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Episode 072: A More Modern Approach to Work and Management (Top Replay)

Welcome again to the 2021 End of Summer Podcast Series – where I’m taking a fresh look at the 7 most downloaded podcast episodes over the past year!  

A More Modern Approach to Work and Management  

This series ties into a greater overall theme of issues and opportunities I continue to see express themselves in leadership teams throughout the industry and across the country, and in both smaller and larger firms. 

Today’s episode is a big one for all those seeking to know what’s next: Episode 34 with Rens Hayes, Principal and Co-Founder of H+O Structural Engineering.


“What Rens and his business partner Jeremiah O’Neil have built in terms of a firm is fundamentally different. This is not ‘business transformation’ – it’s a very different business model and one more representative of where our industry is heading.”

–Peter C. Atherton, P.E. 


As I relistened to this episode, five key points stood out:

1 – A Fundamentally Different Approach   

What Rens and his business partner Jeremiah O’Neil have built in terms of a firm is fundamentally different. This is not ‘business transformation’ – it’s a very different business mode and one more representative of where our industry is heading. 

Their model is designed for scale, not just for growth.

And its ultimate goal is to ‘free up time’ for all employees to become more aware and be more able to focus on delivering value – which is all done by eliminating inefficiency and leveraging automation, process, software, and technology.  


2 – Prioritize More Time to Think    

Constantly being busy and focusing on our current company needs and projects doesn’t give us the ‘white space’ or the perspective needed to consider our future. 

If we were to start over as a firm, what would we do differently? What would be our goals? …and how would our mission, vision, and values change? 


3 – We Need to Think Process and Eliminating Limitations 

Having a clearly defined process for all we do has power. 

It also allows provides us learning guardrails, better designed project starts, and known check points along the way. 

‘Just-in-time’ management – even if we get there – is way too late… and ‘sink or swim’ needs to be a thing of the past. They’re both inefficient and ineffective, add frustration, and ultimately limit our teams and our firm. 

Having processes and systems, as Rens describes, helps create a cultural framework for success.   


4 – Lead with Both Trust and Outcomes    

We need to share more about our business strategy and the specific outcomes we are looking to achieve on firm, team, client, and project levels. 

If not, how can we expect others to be fully engaged and working to help achieve them? 

And if we’re not clear as leaders about the outcomes we’re looking for, how can we put all the right resources are in place? 

Sharing more with our employees builds trust and building trust creates many more situations that lead to success. 


5 – Focus on Value    

This is best highlighted with H+O’s approach of having ‘passive income hours’ which allow everyone to participate in both the present and the long-term success of the firm through continuous improvement and innovation. 

As I was summarizing these notes, I kept having thoughts about another episode conversation I had with Ollie Henderson, a work life designer and CEO. This was episode 64 entitled “The Future of Work Life” and was in this past year’s Top 10 most downloaded. 

Ollie has gone very deep into how knowledge work has changed and continues to change and offers a truly global perspective on this. 

What struck me was how so much of what Rens and I spoke about was validated. 

What’s more, my conversation with Ollie also outlined a process and a number of best practices we and our teams can begin to use today to help move us forward – and closer to the place Rens, Jeremiah, and H+O sit now – plus a whole lot more about the future of knowledge work, technology, and how we can be more of a determinate factor in our own success. 

So, taking a listen to this episode (see links below) after our featured conversation with Rens, will be something you’ll be glad you did as you look to design a ‘more modern’ and ‘better experience’ for all those you serve.  


“Just-in-time’ management – even if we get there – is way too late… and ‘sink or swim’ needs to be a thing of the past. They’re both inefficient and ineffective, add frustration, and ultimately limit our teams and our firm.”

–Peter C. Atherton, P.E. 


Thanks for listening to the AEC Leadership Today Podcast!

I sincerely hope you enjoyed today’s episode. Be sure to check out Pete’s contact information and the other resources provided throughout the ActionsProve website designed to help you and your firm grow and prosper in the 21st century.  And, if you like what you heard, please leave a review on iTunes and share the podcast with your friends and colleagues. We look forward to seeing you in the next episode!


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Peter C. Atherton, P.E. is an AEC industry insider having spent more than 20 years 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 works with AEC firms and leaders to grow and advance their success through modern and new era focused strategic planning and implementation, executive coaching, leadership and management development, performance-based employee engagement, and corporate impact design.

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.

Episode 072: A More Modern Approach to Work and Management (Top Replay)