Master these 10 common graces

The consummate professional rounds technical skills with a few common graces.

08/28/2012


Smith is the department chair of the Curriculum, Language, and Literacy program at Concordia University Chicago. She has more than 12 years of experience in adult teaching and training, and is a presenter at the 2013 Career Smart Engineers Conference.Take two incredible engineers; one is easy to work with, the other is not. Who would you hire or want on your team? The answer is pretty easy—you’ll pick the person who has better communication skills, is more positive when challenges are encountered, and has other tangible or intangible qualities that make him or her “easy to work with.” 

Defining “easy to work with” is not easy; doing so usually results in someone listing qualities or examples of behaviors, which gets mushy fast. But doing so is important. These behaviors, which I call “common graces,” if practiced, can genuinely help your career. 

This list that I use isn’t official, and undoubtedly you’ve seen many items on this list already. They’re self-explanatory, and they lend themselves to self-examination as well as a way to evaluate others.

My recommendation is to start with self-examination. See which of these you practice and which you don’t, and over time try to improve the ones you’re short on. I recommend that people choose no more than three things to improve over 12 months, so they don’t get overwhelmed and so the improvement sticks. 

When evaluating others, do the same thing—help them choose two or three to work on during a performance period, and give them feedback on a schedule you both agree on. 

Here’s my list of common graces. I’ve listed them and provided a little motivation, in case one particularly resonates with you. 

1. Call people back and respond to their e-mails in a timely manner. If you can’t answer a question right away, send an acknowledgement that you’re working on it and will have more in follow-up communication.

2. Do what you say you’re going to do, on time and on budget, or give advance opportunity for response if you can’t.

3. Listen to what people are saying; verbally summarize and check back to ensure you heard it right. This works great one-on-one and at meetings. The result is that you’ll achieve clarity not just for yourself, but for others as well.

4. Handwritten thank-you notes are an incredibly effective way to convey sincerity, to acknowledge someone going the extra mile. Have a batch of blank cards printed with the company logo with envelopes and a book of stamps in your drawer. It takes only a few minutes to make a lasting impression.

5. Spread the kudos from bylines in articles, papers, and presentations to verbal acknowledgements during staff meetings and project meetings with clients. Generally, I forward compliments sent to me or credited to me to the teams I work with, and name a few people who put forth extra effort or came up with something innovative.

6. Check in with contacts via phone once in awhile. Work through your contact list alphabetically, or the most important first, or the ones you haven’t spoken to in awhile. Checking in leads to all kinds of opportunities and spreads a lot of goodwill.

7. Start and finish meetings on time; distribute agendas ahead of time.

8. Work through problems by moving forward; banish revenge, anger, and disappointment from your work life.

9. Communicate expectations and consequences clearly. This allows you and others to save face during times of conflict or difficulty.

10. Keep people informed, especially during times of change. Rarely do we over-communicate in our work.


Smith is the department chair of the Curriculum, Language, and Literacy program at Concordia University Chicago. She has more than 12 years of experience in adult teaching and training, and is a presenter at the 2012 Career Smart Engineers Conference.  



No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
Control Engineering Leaders Under 40 identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn more about methods used to ensure that the integration between the safety system and the process control...
Adding industrial toughness and reliability to Ethernet eGuide
Technological advances like multiple-in-multiple-out (MIMO) transmitting and receiving
Big plans for small nuclear reactors: Simpler, safer control designs; Smarter manufacturing; Industrial cloud; Mobile HMI; Controls convergence
Virtualization advice: 4 ways splitting servers can help manufacturing; Efficient motion controls; Fill the brain drain; Learn from the HART Plant of the Year
Two sides to process safety: Combining human and technical factors in your program; Preparing HMI graphics for migrations; Mechatronics and safety; Engineers' Choice Awards
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
News and comments from Control Engineering process industries editor, Peter Welander.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
Anthony Baker is a fictitious aggregation of experts from Callisto Integration, providing manufacturing consulting and systems integration.
Integrator Guide

Integrator Guide

Search the online Automation Integrator Guide
 

Create New Listing

Visit the System Integrators page to view past winners of Control Engineering's System Integrator of the Year Award and learn how to enter the competition. You will also find more information on system integrators and Control System Integrators Association.

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.