Tuesday 19 May 2015

Leadership in Engineering - Part 1: Required Skills

For sure some of you have already asked yourselves: What makes you as a good leader either in business or in private?
The answer to such kind of questions is diversified. The good news is: there were already a lot of studies, surveys and investigations to figure out which characteristics and skills all successful leaders have in common and which strategies they all undertake. 

I would like to share with you which in my opinion are the most important ones. So, when you want to be a leader and take over responsibilities such knowledge may help you.

1. Delegating tasks:
You should delegate the tasks. It does not help you when your employees deliver their tasks to you just because there are some situations involving risk or problems. Instead, ask them what they propose to solve the problem. They can work out e.g. two suggestions, which can then be discussed. When the employee finds a solution to a problem, the commitment will be more and the task has more chances to be achieved. 

2. Motivating your people
There are basically 4 things that motivate people:
1. To enjoy the task and to be enthusiastic about it
2. To take over responsibility and control
3. To achieve success
4. To receive recognition
As a leader you can only prepare the environment so that a person develops motivation.

3. Figuring out the values of people:
You need to figure out the values of your people. When you know the values of your people, you can motivate and acknowledge them much better! Start by knowing your own core values.

4. Training your communication:
As higher you move in your career-ladder as more you need to communicate with all type of people. One of the most important things in communication is to give Feedback:

How to do it in the right way?
1. Explain the behaviour of the person without an evaluation of the person: E.g. you came late on Monday and on Tuesday.
2. Evaluate the behaviour of the person (I-message): I attended the meeting alone and this was not ok for me.
3. Behaviour recommendation: E.g. I suggest that next time you are on time.

Important note in the end: Feedback needs to be accepted by the person who receives it.

5. Using the right asking strategies:
As a leader you can control and direct a situation by asking the right questions!
I recommend a mix of:
Open questions: How can we make this or that? No go is: Why did you do that? This leads to a justification and your colleague will build a wall.
Closed questions: Mostly used at the end of a conversation: Is there a further statement of you?
Scaling questions: E.g.:

o A: How does the group feel today from 1 to 10?
o B: We feel around a 8.
o A: That is good. Last month it was only a 5. So, I see our new changes starting to work.

6. Leading by aims using the SMART-strategy.
In general, we need to set aims to be

This is a well-known formula and concept, but it often fails because of the M (measurable) and the T (time). Our project contains aims which have no or the wrong evaluation criteria. Therefore, it can be impossible to make a clear and structured evaluation. The timeline set also can prevent the project to be successful. There are too many tasks scheduled in too less time.

7. Develop the maturity level:
People can be usually classified within 4 maturity levels:
1. Low competence, low commitment
2. More competence, more commitment
3. Competence and commitment are in the right balance: This level is the best for coaching!
4. High competence and high commitment: leading by aims!
Your challenge as a leader is to develop your employee to level 4. Then, you can focus only on leading by establishing aims.

You need to train those skills and you will get measurably better in you leadership. For daily training I put it on my office-door and every time I leave office I get a short reminder.

Part 2 and 3 can be found here:
Leadership in Engineering - Part 2: Working Principles Leadership in Engineering - Part 3: Systems theory & compensatory feedback effect 

I wish you all the best!