When companies promote engineers to managers, or hire engineering managers, the hope is that these individuals have the technical proficiency for the job but may lack some of the management or leadership skills for success. The top three skill-sets companies look for in an engineering manager are effective interpersonal communication, leadership, and critical thinking.
Effective Interpersonal Communication Skills
The ability to craft the right message to the right audience is not always easy. Effective communicators are conscious communicators. They carefully choose the words they use and are aware what nonverbal messages their body language is sending. For example, telling employees to do something in a loud voice, with arms folded across your chest, sends[CMW1] a negative signal.
Frequently interrupting people and not engaging in active listening are hallmarks of ineffective communicators. In contrast, effective communicators are good listeners who are able to build positive relationships with other employees.
A good leader must have is strong sense of self-awareness. Knowing one’s strengths and limitations is important, as is the ability to be self-reflective and open to growth which includes being open to constructive feedback. With these skills in place an effective leader can persuade, motivate, and empower their employees to do their best. Leaders who work on building relationships rather than assigning tasks are more likely to have high performing teams.
Critical Thinking Skills
Dr. Stephen Lucas, in his book, The Art of Public Speaking, explains that critical thinking is the combination of three concepts: the logical relationships among ideas, the soundness of evidence, and distinguishing fact from opinion. When listening to a persuasive appeal the first step is to decide if what the speaker is saying makes sense. The second step is to determine the soundness of the evidence and ask yourself questions like:
- Is this information relevant?
- Is the information timely?
- Is the information coming from a reliable and credible source?
- Does the source of the information have a particular motivation for making the argument?
The third step involves distinguishing fact from opinion. Many people are skilled at presenting their opinions as fact, but effective managers understand that there is a big difference the two.
Engineering managers who are technically proficient, use effective interpersonal skills and are able to think critically, are in high demand.
Kettering University’s Online Master of Engineering Management degree program work to develop the those essential skill areas that can take an engineer from being technically proficient to also be a high quality and effective manager.