This is a guest blog post by Pamela A. Scott
This is how it went at the high school career fair. I was talking with students about what they wanted to do career-wise. “I want to be a manager,” one teenager said proudly.
“Why do you want to be a manager?” I asked.
“Because they make the big money,” she said with a smile on her face. “It’s easy.”
I knew it was going to be a long afternoon.
Are You a Manager?
Different workplaces have different job descriptions for “manager.” This one is courtesy of Indeed.com.
“An Engineering Manager uses their industry knowledge to oversee a variety of activities. They may coordinate and direct building activities on a construction site or activities related to maintenance, testing, quality assurance, operations, and production at a manufacturing site.”
As a manager, you know you have a host of responsibilities. This blog focuses on people management—managing yourself and your staff.
People Are Different
You know that people are different, but are you aware of how those differences show up? Let’s look at what people want or need from you when you set up a meeting.
- People want an agenda for the meeting ahead of time. They want to know why they are giving up precious work time to sit in on your meeting. Give them an agenda, with topics and time frames. Be sure to send it to attendees preferably a day ahead of time. Introverts want time to read and consider the agenda before going into your meeting. Extraverts can usually flex if you give them the agenda an hour or so ahead of time.
- I assume you’ll have questions prepared. What happens when you ask an open question in the meeting? Does everyone jump up with responses? Or is it crickets? To ensure you get the information you need, direct your questions to the extraverts first, one by one. They will respond quickly. That’s because extraverts think out loud. They have to talk in order to think.Then ask the questions of the introverts and you should get some answers. Introverts want to think through your question and the possible solutions before sharing their responses with you and the group.
People Want to Be Appreciated
Have you ever had a puppy? You see them on TV ads all the time. They’re cute, entertaining, full of love for you. They want to make you happy.
Most engineers I’ve met aren’t quite that expressive, but they do want to make you — their manager — happy. They want to impress you. They want to know you think they’ve done a good job.
Your job, as manager, is to let people know you appreciate them. Here are some simple statements you can use to make individuals happy.
- “I appreciate you.” Simple, to the point, no elaboration needed. When you do your morning walkaround to check in with staff, take a few minutes to say “[Employee], I appreciate you.” “We’re so glad to have you on staff.”
- Always use the name of the person you’re talking to. People like to hear their name. If you can’t see their name on a name tag, ask them their name. I always ask the name of the person who is helping me on the phone or at Sam’s or wherever. I make a point of saying, “Thank you, Ajlal, for helping me with this.”
If you’re on the phone trying to get an answer for something, please realize the person you’re talking to is probably not the person who can solve your problem. I usually say, “I know it’s not your fault that [whatever]. I’d like to thank you [person’s name] for helping me out.” You’ve just made a new friend for life. And you’re happier, too.
People Want to Understand What’s Expected
I hope this isn’t news to you: No one can read minds, not even yours. Reflect for a moment on the last conversation with your banker or insurance agent. Did you leave that conversation thinking, “Huh?”
As much as you think you’re communicating with staff, it’s likely that someone is sitting there asking themselves, “Huh?”
Make it easier for your staff to get clear on what you expect from them. And do it early, before the work begins. And remind them that it’s OK to ask for help. And it’s OK to make mistakes. That’s probably how you got to where you are as a manager.
- “Here’s what I expect from you on this assignment.” If you want DeShay to meet the first milestone on the job in X hours, tell DeShay that specifically. It could sound like this. “DeShay, this project is something new for you. It should take you X hours. If you run into trouble, talk to me.”
- Set office hours just like your professors did when you were in school. Let people know what times are open for them to meet with you to review work and ask questions. As a manager, you are very busy. You want to help staff, but you also need to get your work done.
Yes, you have a host of responsibilities. Never forget that your attention to people management is one of the most important challenges you face.
About the Author
Pamela A. Scott is an executive coach and founder of MentorLoft, a coaching firm that works with CEOs and execs to prepare their Next Gen leaders to run their company. Pamela specializes in coaching engineers and CEOs of professional service firms. For more information, visit www.mentorloft.com.
We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share on how to be a good manager.
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To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP