From the Assembly in ancient Athens to Dale Carnegie’s timeless How to Win Friends and Influence People, the art of persuasion is as ancient as language itself. But just as politicians tailor their stump speeches depending on their audience, so must leaders of engineers know their audience. Below are three ideas help you persuade engineers you are supervising.
Be Visionary but Realistic:
Engineers walk a fine line: They are asked to perform magic in a world where magic doesn’t exist. Yet to be an engineer is to be inspired by the possibilities present in the physical world. As a leader of engineers, one must learn to direct requests to an engineer’s innate love of exploration and discovery… just as long as that request is in the realm of the realistic.
Engineers have a reputation for being cantankerous and difficult to please. There is an ounce of truth to this stereotype, but much of it can be chalked up to misunderstanding — engineers simply care about their work and want to put forth the best possible product. That being said, if you put several people prone to grumpiness and perfectionism together, you’ll have a potential management disaster on your hands. Thankfully, it can be surprisingly easy to manage engineers and promote a harmonious work environment. They simply need a workplace that promotes productivity, individuality, and cooperation. Keep the following in mind as you strive to get your drama-prone engineering team back on track.
Quants and non-quants lead vastly different lives. Quants value structure, often to the point of rigidity. This is an endless source of frustration for non-quants, who tire of giving specific instructions at every turn and breaking up disagreements among stubborn engineers.
Leading a team of analytic-minded professionals can be shockingly difficult when your personality traits include flexibility and spontaneity. These qualities have value in the workplace, but they must be tempered to meet the specific needs of engineering teams. Detailed below are a few ways you can adapt your personality to fit in better with a team of quants.
Inform Non-Quants of the End Goal
Quants crave structure, so the more you can tell them about a given project, the better. When possible, provide your engineering team with a glimpse of the big picture. Without an idea of the end goal, they may continue to follow orders, even when those orders require fine-tuning.
Engineers have been portrayed endlessly in books, TV shows, and movies, but no form of media captures this profession quite like the longtime comic Dilbert. Although Dilbert is relatable for nearly anybody who has worked in an office environment, engineers hold an especially notable fondness for the comic strip, which satirizes the unique engineer personality type that so many people find difficult to understand. Highlighted below are several comics that perfectly capture engineers — and the complex job of managing them:
Engineers are smart and hardworking — and they like to let others know it. Common stereotypes suggest that they look down on other types of professionals, making group efforts with architects or marketing professionals a true headache for management.
Engineers are widely regarded as intelligent, talented, and hardworking individuals, but few people think of them as natural leaders. Engineering leaders may not always think or work exactly like conventional managers, but they do bring many valuable qualities to the workplace. Most are simply undeserving of the unfair criticism they receive from people who don’t understand the complexities of their work. Highlighted below are a few of the most destructive myths about engineers and leadership:
1. Engineers can’t be creative.
Engineers and their managers aren’t always proficient artists or wordsmiths, but they do hold the potential for creativity. It’s just a different, more subtle take on creativity. Engineers are, at heart, creators, and when allowed to approach problems in their own unique way, they can come up with some truly innovative solutions.