Effective Engineering e-Newsletter – 1/08/2004
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Herding Cats: Management Challenges 4
Tom Dennis – President, Effective Engineering [email@example.com]
e-Newsletter is the fifth in my continuing “Herding Cats” series
(see also eN-031106 – Herding Cats: The Art of
“Managing” Engineers, eN-031120
– Herding Cats: Management Challenges 1, eN-031204
– Herding Cats: Management Challenges 2, and eN-031218
– Herding Cats: Management Challenges 3) that addresses some
management challenges in the form of specific engineer personality types, and
approaches that may be helpful in “managing” them.
Since not all personality types create problems, this e-Newsletter
address three very positive types. Clearly,
every engineer is an individual, with characteristics that are unique.
The personality types that are described here are purposely more
extreme than will normally be the case, and will emphasize one specific set of
characteristics, whereas most people have a variety of personality
characteristics. Every situation
is unique, and should be treated in a unique fashion. Further, every manager has his or her own approach, and what
I describe is just one person’s view, mine.
The Solid Citizen:
The Solid Citizen is not a flashy person, and will not likely set the
world on fire, but she/he is someone you’d like to have on your side when
you’ve got work to get done. The
Solid Citizen does the work consistently and ably, and has solid
technical skills that she/he employs in a dependable and trustworthy fashion. The Solid Citizen is generally content with her/his
role in the organization, usually as a solid individual technical contributor,
not looking to take on management or administrative responsibilities.
She/he works well with others in a collaborative approach.
When you give an assignment to a Solid Citizen, you have high
confidence that it will be done on time, with high quality, and with little
fuss. The Solid Citizen is
the foot soldier that is essential to a successful organization; not everyone
can or wants to be a superstar.
You should recognize the Solid Citizen for the good work she/he
does, and this recognition should be in public in front of others.
Let the Solid Citizen know that her/his efforts are appreciated
and valued, and that others should emulate such efforts.
Let this person know ways in which she/he can improve her/his
performance, and ways that she/he can advance in the organization.
Also let the Solid Citizen know that there will always be a
place for her/him in the organization, regardless of whether or not she/he
wants to move up in the technical or management chain.
Treasure the Solid Citizens; much of your success depends on
The Valued Expert:
The Valued Expert is the person who understands all of the
esoteric details about particular aspects of the products you are developing.
He/she may not be the person who understands the “broad picture”,
but he/she is essential in understanding the deep knowledge of specific areas
that are highly relevant to the development of a product, and for getting the
details right that can make the difference between a successful and an
unsuccessful product. Often, the Valued
Expert is not interested in managing or overseeing the work of others, but
in honing his/her specialized skills. A
good Valued Expert is one who works well with those around him/her, and
is also willing to share his/her knowledge and expertise and to educate others
so that they can, with time, become valued experts as well.
Where the Solid Citizen is the foot soldier, the Valued
Expert is the specialist.
The skills and expertise of the Valued Expert are critical to
the success of the product and to your success.
He/she should be encouraged and rewarded, and recognized publicly for
the value he/she brings to the organization.
A reward that will be truly appreciated by the Valued Expert is
actively encouraging participation in additional courses, seminars,
conferences, or industry standards committees in his/her area of expertise.
These are activities that can enable him/her to continue to hone
his/her skills, and can give recognition beyond the immediate organization.
Monetary recognition is also appropriate, although this should be given
in private. Also, encouraging the
Valued Expert to train others, if this suits him/her, can be of value
to both this person and to others in the organization.
As with the Solid Citizen, the Valued Expert should be
treasured and empowered to flourish.
The Rising Star:
The Rising Star is someone who stands out and quickly rises above the
crowd in ways technical, managerial, or both.
He/she rises to every occasion, and consistently exceeds expectations.
The Rising Star may have started as simply a hard worker, a Solid
Citizen, but quickly demonstrated that he/she wanted more than to simply
do the job well. He/she has natural intelligence and leadership skills and
takes every task and skill to a level above and beyond those of others.
What’s more, a good Rising Star doesn’t flaunt his/her
capabilities, but uses them in productive ways to advance the group as a
whole, and to help to advance the skills of other individuals in the group.
It is generally very easy to spot a Rising Star; everyone in the
organizations can easily recognize and appreciate him/her.
The Management Approach: First, be very grateful if you have a Rising Star
among your group. You are truly
blessed. Second, publicly
recognize the outstanding performance and contributions of the Rising Star
and do whatever you can to both encourage the Rising Star to continue
to contribute and flourish, and to encourage others to emulate the
characteristics and behavior of this person.
Let this person know how he/she can continue to grow and advance, and
work to remove obstacles that may impede such growth and advancement.
Recognize that there is a need for, and value in, spending the
appropriate time at each level of advancement to gain the necessary skills;
you don’t want to push this person to the next level prematurely.
At the same time, you need to recognize when this person is ready to
advance, and not hold him/her back. The
Rising Start is a true asset to any organization, and should be
recognized as such and coached in ways to maximize both his/her contributions
and his/her opportunities to succeed and excel.
These are just three more of many personality types that you will come across
in engineering (and other) organizations.
I will get into more in subsequent e-Newsletters.
The key is to recognize the various personality types as early as
possible, and work to address the problems or opportunities that they may
bring. You don’t want to
destroy individuality or mold everyone into an automaton.
At the same time, you don’t want certain individual behaviors to
destroy team morale. You must
walk a fine line, and find what works best for your organization using a style
that fits you.
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