What really makes a great engineering manager? Gallup polled 80,000 managers and discovered some surprising results.
The study found the best managers can discover and capitalise on each team member’s unique strengths. These are the top ten skills engineering managers need to be effective as leaders.
- Bringing People Together to Solve Problems
While this is important for managers in any discipline, it’s particularly important in engineering. Good engineering managers rally teams together by tapping into each member’s individual talent and using it towards the goals of the company. Communication skills are essential here.
- Ability to Give Constructive Criticism
Correcting employees can be incredibly hard, and ineffective managers often shy away from it. But a great engineering manager has to be able to deliver constructive feedback with tact and compassion. A good employee who cares about their success will want to know.
- Building Trust with Teams
Building trust in a team means leading by example and communicating honestly and effectively. Take responsibility and hold yourself accountable for the team’s failures as well as for their successes.
- Strategic Thinking
Don’t wait to develop your strategic perspective until you become a top manager; a dataset compiled by Folkman reveals that by then it’s too late. You need to develop your strategic thinking skills as early in your career as possible.
- Emotional Intelligence
Being able to identify and manage your own and other people’s emotions makes you emotionally intelligent. A manager who is tuned in to their team members’ emotions is a more effective leader. We’ve realised in recent years that the mental health of employees is as important as their physical health. Take the time to talk and listen to your people with empathy and compassion.
As an engineering manager, you set the priorities for the whole team, not just for yourself. You need to be able to define roles on a project clearly, assign tasks, manage project updates, and communicate effectively throughout.
- Ability to Inspire and Motivate Others
Your people look to you for support and guidance. Everyone wants to work for an inspiring leader who makes them feel enthused about doing their job.
- Decision-Making Skills
One of the best and worst aspects of an engineering manager’s role is knowing your decisions make the difference between success and failure. Strong leaders have the courage to make hard choices and the critical thinking skills to make good ones.
Positive feedback shouldn’t be limited to annual reviews and employee milestones. A good engineering manager knows when and how to use recognition to motivate employees, make them feel valued, and encourage good performance.
- Relationship Building at All Levels
The book Mind Tools for Managers: 100 Ways to Be a Better Boss found after surveying over 15,000 managers that the no.1 most important management skill was relationship-building. Above all, leadership is a relationship.