Wednesday 17 June 2015

Leadership in Engineering - Part 2: Working Principles

In the first part of this series about leadership in engineering we discussed the basic leadership skills you have to learn and especially train.

Now it is time to look at the working principles on a daily operative level of business. I have observed them on my own when doing my army duties, internships and as well working as research associate at university.

To start with one of the most important ones:

“Practice what you preach”
You cannot obligate your own people to come in on Sundays for working while you play golf with friends. A good leader makes it differently: A good leader goes into the office as well! You need to practice what you are preaching.

“When people do well you have to forward the credits. When things go wrong, you have to take the blame and not your colleagues”
When you are not ready to act in this manner, you will not get the trust of your employee. And also they will not treat you with the right respect because they know that every time they do something well their boss will sell it as his idea. And by the end, the boss takes the credit. On the other hand, they know that when they make a mistake their boss will address it as the person’s mistake. Make it the other way: forward the credit and take the responsibilities when things do not go so well!

“Be the first who tries it out and take the risk”
It is accepted from you to be the first to jump into the unknown lake. If you’re not the first, you’re also not in charge! It would look strange to your employees if they have to manage something new and they have no idea what they are doing. Therefore, the leader has to try it out first to get a feeling if there is even a chance to do it in this way. Your people will follow your example.

“Have everyday a plan of attack list! “
The first thing in the morning is to actualize your list of attack.
My list has three columns:
1) Administrative stuff (those are the boring activities, but need to be done)
2) mails & calls: all the important mails I need to send are listed up there. I use the batching technique. This helps me to keep control over the mail activities.
 3) Tasks: general rule with tasks: important tasks always before urgent tasks. The task which adds the most value to the project / company should be done fist. The same rule applies to your people.

“Ask and accept help”
People know more than you. Of course, not always but you will have specialists on board of your team and they know some more answers. Never forget, they are hired to know more. People will assume that you know the things. As a consequence they will not tell you the things you may not know. But when you ask them for help they will help you. It builds up even more trust because people will see more human being behind the leading person.

“Show handshake qualities”
Always do the things you say. When you always do the opposite of what you’re saying nobody will trust you. Furthermore, nobody will follow you and give the best performance for you and your delegated tasks. Having a handshake quality is still the basis for all important projects and decisions.

See you in part 3!