Management is a lot like designing the perfect system.
Leadership is like creating the ideal warehouse solution for your customer. Proper engineered system design comes from carefully planning the design, acquiring all the correct components, and putting them together in the right way to provide a complete solution for your customer. Application of these principles ensures an effective leader not only succeeds in daily tasks but also contributes to the success of those they manage.
Provide a Schematic for Success
First and foremost, the key to any effective plan is communication. Just as you map out a warehouse solution in order to provide a “road map” to follow, you want to create a similar road map for those you supervise. Instead of assuming someone understands what’s expected of them, be clear in your expectations. You spend time painstakingly plotting out a design in AutoCAD- don’t forget to plot out similar blueprints for those you manage.
People who are new to the industry may be excited and overwhelmed, which can lead to details being overlooked. You can help ensure they get off on the right foot by instilling the importance of product knowledge, which can be learned through studying literature and seeing product working in the field. When I was starting out, I found visits to clients to be of the utmost importance; seeing the products in action really helped me make sure details didn’t get overlooked.
Feeling personally invested in your projects is natural and helps ensure you give every project your all. Be careful to not give more than you have. Lead with passion and dedication for what you’re doing, but don’t become so wrapped up that you lose your clarity and overall vision.
There’s no disputing the fact that successful leaders are driven- your determination and performance are part of the reason you’re now in a management role. It’s important to remember, though, not to spread yourself too thin. Don’t take on more than you can handle. If you do, then the critical components of your project may suffer.
Just as product demonstrations are important in convincing a customer that a solution is right for them, demonstrations of leadership are important to inspire and guide those you supervise. As a leader, you’re not only a manager, but also a role model. Just as you listen to the customers, be sure to listen to those with whom you work. You approach customers with respect and integrity, and you need to do the same with those you’re managing.
Inspire others with your leadership. People get more excited about their work when they feel their supervisor is excited about what they’re doing, too. To really help others understand how important their work is, take the time to give details. Explain “why” they’re doing what they’re doing. This action will help them learn much faster than simply telling them what to do.
Look for ways to improve your leadership and communication skills. I’ve found seminars and books such as How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie to be important not only in work-related situations, but also in my personal life. I also still look to my own bosses and mentors and try to learn from their example.
Just as being a good engineer means thinking outside the box, so does being a good leader. By drawing on your past experiences and education, you can provide a solid foundation for those you work with to not only grow as engineered-systems professionals, but also as future leaders.
|Meet the Author
Christine Voyles, 37, is engineering manager for Conveyor Solutions, Inc. (Schaumburg, IL). A 13-year veteran of the material handling industry, Christine holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Purdue University.