Real World Engineering
Ten Hints for Successful Team Leadership, Part 2
If you find yourself in a new leadership position and would like a little help, here are some very practical ideas.
5. Keep in touch. Peters and Waterman popularized the concept of “management by wandering around” in their 1982 book “In Search of Excellence.” Email is a great tool, but informal communication such as face-to-face, voice-to-voice, or even chat-to-chat provides much more information about how the work is progressing. Most of us are hesitant to voice our frustrations in a email that can live forever and be forwarded, but a simple, “How’s it going?” may elicit a lengthy and detailed description of any current frustrations or roadblocks that might adversely affect progress. Sometimes shooting the breeze clears the air.
6. Give them what they need. Make sure your team members have everything they need to keep moving forward, be that equipment, software, technical support, freedom from interruption, clear areas of responsibility, information, and even the occasional pat on the back. (Although you might want to draw the line at the masseuse and the foosball table.)
7. Be a conduit, not a bottleneck. Often the team leader is the main contact between team and client, or team and management. Some clients do not want their technical people to be “distracted” by questions from your team members, and will appoint a single point of contact on their side who only wants to talk to you. If that is the case, and everything has to pass through you, be a pit bull. If your people need input or answers, don’t take no for an answer. After you have made yourself a pain in the lower regions to your contact, if you are not getting the answers you need, politely suggest that a short meeting be set up so that “my geeks can talk to your geeks.” Trust me, this works.
8. Lead by example. I don’t know who “they” are, but they also say that great leaders lead by example. Be open. Be honest. Don’t panic. Don’t yell unless you have to. If you don’t know, say so, but you’ll find out. Be professional. Have some fun. Be friendly, but not necessarily always a friend. Expect a lot from yourself and from your team. Work smarter, not harder or longer. Your team will respond in kind.
9. Know your team. Yogi Berra is alleged to have said, “Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.” What’s going on inside your team’s heads? What are they good at? What do they think they are not good at? (Are they right or wrong?) What outside issues do they have? Do they need some slack or some discipline? Which individuals pull their weight? Which don’t? Who communicates? Who doesn’t? Who pitches the ninth if it is not a save situation? What is the infield fly rule?
10. Share the love. Take the heat. If the project is a smashing success, it was because of the little people who busted their humps to make it happen. If things went the other way, well then, the team tried its best. It’s true that “There is no ‘I’ in team,” but there is no “them” in it, either.
So, when the dust clears and the project is online and running, and you walk away and the operators are asking, “Who was that guy?” remember that if you have done your job well, your reward will be forthcoming. You’ll get to do it all over again!
Also read Technical Lead as Mentor.
This post was written by the control engineering team at MAVERICK Technologies, a leading system integrator providing industrial automation, operational support and control systems engineering services in the manufacturing and process industries. MAVERICK delivers expertise and consulting in a wide variety of areas including industrial automation controls, distributed control systems, manufacturing execution systems, operational strategy, and business process optimization. The company provides a full range of automation and controls services – ranging from PID controller tuning and HMI programming to serving as a main automation contractor. Additionally MAVERICK offers industrial and technical staffing services, placing on-site automation, instrumentation and controls engineers.