2019-2020 Session #1: Working Together

Date: October 4, 2019
Location: Houston Escape Room – 100 Jackson St Suite 120
Title: Working Together
Session Sponsors: Comex, Brooks & Sparks, Westbelt Surveying
Leaders: Sofia Dusek & Kiza Forgie
Documentation: Caitlin Scott & Andrew Tyler



Organized by Sofia Dusek & Kiza Forgie, the opening session of the 2019-2020 Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program focused on how good leadership facilitates Working Together. Scholars took the DISC personality assessment and read chapters 5-19 of Art Gensler’s book, ‘Art’s Principles’ in preparation for the session. Principal of AMB Architects and DISC assessment specialist, Alyse Makarewicz, AIA, began the session with an analysis of the scholars results along with an explanation of the DISC assessment method and the 2-axis graph associated with it. Afterwards, Alyse joined the scholars as they broke into two teams and solved their way out of their separate Escape Rooms. After their respective Escapes, the scholars rejoined each other and participated in a panel discussion focused on working together in CA as architects with owners and contractors. The discussion was lead by representatives from the CA team of a recent Gensler project for a new Church in The Woodlands, including the architectural team, the general contractor, and the client representative.  

Presentation: DISC Personality Assessment

Alyse Makarewicz, AIA, began Session 01 by first sharing some of her own experience and what brought her into contact with the DISC assessment.  After experiencing conflict created by a lack of control and ability to manage projects the way she wanted, Alyse started her own firm AMB Architects.  She found however, that she needed help deciphering and understanding the various personality types in her office if she was going to build a successful team.  From there she found the DISC personality assessment tool which has helped her understand how to best interact with her employees, clients, consultants, and has even been a tool that’s brought more cohesion to her family life.

Alyse found the DISC system easier to understand compared to other personality assessments with its Four Temperament Model of Human Behavior. The four types are shown graphically as quarters of a circle, the top half of the circle (D & i) represents personalities that are more outgoing, while the bottom half (C & S) includes those who are more introverted. The left side of the circle (D & C) is for the task-oriented personality, and the right side of the circle (i & S) is for those who are more focused on interpersonal connection. The 4 quadrants represent the 4 temperament types:

  • D (Outgoing-Task Oriented): 10% of population
  • i (Outgoing-People Oriented): 25% – 30% of population
  • S (Reserved-People Oriented): 30% – 35% of population
  • C (Reserved-Task Oriented): 20% – 25% of population

Outgoing people are more decisive and interactive. Reserved people are steadier and more careful. Task-oriented types are more directing and correcting while people-oriented types interact and share.

Alyse then explained the 3 charts which were provided in each DISC assessment reportGraph I, Environment Style, is how an individual’s personality presents socially. Graph II, Basic Style, is how their personality presents when they are alone or very comfortable. Finally, the DISC Circle Graph is an at-a-glance view of where one’s Basic Style maps out on the 2-axis DISC graph. The greater the difference between your Environment Style and your Basic Style can create stress. Architects are typically Task-oriented, and the results of the assessments for the scholars revealed this to be true as the majority of the scholars were Reserved-Task Oriented types. Additionally, Alyse stated that 90% of conflict is created between Task-Oriented tendencies against People-Oriented tendencies. The Key to working successfully with others is understanding the different needs and ways of working of the differing personality types and accommodating everyone fairly. Sometimes that can mean letting go of control and putting someone else in charge, or offering a different kind of reward depending on what suits their personality best. Alyse made the point that understanding our differences can help take us out of a “right and wrong” mentality, and give us the flexibility to see each other’s strengths for what they are. 




Activity: Escape Room

The scholars then broke up into two groups with the goal being to work as a team to solve various puzzles contained within an Escape Room. Alyse spent time with both teams to help point out how each different personality type interacted with one another and to point out how best to use our individual strengths to “Escape,” which both groups did. Afterwards, the scholars reconvened to discuss their observations.


Panel Discussion: Owner, Architect, Contractor

The final topic for the session was a question and answer session with key members of Gensler’s project for Woodlands United Methodist Church. Angela Branch, Executive Director for Woodlands UMC, acted as the client representative during the project and spoke as their representative.  From Gensler, the scholars heard the perspectives of Project Architect Allison Marshall & her CA team member Emily Massaro. Lastly, Project Manager Scott Taylor spoke on behalf of Brookstone and his project superintendent.

Angela started off by describing the project, called the Church at Woodforest, the Woodlands UMC’s 2nd campus. In response to the question of “How do you build trust?”, Miss Branch spoke about the church’s pre-existing relationship with Brookstone and also developing a new relationship with Gensler.  Part of what established trust between UMC and Gensler was seeing their proven history of “big picture thinking”on other projects, and, more importantly, establishing that Gensler’s team listened and understood UMC’s needs and desires. 

The panelists were asked about any times there had been tension during the project and were able to describe several instances. The first was light-heartedly referred to as the “Scupper Debacle” where a mistake in shop drawing review caused weeks of working through options to find a solution. Additionally, an unfamiliar cladding material to both GC and Architect, caused a delay in construction and wasn’t installed in time for opening. Finally, a disagreement between the Pastor and the Superintendent came to a head because both had a high level of ownership in the project. In the end, the Tensions were eased via transparency with the owner & ongoing communication and responsiveness. Additionally, the whole team high-lighted the importance of addressing conflicts head-on but with consideration and empathy at the forefront. 

Angela also explained that it was important that Gensler took the time to facilitate the client’s involvement in the project, particularly because this was her first time ever participating in the construction of a new building.

This team had been able to build consensus among its stakeholders by having regular meetings, streamlining the decision making, and starting each meeting by recapping previous meeting minutes, which helped maintain a consistent conversation.  

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