Tomorrow’s Engineer: Management Tips (July 2000)
Good Managers are Made, Not BornOver the years, I have met many people with management degrees and often wonder what they were taught and/or learned from these degrees. A degree in management doesn’t automatically qualify anyone to be a great manager or leader. Others have reached the manager position through the “Peter Principle” while working their way up the corporate ladder. I also know some who have advanced into management roles, with or without a degree and have found themselves there based on success in on-the-job experience in leadership these positions.
I believe the foundation to managing people begins with three basic courtesies:
- Be honest.
- Be a good listener.
- Be a coach.
Today, so many people in responsible posts have found it convenient to “not be honest.” Through television, many have seen presidents, ceo’s, and others lie under oath with very little risk of penalty. There appears to be little consequence to being dishonest. On the other hand, I believe as manager and a leader, you need to be able to tell the truth no matter what the other person may want to hear. Avoiding an issue by not stating your position or your direction never really solves anything. It simply delays the process or confuses the situation. Being in charge comes with the responsibility to tell the truth all the time.
I remember a person who worked with me once saying to me, “I don’t necessarily agree with you but I know you aren’t lying to me.” That was a pretty profound statement that left me thinking that this person had worked with others who on occasion had given him a dishonest answer. Leaders have to lead by example. Being honest to yourself and to others is a good beginning.
Listening and Other Important SkillsI always find that being a good listener is challenging. So often I have several things going through my head and someone will want to discuss one more thing. In recent years I have probably become even less proficient at this and recognize the need to do better. As a person in charge, you need to routinely critique your own performance because you can bet others are critiquing your performance. It would be a shame to lose an employee to the competition because you weren’t listening.
An integral part of critiquing your performance is to make sure that you try as hard as you can to understand the other person’s point-of-view. You may not agree with it but it is important to sympathize with the other person’s opinion. To do so, you need to listen and try and understand why they feel the way they do or believe in what they are doing.
Being a coach is essential to anyone who is going to be in a leadership role. So often people in charge fail to recognize the need to instruct, train, and drill individuals on being the best that they can be. Coaching takes the mentoring process to a higher level by actively cheering on the employees. More often than not, a leader is frequently on the sidelines while the team is “in the game” of designing, estimating, construction, or building operation. Seldom does the leader have the opportunity to get into all the details that the team gets involved with. Here again, listening becomes an important part of the job.
If you are in a leadership role, these three requirements may seem very basic. Unfortunately, I don’t think honesty, listening, and coaching occur every day in the workplace. Certainly, people who really want to be the very best managers and leaders will work hard at the task at hand. Unfortunately, these same people will overlook the basics for more complex business management methods and solutions. It doesn’t have to be that difficult. It just comes down to three basic tips for managing people.