Meaningful Patterns and The Redefinition of Winning

Meaningful Patterns and The Redefinition of Winning

Being a leader is about constantly looking for problems to solve and opportunities to realize… but which ones are the right ones, which ones have the greatest return on investment, and in what order should we pursue them? 

To know for sure, we need see both the ‘big picture’ and what’s happening ‘on the ground’ within our firms and the marketplace. 


The Big Picture

I see the patterns. I see them because I look for them. And I know the stress and the tension of needing to better understand, synthesize, and act because I was in your shoes as a principal and major owner. 

As part of my work these days, I purposely look for meaningful patterns of issues and opportunities that express themselves in leadership teams throughout the industry, across the country, and in both smaller and larger firms as a means to help. 

And to this end, I see eight great challenges changing our industry in real time: 

  1. The post-pandemic reality – the fact that the gap between great firms and less-than-great firms in the eyes of their employees continues to widen
  2. Use of technology and the rise of ‘digital natives’ – the idea that we’re only ‘scratching the surface’ of technology at a time when we’ve been unable (or unwilling) to truly engage those who are best positioned to lead us forward
  3. The amped-up ‘war for talent’ – which has taken on a much more aggressive and creative form after only a slight pause in the early months of COVID
  4. The still distant ‘silver tsunami’ – which should be a great thing but which in some cases is delaying needed transitions and adding to frustrations 
  5. Outside money – particularly the influence of private equity and other investment fueling consolidation and changing the nature of ownership 
  6. The redefinition of winning – how success for individuals, leadership teams, and business overall has changed 
  7. The ‘Great Resignation’ – the idea that more than 40-percent of employees are planning to leave their current employers for new jobs over the next 6 to 12 months. 
  8. The decentralization of work – the continuation of a decades-long strategic shift from a geographic to a practice-centered service model, now accelerating forward and widening beyond just our ‘office locations’. 

In this article, I’m going to focus on ‘the redefinition of winning’ – as better understanding and succeeding with this challenge better positions us for success with most of the others. 


Winning Today

Talent, especially top talent, wants to win at both work and life – and wants to do so while making a difference and having an impact. The days of sacrificing all for a career and then ‘living’ in retirement are over. The desire to live a more meaningful and balanced life while excelling at work is the new norm.  

At a leadership level, winning is about more than just a better business strategy. Leaders today must also effectively develop and successfully execute strategies related to: 

  • Culture – identifying and framing the value-based behaviors needed and desired for success at all levels in our organization and rewarding, incentivizing, and holding all accountable for adherence
  • Diversity – bringing in more insight and expertise in terms of people, ideas, and place
  • Innovation – getting better at both what we do and how we do it 
  • Sustainability – ensuring our success over the long-term individually, as teams, and as an organization  

A recent statement by the Business Roundtable, a group of 181 CEOs from top companies nationwide, summarizes much of what’s changed for business. Their statement redefined ‘the purpose of the corporation’. In contrast to a past ‘paramount duty’ to stockholders, the leaders committed to serving all six of their identified ‘stakeholders’ in terms of: 

  • Delivering value to customers
  • Investing in employees
  • Dealing fairly and ethically with suppliers
  • Supporting communities
  • Protecting the environment
  • Generating long-term shareholder value

This is a very public bar – but one that most all leaders are being asked about and held to. 


Winning For You

For most of us, our focus has been on projects and profits – it’s how we were raised. 

Our success moving forward, however, must be as much or more focused on people and purpose – our internal and external stakeholders and our mission, vision, values, goals, and objectives. 

As a result, most of us have gaps. 

How we define winning in terms of each of these, what I call the 4Ps: projects, profits, people, and purpose, is a key step to closing our gaps. 


“Most of us have been ‘raised’ to believe in projects and profits… but do we also believe in people and purpose?”

–Peter C. Atherton, P.E.


Think Different to Do Different 

As a leader and leadership team, do you look for and see all the right patterns and know how you’re being affected – both internally and externally? 

Do you believe that succeeding with people and purpose is pivotal to your success with projects and profits?  Belief will bring investment, engagement, discussion, understanding, alignment, trust, and new outcomes – in this order. 

Investing in new era leadership and management training and development and updating your strategic planning initiatives can begin at any time. 

You can turn challenges into opportunities and create your more diverse, inclusive, innovation-focused, and success-driven culture that great talent will want to be a part of – and be more dedicated to – beginning today. 


Take your next steps toward winning – and don’t let inaction become your team’s greatest challenge!  

To your winning,

PS – Ready to enhance your team and organizational success?  Check out our Fast Start Programs

PSS – Are you a leader who wants to stay relevant and effective and help your firm grow and prosper?  Check out the AEC Leadership Today Podcast designed exclusively for you HERE!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Pete headshot

Pete Atherton

About the Author

Peter C. Atherton, P.E. is an AEC industry insider with 29 years of experience, having spent more than 24 as a successful professional civil engineer, principal, major owner, and member of the board of directors for high-achieving firms.  Pete is now the President and Founder of ActionsProve, LLC, author of “Reversing Burnout. How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow! A Blueprint for Professionals and Business Owners”, and the creator of the I.M.P.A.C.T. process.  

Pete is also the host of The AEC Leadership Today Podcast and leads The AEC Leadership Mastermind

Pete works with AEC firms to grow and advance their success through modern and new era focused strategic planning, executive coaching, leadership and management development, performance-based employee engagement, and corporate impact design. Connect with him through the contact link below.

For a more expansive biography and experience summary.

Join our LinkedIn network!

Trace the steps to preventing and reversing burnout in you and your team.

Trace the steps to preventing and reversing burnout in you and your team.

quiz are you overwhelmed 001

Are you feeling overwhelmed, or are you burning out?

There is a big difference and each requires a different approach. Take this FREE quiz to find out where you stand and learn exactly how you (and your team!) can get back on track.

The quiz is currently undergoing routine maintenance and is unavailable at this time. Please check back again later.

quiz are you overwhelmed 001

Are you feeling overwhelmed, or are you burning out?

There is a big difference and each requires a different approach. Take this FREE quiz to find out where you stand and learn exactly how you (and your team!) can get back on track.

The quiz is currently undergoing routine maintenance and is unavailable at this time. Please check back again later.

Meaningful Patterns and The Redefinition of Winning