Are You an Engineer Building a Management Career? – Part II: It Is Not about What They’re Doing Wrong

Here is part one if you missed it Part One.

Engineers focus a lot on what others should do and should not do, They forget that what others have done is already in the past and out of their control. For example, let us say that a colleague is always late providing information to you. One thing to do is to discuss with that person what you can do to help them deliver on time in the future. If that does not work, maybe you try to find ways to help them deliver faster in the future. Sometimes, you might let it go because the delay is not causing major problems. The key here is to think constructively of a solution that serves the purpose, maintains the relationship, and keeps you focused on the big picture. It makes sense on paper but engineers find this tough and here is why:

Engineers focus on the person instead of the problem

Especially if they are the “Exacting” type. In other words the perfectionists. The perfectionists not only demand perfection of themselves, but also of people around them. So they nitpick every flaw a colleague might have and focus on it instead of focusing the positive or the big picture. Then, the relationship suffers which leads to worse performance, and a toxic workplace. Here are some of the wrong ways engineers who are managers wrongly try to solve the issue. Remember none of the following works:

  1. Try to do the work themselves.
  2. Criticize
  3. Escalate
  4. Withdraw
  5. Get stressed

What would work better is:

  1. Ask the colleague for help
  2. Offer the colleague to help
  3. Find the WIIFM for the colleague
  4. Show the colleague your human side
  5. Appeal to their values not yours

Some engineers on a matter of principle say “why should i do all this to get the work done when it is his responsibility to do his work?” This is a big mistake in thinking because what matters to you is to get the work done and work can only done by people. people are not machines. so you cannot expect them to work as objectively as a machine. they have emotions, needs, problems and you better get used to it.

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