Engineering managers are trained to use their organizational and analytical skills to lead their teams in a variety of complex tasks. Their education and experience provides a foundation for problem solving, and by developing the following strengths they’ll be better equipped to successfully manage projects and add value to their organization.
One of the most important skills of successful engineering managers is the ability to lead a team to accomplish their goals. Managers should have a vision of what the end results and success of their projects would look like. Having a strong sense of purpose enables managers to evoke confidence and motivate their team, providing their team with direction while inspiring, empowering and trusting them to do their jobs. Leading by example is also a key component for managers. If the staff sees a disciplined, hard-working manager who has a positive attitude and is dedicated to positive outcomes, they’ll be inspired to act in the same way.
Engineering managers are the ones others look to for answers, guidance, and on-the-job decisions. There are different ways for approaching decision making such as using experience, logic, and instincts. Whichever tactic or combination of tactics a manager chooses, they should remain flexible when making decisions, as different situations may require unique approaches. Managers who are able to choose confidently between different courses of action will inspire faith and commitment from the members of their team.
Since managers are making the decisions, they’re responsible for the results. When the results are good and the project is a success, this responsibility is a pleasure that can be shared with the entire team. However, when mistakes are made and it becomes apparent that the decisions made turned out to be the wrong ones, it’s up to the engineering manager to shoulder the responsibility for the team. Managers should be honest about their mistakes and poor decisions and take them as opportunities for learning and changing course.
As with most management positions, communication skills are a must. Engineering managers not only lead teams of people, but they also interact with individuals with varying levels of technical expertise. Engineers often deal with complex concepts, so it can be challenging to find clear and concise ways to communicate with clients, technicians, and other stakeholders from various backgrounds. Social skills are also important for conducting interviews, building business relationships, and keeping up the team’s morale.
Attention to Detail
Engineering is a complex field that deals with mathematical, analytical, and technical problems, and it’s crucial that managers are very detail-oriented in all aspects of work. Even small mistakes in a complex system can cause major problems. Decision making and leadership for engineering managers depends upon them understanding all aspects of a project, including checking the accuracy and effectiveness of their team’s work. In order to make the right decisions and lead with strength and consistency, managers need to have an understanding of both the details and the bigger picture.
Another aspect of leadership deals with the ability to delegate duties and responsibilities throughout the team. While it’s important for managers to be involved with the details, they must also be able to take a step back and see a project in its entirety. When managers attempt to do all of the work themselves, they’ll eventually burn out and their project will fail. Teamwork and collaboration are essential. Delegating involves not only assigning tasks and duties to members of the team, but also knowing which task will be best accomplished by which employee. Even though managers assign duties to employees, they’ll still be overseeing the results and should be prepared to be available to answer questions throughout the process.
There’s always room for growth and improvement, even for people in management positions. Increasing essential leadership strengths will aid engineering managers in accomplishing their goals and the objectives of their company.
An advanced degree program for engineers who want to become leaders without losing their foundation in engineering, the online Master of Engineering Management from Ohio University focuses on leadership and management skills and their direct relationship to engineering process improvement, project management, effective communication, and innovative solutions.