Managing a group of employees isn’t easy. And in certain industries, it can be even more difficult. Engineering is one of those more challenging industries. Generally, engineers like to work alone, they’re not great at collaborating, and they often don’t have the same communication skills as employees in other fields—which can be a real problem as engineers need to chat with other departments to be successful. Here are some tips on leading a team of engineers.
Engineers are trained in very precise technical skills and jargon, which means that explaining something to someone in another department is often difficult. So it’s your job to remove barriers between the groups and facilitate communication between them. It’s also your job to communicate with your team. Explain the goals and vision to them while listening to what they want and need. Hear their concerns and act on them when you can. If not, be able to negotiate, compromise, and explain why certain things are possible or impossible.
Foster a productive environment
It’s an engineer’s job to identify problems, manufacture solutions, and overcome obstacles as they execute that solution. Help your team stay focused on the big picture so they can remain driven, recognizing how their efforts contribute to bigger goals, and staying motivated to do so. Otherwise, many engineers become hyper-focused on the smaller task in front of them, which makes their enthusiasm for their job wane.
Unless you’re an engineer, you probably don’t understand all the technical pieces of an engineer’s workload. Which means you’re not qualified to oversee the work itself. Instead, concentrate on the individual. Praise and reward the ones who show initiative, delegate tasks so that workloads are even and given to the proper people, and help facilitate communication between individuals and teams. Otherwise, leave the engineering responsibilities to the engineers.
Keep your employees on-task so they can stay productive and efficient. Don’t confuse them or impede their workflow with excessive rules or company procedures that don’t affect their responsibilities and only serve to distract them. Many of these distractions are secondary to the main goal and only impede creativity.
Lead, don’t manage
A manager implies controlling actions and bossiness. But a leader, on the other hand, involves inspiring, motivating, and developing employees until they’ve optimized their full potential. Managers generally focus on concrete goals in the short term while leaders focus on long-term growth for the company, constant improvement and innovation, and betterment of the individual employees they lead.