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
Today is a significant day in my career. I officially start a new position as the head of a department responsible for providing building automation solutions throughout Eastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey, and Northern Delaware. I’m excited about this step and opportunity to serve and lead at a greater level. As I head into this new adventure, I’m working through a number of things I want to mark my leadership in this position. Today, I’ve give you a glimpse into my head.
I’m honored to be the featured guest on The Answers From Leadership Podcast with Joe Lalonde. My episode is titled Importance Of Stretching Your Leadership With Jon Stolpe. I’d be thrilled if you stopped by and gave it a listen. Click here (or subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher).
Then stop by and let me know what you think in the comments.
One of my favorite movies as a teenager was Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. It’s a teenage boy movie full of teenage boy humor. I think that’s why I liked it so much. I remember seeing the movie with a few of my friends, and the rest of the year we repeated lines from the movie to each other as we went about our activities.
In the movie, “excellent” was a word thrown around by Bill and Ted to describe anything they thought was cool, interesting, or fun. If the movie had been made a few years ago, it might be called Bill & Ted’s Phat Adventure or Bill & Ted’s YOLO Adventure or something similar.
I like the word excellent or excellence. Here’s how Wikipedia defines excellence:
Excellence is a talent or quality which is unusually good and so surpasses ordinary standards. It is also used as a standard of performance as measured e.g. through economic indicators.
Excellence is a continuously moving target that can be pursued through actions of integrity, being front-runner in terms of products / services provided that are reliable and safe for the intended users, meeting all obligations and continually learning and improving in all spheres to pursue the moving target.
Excellence doesn’t happen by accident. It takes planning. It requires repeated action. And excellence means constant analysis and adjustment along the way.
I want to be known for going about life with excellence. Despite this desire, there are several things preventing me from achieving excellence.
Come back tomorrow for thoughts on how you and I can make excellence a reality in our lives.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8
When I was a child, my parents measured my growth by marking my height on the door frame of one of the rooms in our house. I could see growth happening, because my mark kept getting higher on the wall. I eventually passed my mother. Then I passed my father. And eventually, my mark on the wall was over 6’5″ above the floor.
When it comes to my height, I stopped growing many years ago. But this doesn’t mean I stopped growing. I still pride myself on my appetite for personal growth. I read books. I listen to podcasts. I watch educational videos. And I hang out with smart people. I participate in these activities to make sure I keep growing.
Personal growth doesn’t happen by accident. If you want to grow (or STRETCH as I like to say), you have to be intentional.
Today, I’m excited to announce the release of Dan Black’s new eBook, The Little Book of Personal Growth.
In the short book, Dan unpacks the meaning of personal growth, and he provides a road map for helping readers create their own plan for personal growth. The book outlines the five stages of personal growth. Then Dan unveils the ten core benefits of engaging in regular personal growth. He discusses the components necessary for personal growth.
Dan does a great job recognizing that we have different learning styles. He describes nine methods readers can use for their own personal growth. And finally, he walks readers through a simple step-by-step process for developing a personal growth plan that will take you to higher heights on your personal growth chart.
(Please note: I received a preview copy of The Little Book of Personal Growth for free as a gift from Dan Black in exchange for my pre-purchase of his new eBook and for my agreement to participate on his launch team for this book. I was not required to provide a favorable review. I believe this book can be a helpful tool for being more intentional with your life and your personal growth.
Also to note: There are affiliate links in this post. Should you purchase The Little Book of Personal Growth by clicking one of these links, I receive a small percentage of the purchase. These funds are used to support The Stretched Blog and to extend ministry and missions to Guatemala. Thank you!)
I was shocked last week when my boss forwarded an email to me from our area manager indicating that the dress code for managers and salespeople in our area was being relaxed for the summer months (June 1st thru September 30th). I am no longer required to wear a tie Monday thru Thursday during this time period. In his memo, our area manager stated that he had reconsidered his long-held stance on more formal attire after reviewing the acceptable social norms in the industry.
Ties have been a requirement for managers and salespeople for years, and I honestly did not expect this news.
Thanks to my area manager’s memo, I learned somethings about leadership:
While my ties will miss getting out of the closet the next few months, I’m happy to give my neck a break.
A month ago, I attended the Foundation Leadership Program with 22 other colleagues from North and South America. (To read more about my experience, click here.) It was the best week I’ve had in my 20+ years with the company. One of my biggest takeaways from the experience relates to how I coach others.
Coaching others isn’t about giving the answers.
Coaching is about helping others discover the answers for themselves.
I’m a fixer, so I naturally want to dive in and figure out the exact steps necessary to overcome a challenge. Here’s the problem: Our team members don’t need a fixer. They don’t need someone else to do the work for them. They don’t need someone to do the thinking for them. When we as leaders jump in to fix things, we take away valuable opportunities for our team members to think for themselves and to take action.
As leaders, we need to give our team members the opportunity to learn, to think, to take action, to succeed, and to fail.
To effectively coach our team members, we should use the GROW Model for handling the discussions with our team members.
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the GROW Model:
There have been many claims to authorship of GROW as a way of achieving goals and solving problems. While no one person can be clearly identified as the originator, Graham Alexander, Alan Fine, and Sir John Whitmore all made significant contributions. Max Landsberg also describes GROW in his book The Tao of Coaching. Other similar models include collaborative helping maps in family therapy and Gabriele Oettingen‘s WOOP model.
This is what I learned in my leadership program:
Who are you leading? Maybe you are leading in your business or place of employment. Maybe you are leading in your community. Or maybe you are leading in your home.
Whatever the case may be, it’s time for you to help your team members GROW (or STRETCH as I like to say). Learn to become a better coach, and discover a path to greater success among those you lead.
If you’re looking for more ways to STRETCH yourself, sign up TODAY for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge:
You have lived with yourself your entire life. You should have a pretty good idea of who you are and what makes you tick.
In reality, many of us don’t really know all that much about ourselves. We look in the mirror to make sure our hair is styled nicely and our face is clear of any major blemishes, but we too often fail to look deeper.
Getting to know ourselves takes time, energy, and perhaps some expert advice.
Two weeks ago, while I was in Chicago for a leadership development program, we spent the better part of a day getting to know ourselves better. Before we can lead others well, we must learn to lead ourselves. And self leadership starts with self discovery. As part of this process, each of the participants in the program had to take the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Temperament Index). I’ve taken this assessment before, so it was not a surprise to me that my results showed 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.
Here’s what the report had to say about me:
ESTJs are logical, analytical, decisive and tough-minded individuals who use
concrete facts in systematic ways. They enjoy working with others to organise
the details and operations well in advance to get the job done. Although the
descriptors below generally describe ESTJs, some may not fit you exactly due to
individual differences within each type.
My MBTI results report had a lot more to say about who I am, how I tend to behave, and how I may need to adapt to potential pitfalls in my behavioral preferences. I learned a lot as a result of going through this assessment.
A couple of months ago, I did the Strengthsfinder 2.0 self assessment which helped me see my top five strengths: Harmony, Achiever, Responsibility, Disciplined, and Analyzer. My friend, Rusty Pang, recently helped me see how these strengths help to describe who I am:
“When I interpret your strengthfinders results in your personality, I see a consistent, reliable person who is a studied peacekeeper. You don’t like it when two or more people are in conflict, so you rely on your training and knowledge to fix the problem directly or create a system to promote cooperation.“
Rusty’s feedback was right on. I am completely stressed out by conflict. I want people to get along, and I want to find ways to bring resolution to situations where people don’t get along or don’t see eye to eye. When I can’t make this happen, I become restless, I lose my appetite, and I struggle to sleep well.
Learning more about yourself is more than taking a self assessment test, but this kind of tool can start you down the right path. Here’s a list of a few self assessments, you may want to try to learn more about yourself:
Once you have the results from these types of assessments, it’s extremely valuable to sit down with a coach or expert who can help you interpret the results to get the most of your self learning. Here are a few people I recommend you check out if you are looking for assistance in interpreting your results. They can help you learn more about yourself:
Once you learn more about you, you’ll be in a better position to lead yourself and others. What’s stopping you?
My head is full. My heart is very full. And my belly is pretty full too. This is how I feel after an intense week of leadership development.
Last week, I spent my time at the Eaglewood Resort & Spa in Itasca, IL (just outside of Chicago) with 22 other Siemens leaders from around the world. It was such an honor to be included with such wonderful company. My peers came from Peru, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada, and the United States, and we gathered for an exclusive leadership development course.
It will take a while for me to fully digest my experience, but I wanted to share some of my initial thoughts:
These thoughts only brush the surface of my experience last week. I left the week exhausted. I’ve spent a lot of time in silence since I left the resort on Friday afternoon. My head is full with ideas and questions related to how I will implement my learnings.
My heart is full, because I had the opportunity to dive fairly deep into the lives of several new friends. The coaches along with my colleagues left me feeling valued and accepted.
My belly is full, because they kept feeding us. Thankfully, I hit the fitness center four of the five mornings I was at the resort. This week I will get back into a more healthy and normal routine.
If you want to STRETCH your leadership, you need to invest your time and energy (and maybe some money) into yourself. This week was all about making that investment, and I’m so excited to move ahead with the new tools in my tool belt.
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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