Are you an aspiring engineering manager? Would you like to know how to become a great manager? You are in the right place at the right time.
As an aspiring engineering manager, you must get the roadmap and courage to press on to your destination. That’s what all engineering organizations need to do to build and develop great engineering managers and leaders.
In this article, you will learn some strategies to use to either become a great leader or build leaders at your organization.
Let me set the scene a little bit because this is something that happens all the time in engineering organizations and companies. Regardless of what field you’re in, this applies across engineering, maybe even in other technical fields.
When you’ve been at work for some time as an engineer and have learned a lot of the technical concepts, your organization will say, it’s time to make him a manager. So they make you a manager, maybe starting as a project manager where you’re managing a project. Then after a certain period of time, they say okay, you did good with your project, now we’re going to have you manage some people and give you a team of people.
So you are managing both projects and people and the kind of inherent problem there or challenge there, which is not necessarily something that was done wrong but just in the nature of the industry that you become a manager because you were good at engineering.
You weren’t good at the managing of course, and all of a sudden you’re thrust into this new position and not only do you still have to worry about the technical side of engineering, which by the way has a lot of intricate details but now you need to worry about the overall management of the project and maybe even the management or the interaction and engagement of a team of people working towards the goal, other consultants or other organizations that you have to work with outside of your firm.
You also have to work with other internal divisions within your organization. There’s a lot of different things that get thrown at you and if you haven’t had the proper training on how to manage those things, you’re totally set up for failure or set up to really stunt your growth and your progression in your career.
5 Tips For Aspiring Engineering Manager
I will analyze five things that you can do as an engineering organization, or if you are an engineer, you can teach this within your organization to help you set engineering professionals up to be great managers and successful managers.
These are things that aren’t that hard to do, but you just need to think them out and plan to do them and start as early as possible in these engineers careers.
1. Provide Younger Professionals With Custom Mentors
I’m going to call it a custom mentor because I don’t want to say just provide your younger professionals with mentors. Find someone in your organization that is already an effective manager or leader in a specific discipline that you’re hoping that this younger engineer does the same and have that person mentor them.
Specific management mentoring on management skills and leadership philosophies or how to engage with team members on a very specific program is important because mentoring is great. Still, if you don’t get set up with the right mentor, it may only help you with a couple of things but not going to help you to be a great manager and leader which is what we’re focusing on here.
So think about that custom mentorship. Even if you just take a few engineers at a time in your firm and provide them with this custom mentorship, it’s still going to be helpful because I know it’s hard to do at large scale.
2. Provide Soft Skills Training
When I say soft skills, I mean skills that are the hardest skills for engineers to learn. I mean skills that have to do with interacting with people, communication building, relationships and engaging people. Provide that type of training that will transfer back to the job. Very few engineering firms or engineering training organizations do this.
You may do internal training or programs, and let them have lunch and learns. For instance, if I go to lunch and learn that my company put on how to communicate effectively, I will be happy and say this is great information, I love all this information. But then, when I go back to my desk and all my projects swallow me and I don’t get to try to implement that communication, that’ll be bad.
The solution for that is when you deliver the training, you need to give a framework that they can take and apply on the job. You might give a listening activity or assignment or strategy in your effective communication session and then they’ll have a blueprint that they can go on to their next client call or next phone call and use the listening strategy. That’s called transferring back to the job and that’s how you do it.
You can also send follow-up reinforcement videos to reinforce the concepts from the soft skills or the people skills training and that’s something else you can think about doing in your firm. It is important to think about how you can follow it up, how you can make sure that they’re getting consistent touchpoints with this content to help try the new skills and strategies.
3. Have Them Present Or Engage In A Real-Life Project Situation
For managers, it really matters to have them present or engage in a real-life project situation, even if you’re starting with a small part. So think about the things that engineering managers have to do regularly and try to put them in a position to do those things as often as possible in a real-life situation.
It is not just like, pretend that you’re the manager and do this. No, let them come to the client meeting with you. Tell them; I’m going to give you one portion of the report to present to the client at the meeting.
That will put them in the pressure-filled situation. As they’re in the room with you, they still feel some comfort or maybe have a little confidence because they see you doing the presentation. You should give them a small piece to go ahead and present.
Even if you send them to Toastmasters or you have Toastmasters in your organization, which help people become better speakers, if they don’t get in front of a client or a prospective client or a stakeholder and make the presentation themselves, you don’t have that skill transferred. You have to put them in real-life situations before they get there themselves.
Allowing them to present a little piece in a real-life situation will help to alleviate some of that sticker shock when all of a sudden, you say, you’re a manager.
4. Have A Conversation With These Young Aspiring Managers Or New Managers And Ask Them
What Skills They Feel They Need To Improve
One of the things that we often see at the engineering management Institute whenever we are doing management and leadership training for engineering organizations in the United States and beyond is just blanket programs that a company puts on, guessing where they need help without actually doing some data analysis or having conversations with their staff.
If one of your young engineers is a great speaker and the other one is not and you’re sending them both to the speaking training, is that effective? So have conversations with these people about the skill sets that they feel they need to improve. Do some assessment or survey on that to confirm that and then you can put together the training that I mentioned earlier on and make sure that the training sticks.
It may not be that easy if you’re doing different types of training for different people, but at the end of the day, that may be the best return for your firm and the best way to cultivate and build effective managers and leaders in the long term.
5. Have The Aspiring Managers Shadow Their Own Managers As Much As Possible
When you’re getting ready to promote them, this is somewhat similar to mentoring but not necessarily because their mentor may not be their manager. If you think that an aspiring engineer is going to become a manager within a year, have them work more with their manager and shadow them in some of these real-life situations that I mentioned earlier.
You can call it a shadowing program or just have a conversation with them and say, we’re hoping and we have faith in you that you’re going to be a very effective manager in the long term, but we don’t want to just throw you into management without preparing you. So over the next 6 to 12 months, I’m going to ask you to shadow me a little bit more.
Ask them to come into some of your meetings and when you have an important phone call, call them into my office to listen, observe and take any notes they like when they recognize any strategies that they think might work for them and then take action on them.
Whether you’re the engineer who’s aspiring in your career or you’re a leader in an organization and you’re thinking about how you can cultivate future leaders, the five tips for aspiring engineering managers I have analyzed in this article are essential for you.