The role of engineering managers demands a complex skillset; you have to speak the language of both engineers and clients, as well as acting as a bridge between different departments in your organisation.
You’ll also need to enhance the analytical and organisational skills you learned as an engineer to lead your team through complex tasks, manage projects successfully, and add value to your organisation.
Here are the top six skills you need to develop to achieve your full potential as an engineering manager.
The ability to lead your team to achieve their goals is crucial for engineering managers, and is really a set of several skills in one. First, you need to be able to envision the end results and the success of your projects. Second, you need a strong sense of purpose so you can inspire and motivate your team, giving direction while trusting and empowering them to achieve their goals. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you need to lead by example. When your people see you have a positive attitude and are committed to positive outcomes, they’ll be inspired to follow suit.
2. Decision Making
When you’re an engineering manager, people look to you for guidance, answers, and on-the-job decisions. You’ll need to use a mix of logic, experience, and instinct to make the right call. Remember different situations call for different approaches, so stay flexible. Your team will respond well to you if they see you can choose confidently between different options.
The buck stops with you; the results depend on your decisions. When results are good, it’s a pleasure to share that responsibility with the whole team. But when something goes wrong, it’s on you to take responsibility for your team. Everyone makes bad decisions sometimes, so don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes and use them as opportunities to learn and do better next time.
Managers in any field need good communication skills, but they’re particularly vital for engineering managers, who need to interact with people with vastly different levels of technical expertise, simplifying complex concepts into something non-techies can understand without feeling patronised. Social skills are every bit as important as the harder skills on this list.
5. Attention to Detail
The complexity of engineering means you’ll need to be very detail-oriented in every aspect of your work, as a simple mistake could lead to a system failure. You need to understand all aspects of a project, including making sure your team’s work is accurate, in order to make good decisions. The strongest leaders have one eye on the details and the other on the big picture. Which brings us to our final point…
Learning to delegate is perhaps the biggest culture shock for any new manager. If you’re always down in the details, you won’t have the time or bandwidth to step back and look at the big picture. Don’t try to do all the work yourself–you’ll burn out and your project will fail. Delegating is more than just handing out work, it also involves understanding which people are best suited to each task, as well as overseeing the results and being available to answer questions throughout the process.
Becoming a manager doesn’t mean you’ve arrived. To achieve success for your organisation and for yourself, you need to keep learning and growing.
If you’re interested in taking the next step in your engineering career, get in touch today to discover how we can help you.