Here’s my talk for today’s presentation at the NSPE (National Society of Professional Engineers) Annual Conference:
When an optimist looks at a half-filled glass, he sees the glass half full. When a pessimist looks at the same glass, he sees the glass half empty. When an engineer looks at the same glass, he sees the glass as being twice as big as it needs to be.
As engineers, we look at the world through a different set of lenses than the rest of the world. Engineers want to get to the bottom of how things work. They tend to be technical in nature. While the rest of the world may see us as robots, we are more than mechanical devices going through the motions.
Engineers are people too!
For the next 50 minutes, I want to help you better manage the engineers who work for you.
Here’s our agenda for our time together.
First, we’ll look in the mirror to get a better understanding of who we are.
Next, we’ll spend some time talking about how you can get to know your team members better.
I’ll give you some tips for managing performance for your direct reports, and I’ll give you a powerful tool for managing your team members.
We’ll spend some time helping our team members develop a plan for their future.
And we’ll finish our time together brainstorming ways to encourage your team of engineers to be innovative.
Before we get started, I wanted to share a few things about me. I graduated from Grove City College in 1994 with a degree in mechanical engineering. After graduating, I worked for a small building automation company in north Jersey and Manhattan as a project engineer. During my year and a half with the company, I installed building automation systems on the top ten floors of Rockefeller Center and the Liz Claiborne World Headquarters. I moved to Landis and Gyr Powers which eventually became Siemens Building Technologies where I have been for over 21 years. I started as a project engineer and became a project manager which gave me opportunities to work on projects all over the Greater Philadelphia area. In 2000, I went back to school to work on my MBA at Penn State University. For the past 10 years, I’ve been an operations manager. I lead a team of engineers, project managers, technicians, and installers. And I love my job!
I’m married with two teenagers. And I have a passion for personal growth, leadership development, writing, and speaking. I’m excited to be here today to share some of the things I have learned along the way which have helped me (an engineer) lead my team of engineers.
If you want to be successful managing your team, it’s important that you get to know yourself first.
When we think of becoming better leaders, we think of tools and techniques. We think of books and seminars. We think of skills we must add or improve to connect with those we are leading and to help others navigate their paths to becoming stronger contributors to the overall good of the team. Much of our leadership development is externally focused.
How can we get our team member to do this? Or how can we get our team member to stop doing that?
In our quest to become better leaders, we often forget to look in the mirror.
Becoming a better leader starts by learning to lead ourselves first.
I don’t know about you, but my podcast feed is full of podcasts about leadership. My nightstand is full of books about leadership. And my blog reader is jammed with blog posts and articles about leadership. It’s great to feed our minds with great material, but we must learn to step back from time to time and develop habits to lead ourselves.
As a leader trying to figure it out, I believe self leadership starts when we take time to STRETCH ourselves. To help you see what I mean, here’s an easy way to remember seven keys to leading yourself:
Too many leaders believe busyness is a badge of achievement. In the rush to hustle more than the next guy, leaders forget how to stop and be still. Learning to still yourself takes practice. Start with a minute every hour. Or start with 10-15 minutes in the morning before the days responsibilities take over.
Become an observer of life. Keep track of what is happening. Keep a journal. Spend a few minutes at the end of the day capturing the details of the day. If we don’t write it down somewhere, we’ll forget it.
It’s not just enough to still yourself and take note. You have to take time to reflect. For me, this means getting away for a couple of days once or twice a year. Reflection provides the opportunity to gain wisdom from what we have just experienced, and it gives the chance to ponder the future.
One of the best ways to lead yourself is to open yourself up to feedback from others. When I think of key relationships, I think of my family, my close friends, and my boss. Who are the people who will help you see the things you need to see when you look in the mirror? These are the people who can help you take your leadership to the next level.
It’s easy to fall into a rut when we are leading. In order to break out of our patterns, we must be willing to take a risk. Leading yourself requires you to willingly move past unproductive routines. Trying new things on a regular basis helps leaders learn things they may have otherwise overlooked.
Whether you or an introvert or an extrovert, you need community and community needs you. By involving yourself in community, you gain opportunities to lead others outside your team. Community is also the place where you can be led by others outside your normal circle of influence. When you lead in the community, you gain valuable insights to lead better in your organization. If you want to lead yourself to become a better leader, get involved in your community today!
Leadership too often is a race to see who climbs the corporate ladder more quickly. If you want to be an effective leader, you must analyze your motives. Why are you leading? When your season of leadership is over, what legacy will you have left? The best way to lead with impact is when you lead with a servant’s heart. Find ways to help others, and your leadership will advance to a whole new level.
If you paid attention, you may have realized that these seven keys encourage leaders to S.T.R.E.T.C.H. As you lead in your organization, don’t forget to STRETCH by leading yourself first.
Piece of Paper Exercise
Learning to Look for Differences Exercise
Tools To Help You Learn More About Your Team Members (and About You)
Myers-Briggs Temperament Index – My MBTI (I am an ESTJ. I’m more of an Extrovert than an Introvert. I rely on Sensing as opposed to iNtuition. I’m much more of a Thinker than a Feeler. And I’m more likely to Judge than to Perceive.)
The MBTI was constructed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. It is based on the typological theory proposed by Carl Jung who had speculated that there are four principal psychological functions by which humans experience the world – sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking – and that one of these four functions is dominant for a person most of the time. The MBTI was constructed for normal populations and emphasizes the value of naturally occurring differences. “The underlying assumption of the MBTI is that we all have specific preferences in the way we construe our experiences, and these preferences underlie our interests, needs, values, and motivation.”
16 different types
StrengthsFinder 2.0 (Get book) – My Strengths (Harmony, Achiever, Responsibility, Disciplined, and Analyzer)
Wikipedia: DISC is a behavior assessment tool based on the DISC theory of psychologist William Moulton Marston, which centers on four different behavioral traits, which today are called: dominance, influence, support, and conscientiousness. This theory was then developed into a behavioral assessment tool by industrial psychologist Walter Vernon Clarke.
There are many different versions of the questionnaire and assessment. Some date back to the 1940s while others are more recent, more accurate, and more advanced.
Communication Style Assessment
Whether you are a manager of direct reports or not, I hope you’ll find this list helpful in understanding ways to get better. Success doesn’t happen by accident. Success happens by being intentional, and this list offers suggestions – no, essentials – for being intentional with the performance management process.
If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Right?
If leadership stress, exhaustion, and inadequacy are common, there has to be a solution.
I’m sure we could point to many things that make leadership easier – getting more sleep, exercising regularly, reading, learning, and finding a mentor. These are all valuable actions a leader can take to improve their leadership capabilities. There another solution that too easily gets overlooked and sometimes misused.
Delegation is what I’m talking about.
I’m not talking about pawning off all the unpleasant tasks on someone else and acting as a dictator. I’m talking about spreading out the work, so a leader and team can be more effective which will lead to less stress, less exhaustion, and a deeper feeling of adequacy and fulfillment. Delegation is “the assignment of responsibility or authority to another person to carry out specific activities (Wikipedia).”
It seems rather simple. Spread the work out. Ease the load of the leader. Use the leadership talents of others in the community. And make the community happier.
Here are six reasons leaders should delegate:
If you want to overcome stress, exhaustion, and feelings of inadequacy in your leadership, it’s time for you to start delegating.
My Shark Tank Experience
What other companies are doing
A chance to brainstorm
Questions, Answers, and Contact Information
I volunteer on Sunday night as an adult leader at my church’s high school youth group, and I have a confession: I don’t always enjoy it. I sometimes feel out-of-place. I sometimes feel like I’m the “old guy.” And I occasionally wonder if I’m making a difference.
(How did I become the “old guy”?)
This weekend, I was talking to my wife about some recent thoughts and observations regarding my role.
Without fail, I end up having a few conversations each week with students. These conversations confirm my initial decision to volunteer with this ministry.
Students arrive at youth group with all kinds of baggage.
I can’t solve their problems, but I can be there to listen. I can give them feedback based on my experiences. I can be there to be a positive example in their lives. And I can be there to let them know they are valued.
In my discussion with my wife, I was reminded of the importance of plugging into those who are younger. If you are reading this, you more than likely have experiences and wisdom to share with others. You have the opportunity to become a mentor, an advocate, and a cheerleader for those coming behind you.
If you want to leave a legacy…if you want to be stretched, be intentional. Invest in those who are younger than you.
When you do this, you’ll discover:
If you feel like you still have a long way to go (and we all have a long way to go), seek out a mentor for you.
I have a renewed respect for those who invested in me. I think of my youth leaders. I think of my teachers, I think of my bosses. I think of my parents. I’m guessing they had similar concerns about my generation, and yet they continued to invest in people like me. They listened to me. They encouraged me. They pushed me forward. They loved me, and they helped me feel valuable.
And it’s your turn too!
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