This is a guest blog by Jeff Perry
As engineers, we learn massive amounts of equations, corollaries, theorems, and laws. These typically apply to mathematics or scientific laws that must be understood in order to make appropriate engineering designs and calculations. However, have you ever wondered if these scientific laws that the natural world follows have applications to our personal growth, development, and leadership? In my opinion, the answer is a clear “Yes!”
In this post, I’ll take examples from some of the most commonly known scientific laws of physics — Newton’s Laws of Motion. I’ll show you how these fundamental laws apply to the movement and progress of people and teams, not just physical objects. Then, I’ll provide suggestions actions, or “motions,” you can take in your own leadership.
“An object in motion will stay in motion, and an object at rest will stay at rest, unless acted upon by an outside force.”
Essentially, any movement (or lack thereof) we have is constant unless something changes it.
As you consider a team you work with or lead, are they stagnant or moving? Often projects, initiatives, and teams can get to the point where they are “at rest” and making hardly any progress. In this case, we need to consider what “outside force” we can call upon to put some appropriate positive pressure on and get things moving again. The truth is, there are always other forces seeking to slow us down or stop us, so it’s up to us as engineering leaders to find the forces needed to keep the group moving.
Motion: Determine the project, initiative, or team that is most stagnant, and make a plan to apply an “outside force” to get it moving again!
Force = Mass * Acceleration
Virtually every student who takes some sort of physics or at least physical science class learns this equation. So much about how the world around us moves can be explained by this simple mathematical law.
It also explains a lot about how we move through challenges and opportunities in our lives. As engineering leaders, aren’t we almost always wishing we could accelerate change? The amount and direction of acceleration is determined by the amount and direction of the force applied. There are all sorts of techniques we can use to try to accelerate projects, but it’s proven that one of the most powerful influences is accountability.
The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) did a study on accountability and found these results:
The probability of completing a goal if you:
- Have an idea or a goal: 10%
- Consciously decide you will do it: 25%
- Decide when you will do it: 40%
- Plan how you will do it: 50%
- Commit to someone you will do it: 65%
- Have a specific accountability appointment with a person you’ve committed to: 95%
Motion: Identify an individual or team goal that is critical to accomplish. Be personally accountable by publishing the goal and creating an accountability appointment with another person or team to push you toward achievement.
“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
Let’s apply this law to interactions with those we lead and interact with. How often is it true that when we approach people with resentment and negativity, that’s the reaction we get back? The same is typically true when we come to people with genuine concern and kindness — they’ll usually respond in-kind.
I see this to be true with those I lead, including and especially with my children. A few days ago, I was working on a project and my 4-year-old daughter kept getting into something I didn’t want her to. All I kept saying was “No, stop!” Let’s just say that didn’t help the situation. When I finally took a deep breath and looked her in the eye to consider what she was feeling, we made progress and were able to find something more interesting for her (and less disruptive for me) to do. Even more importantly, there was peace again in the home.
Motion: Consider a difficult or even toxic relationship with someone else and look inside yourself. Are you doing anything in your actions or feelings that would continue to actually invite negative reactions from the other person? We can only change ourselves, so rather than waiting for the other person to change, why don’t we actually lead and take the actions we know we need to take to invite more positivity into our relationships?
What other scientific laws do you apply to leadership? I’d love to hear about them, and how you’ve applied them in your organizations and teams.
About Jeff Perry
Jeff has an uncommon ability to grow people in technical organizations, with the engineering skills to align culture and teams with innovative, high-tech initiatives. He eagerly shares his passions for culture, creativity, engineering, technology, and good business.
After years spent as a technical contributor/leader in software, mechanical, and manufacturing engineering environments, Jeff decided to become an entrepreneur and started More Than Engineering. His passion is to help technical individuals and leaders use the fundamental principles of science and engineering and apply them to their own leadership and personal growth. To do this, they need to be more than just engineers — they need to be humans who create. Jeff started More Than Engineering (morethan-engineering.com), a service to coach and grow engineers beyond their technical skills and increase their positive impact in their organizations and communities.
Using his unique blend of technical and business experience/education with a knack for training and coaching, Jeff can help people see in themselves what they can’t see, and achieve more than they thought possible. With his mature outlook on relationships and circumstances, Jeff can quickly rise above and see the big picture in order to recognize opportunities to solve debilitating issues facing people and projects.
Jeff is a talented speaker and trainer, having delivered presentations and workshops to diverse groups large and small.
Personally, Jeff loves making delicious homemade ice cream, visiting county fairs, playing with his two beautiful daughters, and learning new stuff, and he has a goal to jump higher so he can dunk a basketball. Feel free to reach out to Jeff on LinkedIn or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share about the scientific laws of leadership.
Please leave your comments, feedback or questions in the section below.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success