Sharing a hobby with clients or partners is good for business. By Courtney Casburn Brett (President & Creative Director, Casburn Brett Architecture) As ridiculous as it sounds, I wish I had taken this advice more seriously as a teenager and young adult: Expand your interests by taking up a traditionally male hobby. As a kid, my dad took me golfing and signed me up for sailing lessons. Why? Because these were the hobbies he enjoyed. Through participating in these hobbies with my dad, I was able to develop a special relationship with him. I know a number of women who enjoy or participate in stereotypical “male” hobbies. In fact, I have several female colleagues who are just as passionate about deep-sea fishing and collegiate sports as their male counterparts. But, why does this matter in the business world? Why a male hobby? Because in life, as in business, we must work to find a common ground that fosters trust, equality and cultivates relationships. Business relationships are exactly that — relationships. Whether you’re pursuing a new client or seeking a mentor, lasting client and professional relationships need a personal component. Some of the most successful business relationships are forged through interests in hobbies. The underlying truth is that well-rounded professionals, regardless of age, gender, or any other distinguishing feature, have more opportunities to connect with others on a personal level in particular environments or situations. I fully appreciate that my diverse interests and life experiences help me relate to all kinds of people. As a person who can stand in a room with five or even 10 of my peers and be statistically likely to be the only woman, I have come to fully understand the value of expanding my interests to specifically include traditionally male hobbies. It should go without saying that these interests must be authentic. From an early age, I’ve had an overwhelming love of sailing. It has been a great point of similar interest with associates throughout my career. Regardless of my dad's effort, I just didn't take to golf. In fact, I disliked it enough that I am truly lousy at it today. Of course, this left me kicking myself when I took on a client whose professional life was built around the game of golf. Would we have built a deeper bond if I regularly joined him on the golf course? Probably. Did I fake an interest in playing golf in order to bolster the relationship? Absolutely not. Instead we found common ground in our love for Southeastern Conference football, which was not nearly as integral to his life, but a passion we shared nonetheless. A true overlapping interest, however minor, was much more valuable to establishing a personal rapport than a false affinity for the client’s primary pastime. Admittedly, I once thought this advice was silly, and I certainly did not take the recommendation seriously to expand my interests with a traditionally male hobby. Today, I feel differently. In a business environment where relationships matter, and a career field such as mine that is overwhelmingly dominated by men (males account for more than 80 percent of the architecture workforce), I have come to more fully appreciate the interests, hobbies, and experiences that I share with my male colleagues, clients and mentors. I also believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is never too late to learn or try something new. I continue to seek out experiences that allow me to connect more genuinely with new business associates and acquaintances everyday.
About the guest blogger: Courtney Casburn Brett, RA, AIA, NCARB is America’s youngest entrepreneur-architect. She’s built a powerhouse design firm focused on creative problem solving, which has rapidly grown to celebrate successful projects in almost a dozen states. In her current role as President and Creative Director of Casburn Brett Architecture, she thrives as a leader in ethos-driven design and cutting-edge business strategy.