Mission Impossible. Dir. Brian De Palma. Tom Cruise, Jon Voight and Emmanuelle Béart. Paramount Pictures, 1996. Film.

Sometimes in a project meeting an architect finds himself on the receiving end of criticism, whether he/she legitimately deserves it or not. It’s just part of the job. Now, how he/she chooses to respond to it reveals the character and integrity of the architect – which ultimately may determine how long he’s in business. So how do you handle the inevitable scenario?

Recently, I was in a meeting with a contractor and several client representatives reviewing cost issues. One of the client's in-house construction representatives, clearly agitated during the discussion, commented that if our drawings had been more detailed they could have provided a more accurate estimate of the quantity and cost of the materials, eliminating the costing issue entirely. He then outlined the level of detail he expected from our work.

Admittedly I was caught off guard and somewhat upset that he didn’t believe he was experiencing exceptional service. While I wanted to, I refrained from defending our work. I simply allowed the contractor to vent. But, I was determined to quickly resolve the perceived issue and reaffirm our unwavering commitment to meeting and exceeding the clients expectation’s as we moved forward. Acknowledgement, resolution and speed are critical to defusing a potentially destructive circumstance.

When I returned to my desk I emailed the client’s representative and copied the other client manager that was at the meeting. I was determined to make it right. I acknowledged his expectations and reiterated our desire to exceed every client’s needs. Then I invited him to call me immediately for any issue or additional support and information he may need.

Not long after emailing him, I was surprised to receive a reply. He apologized to me for his reaction and admitted that his reaction had little to do with our original work.  His frustration was simply caused by disagreements with the contractor over the costs of materials. He thanked me for my response and felt confident in our ability to finish the project together.

With the appropriate response, our team is now closer to successfully completing the client’s project and we have made a positive step towards a lasting relationship for future work together. Crisis averted!

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