In response to COVID-19, AEC firm McKissack & McKissack embraced a circular economy of care that asks employees to be hungry, humble and smart to strengthen its corporate culture.

McKissack Cares Pt. 2: Culture, a Circular Economy of Care & COVID 19

In response to COVID-19, AEC firm McKissack & McKissack embraced a circular economy of care that asks employees to be hungry, humble and smart to strengthen its corporate culture.
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COVID-19 hasn’t been just any pandemic. It’s a pandemic that had been intensified by fear, uncertainty, economic instability and death—and made even more perilous by unprecedented globalization.  It has tested us, and but will not, beat us.

At McKissack, we made sure it wouldn’t beat us as COVID-19 was still evolving. Well before stay home orders were issued, we prepared for remote work and made a stronger commitment than ever to our purpose—enriching peoples’ lives through design and construction. To us, this is a holistic concept that focus on the entire individual, and all the individuals we work with day in and day out. And it involves a circular economy of care that asks us be “humble, hungry and smart.”  


How We’ve Embraced Humble, Hungry and Smart

Management consultant Patrick Lencioni talks about these three qualities in his book “The Ideal Team Player.” We all want to be “humble, hungry and smart;” these are just good life values. While we were physically separated from each other, we kept returning to these ideals in our virtual town halls and practice group meetings. We discussed what these qualities mean to us as we strive to achieve our purpose to enrich peoples’lives through design and construction.  

Humble: We are a tight-knit, diverse group of highly skilled individuals and teams. Each person strives for greater self-awareness, but each has a thirst to continue to grow. We look for the best in others and actively partner in their professional development. We encourage compassion and forgiveness, enjoy each other and try to actively win people and build relationships, even when disagreeing. We care about ourselves, each other, our clients and humankind. During COVID-19, we were early to shelter in advance of stay-at-home orders.We put our people first and provided the emotional support they needed. Our focus was on being there for others.

Hungry: Five generations ago, my ancestors built a family business focused on being trustworthy partners for their clients. Although McKissack is an outgrowth of the country’s oldest minority-owned firm in the AEC industry, we are still highly entrepreneurial.  We look for new opportunities and challenges, and move quickly. We use technology not only to make our work easier, but also to create better work. We work hard for every dollar we earn.However, like most entrepreneurial companies, we still believe in having fun.During COVID-19, we actively engaged with our employees, and actively reached out our clients—whom we view as friends—to provide support, updates and status plans. We also continued business development, actively submitting and winning proposals.

Smart:We are emotionally intelligent as well as highly skilled at what we do. How we read a situation and respond as individuals can lift everyone up and focus them on innovation and productive solutions.  We know our own strengths and weaknesses and talk about them honestly. We hire the best people, value their ideas and want everyone aligned with the strategies that emerge. Empathy and good judgment drive not only our emotional,intellectual and career growth, but also the advice we provide our clients and our outreach to the community.  


How Humble, Hungry and Smart Impacted Our Team

As we embraced these values, we renewed our commitment to our purpose. Like the smartphone, with its operating system that connects all types of applications and gives its users tremendous value, we now have an operating system that connects and anchors our diverse team members in nine locations nationally. The circular economy of care is our smartphone, and our values are the operating system that connects our coworkers and helps them operate with speed, success, creativity and care in the challenging AEC industry.  

Ironically, a devastating pandemic helped us renew our commitment to our values.  Like a rocket, our renewed outlook is enabling us to reach for, and win, amazing new projects and remarkable new people—as both team members and clients.  So with a caring heart and iron will, we agree with Dr. Mae Jemison, the first black female astronaut, who said, “never be limited by other people’s limited imagination.” I am sure she would add “particularly during COVID-19, because you’ll go amazing places and accomplish amazing things.”  After all, she went to the moon.

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