners we all work in different areas of the business. It’s very easy to become quite isolated and I think sharing something as powerful as a mission and to clarify the values and to create that vision for the future the sort of behaviours and outcomes that we want to achieve has been immensely positive but we are on the journey right now but it is great and I think it is exactly what we needed.

James

Brilliant so how do you plan on keeping these values alive within the leadership team

Eric

The main thing for us was, number one, we are in the process of creating our vision and we needed to create something which was succinct enough and simple enough and straight-forward enough for people to get a grip on. So we created some statements and its around five areas of our business, one is about design and creativity and another one about our customers and marketing. Another one about our people, by our people I mean the people in our business. About the management of a business, the processes and getting things to work so we are set free to do all the cool stuff and our financial management. So we have very simple broken those down and each has a statement to it and it describes the way we to be in the future and the behaviours we want from ourselves and from our customers. The environment and the output we put in terms of work, the way we want that to be and those visions, they effectively stand there and they inform our business plan. Some of those may affect who we work with, what sectors we want to work in, we talk about trust and enjoy working with people. That will impact on all those little bits of details, the measurables. The processes that we might develop, the marketing campaigns we push through and then below that there’s an operational imperative. These five visions are effectively cornerstones of our business and they are delivered through a directory. Basically a group of guys and girls in our business, who are specifically allocated to an area where they might necessarily have the best fit or experience or ability. That group have the remit to deliver at an operational level, that vision.

James

So this is being weaved into the fabric of your organisation through these project groups

Eric

Yeah, and it’s not just about us pushing our will down through our visions, which we are sharing with our staff for the next couple of weeks to just show where they are going. They are going to want to know a lot of details so we need to get those groups working and they need to be focussed. They need to be asking how are we going to do this and what are your thoughts, how does this happen. They will come up with some crazy ideas, some amazing and some really crazy about how that might happen. So, everyone in our business has this remit and the opportunity to contribute. We are expecting it also from them, the expectation is clear, an updraft of ideas from them, operationally yes but if there is some good stuff it comes out from working with that vision. So guys have you actually thought about, you guys, the owners of this business, have you thought about this. We can make decisions on that then. That’s fantastic do a piece of work on that, let’s explore more or that’s a terrible idea. The updraft is there. Everyone has this remit and everyone has an ability to contribute. Then everyone has a part to play in delivering our vision. To share and to make it happen and to share in the success that our vision will bring in the future.

James

This is really powerful Eric, because what you are creating here is an inclusive culture which will drive engagement and have benefits right across the business. Not just on the financial income but on employee retention, levels of engagement, in how people represent you as a business out there when they are really living the values that have been flown up and down and across an organisation. It is brilliant to hear that you are taking those steps of engagement and getting everyone’s thoughts. How meaningful is this to you on a personal level. How do you do it. How do you live this organisational value?

Eric

Yeah, our business has been a product of us as directors, the founders of the company, it was our desire to take control, to move out of a more corporate environment and to create a new business the way we wanted it. It was at the forefront of why Brightspace was formed and in terms of how Brightspace is as a business, it is a product of our own ambitions, our own values, our aspirations for the future and unconsciously we kind of attracted people to the business that shared those values. I think laterally we’ve become more aware, more conscious about how important those values actually are, what our mission is and we are making an effort to attract people to the business that share those values, share those intrinsic traits because in that way it is easier you end up with a harmonious business and there are huge benefits in terms of fostering that family feel that we have been working on really hard. It also has benefits in terms of people being engaged with your business, staff retention, the way people are around clients. If people believe in your business, are passionate about your business and really get who you are and what you are. That whole cohesiveness and the feeling of family, the feeling of having each other’s back, that consistency as well. That reads really well with clients and has huge benefits in terms of trust and engagement. That leads to bigger relationships, some of these relationships are now personal relationships that we and our people have. That brings about repeat business, you are the first people that people call when they have an idea or a problem. I think it is win-win all around.

James

I think you are absolutely right and filtering these values throughout the organisation. What you are effectively doing as a byproduct is reinforcing and creating the culture that your people will live in as well. Typically, culture can be described as the way that we do things around here, especially when the boss isn’t looking.

Eric

The cultural thing is quite tough. I make no pretence. We have got a lot of work to do in our business, we have got the raw ingredients. I am immensely proud of all of our people, they all deserve to be there, they are all amazing people with huge ability. Hard-working but focus can sometimes be more of a challenge in the creative industry. But I am immensely proud of our people. One of the challenges of having three heads in the business, we are a flat structure, it is a collaborative organisation, there’s three of us and the business. We are individuals and whilst we do share these common values, you are going to get a different answer to the question in a number of cases. So we have got a lot of work to do in terms of consistency of leadership in our business. But the values themselves and the behaviours in the business.

James

Eric, I understand all of this is in its infancy and you’ve done some great work in the time that you have been working on this. Personally, it makes me very proud to hear that you have taken the work that The Colour Works have done with you and really brought it to life so I certainly commend you for doing that above your day job as well. Possibly you could come back in a short time and tell us how it is going and what traction you have gathered.

Eric

I would be happy to do so. We are probably not in a headlong hurry. It will take a while to sort this out. You know we have got a day job as well as the project work and the one-to-one relationships that we hold as directors with key clients, with the management of the business and then obviously the more strategic element, this high-level pass. We are going to be pretty busy for the next six months in all of this stuff, but I would be very glad to come back and share where we got to and perhaps talk about some of the wins that we are beginning to experience. It’s a great journey to be on, and it’s great to be on the journey with The Colour Works, who have really stirred things up and asked some difficult questions. It’s really great to delve into those and not feel afraid and to have the confidence to move forward and know that what you are doing is the right thing to do. It’s not answering the easy questions, it’s answering the difficult ones.

James

Well Eric, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show. If any of our listeners would like to get in touch how could they reach you?

Eric

Yeah, the internet is a good starting point. So it is www.brightspacearchitects.com and we are also on Facebook, LinkedIn and some other social media platforms that are a mystery to me. But yes, use the power of the interweb and you can get hold of us.

James

Excellent, wonderful, thank you. If you would like to find out more about Purpose, Values and Behaviour and how The Colour Works can support your organisation please go to http://www.thecolourworks.com and go to the Solutions page. Tune in to the next podcast where we will be talking about Trust and Healthy Conflict and the value it brings in organisations.