10 Essential Skills Every Engineering Manager Needs
Today’s world of work values soft skills greatly, and these transferable skills can often be the difference between getting hired and getting left behind in your career. If you are an engineer who is looking to move up into engineering management and other higher-level positions, improving your soft skills could help you get what you want from your career. In engineering management, there are several soft skills that are usually required in order to succeed. You’ve got the training and you’ve got the experience, but could your soft skills be holding you back? If you want to improve your chances of boosting your engineering career, these are the main skills that you will benefit from working on.
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Working on your leadership skills will certainly make you a better candidate for an engineering management position. As a manager in engineering, chances are that you will be leading a team of people every day, and becoming the type of leader that inspires others to work to the best of their ability will make you extremely valuable to employers. A good leader knows that there’s much more to leadership than simply giving orders and overseeing work. Being a good leader involves working on several different soft skills including verbal and nonverbal communication, flexibility, empathy, and much more.
An engineering manager must be able to get their point across clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. Being unable to communicate ideas and instructions clearly to your team could result in disastrous consequences for a project, so working on your communication skills is crucial. Click here to find out more about the importance of communication in engineering management along with the other soft skills that are crucial for your success as an engineering manager. But it’s not just your ability to get your point across clearly that you should focus on improving. When it comes to management, nonverbal communication is also very important, and understanding things like how your body language affects the impact of the message that you are communicating can help you go far. In addition, listening is also a hugely important part of communication that you will use often as an engineering manager. Developing your active listening skills will help you better understand and communicate with your team to get things done right.
Being flexible and able to adapt quickly to changes in the workplace is a desirable skill in any industry. However, it’s especially important in engineering, where projects might be changed during the process or big adjustments might need to be made right at the last minute. In engineering, you’re used to working with exact information and there is usually no room for any gray areas. However, moving up into engineering management means that you’re dealing with people, which means that you need to be even more comfortable with potentially unexpected changes. When you’re managing people, you’ll need to be ready for all the ups and downs that come with this; for example, what do you do if you find that you’re suddenly down a key team member because they have taken sick? An effective engineering manager will demonstrate a strong ability for flexibility and adaptability when managing their relationships with co-workers, employees, and other managers.
Emotional intelligence may not be something that has had to come into play very often in your career so far as an engineer. When you’re dealing with machinery and technology, you don’t often have to worry about emotions and feelings. However, upon moving up into engineering management, you will need to be ready to effectively manage and lead people, which can be very different from what you’re used to. Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to recognize and understand emotions in both yourself and others. A person with high emotional intelligence is often better able to use this awareness to manage their own behavior and relationships, which can improve their relationships with people in the workplace and earn them more respect from their team. And, the more you improve your emotional intelligence, it’s not just your workplace relationships that will benefit; you will also be able to apply it to your personal relationships.
Teamwork and Collaboration Skills:
A good engineering manager knows that there’s much more to success in their position than simply telling the team what needs to be done. The best engineering managers spend time actively improving their ability to work as a key part of the team and collaborate on projects with others. The best managers understand that being a respected and effective leader means working with their team and guiding them to produce the best results. To succeed as an engineering manager, it’s important to focus on developing your collaboration skills and understand the importance of working together in a healthy way to bring out the best in everybody.
Big Picture Thinking:
For many people who have a background in engineering, it can be all too easy to get very focused on one project at hand or even the difficulties of any particular day on the job. However, to succeed as a manager in engineering, it’s crucial that you’re able to see the bigger picture at any given time. This type of big picture thinking means that you are always looking beyond the issues that you’re dealing with or the projects that you’re working on right now, to see exactly how the solutions you provide and the decisions that you make are going to impact the company over the long term. Engineering managers who are able to think this way tend to be the most valuable to the leadership of their company.
Being able to solve problems quickly and efficiently is a huge part of any engineering management job. And the ability to problem solve well involves a lot of critical thinking skills. You will also need to be a creative person who is able to prioritize effectively and make the right decisions. When working as an engineering manager, you will be required to solve a range of both engineering and management-related problems, which will need a wide range of skills. To improve your critical thinking skills, it’s worth putting yourself in positions where you are required to think quickly on your feet and make the right decisions under pressure.
Sometimes engineering managers can solve problems more effectively by doing it themselves, however, there will be many circumstances that will require you to effectively delegate tasks to others. No one engineering manager is able to successfully do everything by themselves, so it’s important to learn how to delegate responsibilities and tasks to other team members. Successful delegation involves getting to know each of your team members on an individual level and getting familiar with their strengths and weaknesses. You should also be familiar with the level of knowledge that each team member has of any particular task so that you can figure out how much supervision they will require. Good engineering managers delegate the right tasks to the right people whether it’s passing work to people who perform best in a certain area or delegating tasks to team members who need to improve certain skills that a task can help with.
Decision making is a skill that’s going to come in handy when using all the other necessary skills to succeed as an engineering manager. Unlike many other engineering roles that you may be used to which often provide concise and clear instructions to the work that you complete, managerial positions are more likely to include making judgement calls. As an aspiring engineering manager, you will do well to learn how to assess situations that don’t always have clear right or wrong answers to work with such as when to make budget cuts, when to extend deadlines, delegating tasks to the right team members, or reallocating resources.
Openness to Feedback:
As an engineering manager, being open to both positive and negative feedback on your work can help you get far in your career. Being able to receive and work on constructive criticism is a key trait of a strong leader that will earn you respect from your team. The best engineering managers are prepared to take feedback from anybody who works with them, whether it is coming from somebody of a higher or lower rank. An employee who doesn’t or won’t respond to feedback is stopping themselves from developing professionally and growing within the organization. And, the more feedback you receive, the more information you will have at your disposal when it comes to improving your performance and boosting your professional development. Managers who are able to take feedback, even when it’s not what they want to hear, and put together a plan to act on the feedback given tend to be the most successful.
If you’d like to move up the ranks into engineering management, developing these key soft skills will help you get the career that you want. And many of these skills will stand you in good stead not only in engineering but any other industry.