The Best Attributes of Engineers & How to Upskill to Be a Better Manager

by | Feb 22, 2022

Use these 3 tips for better management training

national engineer's week spotlights tips for better management training

It’s National Engineers Week! Let’s take a moment to celebrate engineers and the value they bring into the world. And let’s look at how to get more from that value. 

Think about it. Engineers design, build and operate our roads, bridges, transit systems, airports, rail, machinery, robots, drones, computer systems and so much more. Without question, our quality of life would not be what it is today without the knowledge, skills, and ingenuity of engineers. 

In my program, Bridging the Gap to Management, I ask engineers to describe their natural attributes. Here’s a typical response: Problem-solver, logical, analytical, competent, detailed, organized, focused, methodical. These are powerful attributes that enable engineers to do what they do so well. 

Imagine if our leaders embodied these attributes! Sounds good, doesn’t it? What’s holding us engineers back from bringing these attributes into management and leadership? It’s an easy answer. We have a skill gap that, for most of us, is not recognized or acknowledged. That’s a shame because we know how to close a skill gap! 

I don’t know about you, but I get tired of hearing the stereotypes of engineers as poor managers and poor communicators. But to be fair, communication and management skills aren’t in our background. We aren’t taught these skills in school or, seldom, on the job. We’re too busy with the many hours of rigorous technical training. When it comes to management and communication skills, only one of four have these skills naturally. The rest of us must learn them, and we can! IF there is an inclination and support for doing so. 

In the Bridging the Gap program, I also ask participants to describe attributes of exceptional managers. Here’s the typical response: Empowering, servant, teacher, communicator, empathetic, listener, caring, honest, understanding, supportive. It’s a very different skill set! We can learn these skills

Like any other skill, it takes effort, training, and practice. Inexplicably, this training is rare and sporadic which is not conducive to retention and application. Attend any technical conference and you’ll see the same pattern. Technical sessions are packed. Sessions on management and communication (if there are any) are sparsely attended. But without these skills, particularly communication skills, relationships (with staff and clients) suffer, morale can deteriorate, productivity is reduced and, all too often, employees leave. 

Here are 3 tips for better management training:

  1. Insist that the professional conferences you attend include management and communication skills training.
  2. Insist that you and/or your staff attend this type of training at least twice per year. Anything less and the training is likely to fade within days or weeks. 
  3. Make the time to find the training you need to develop these skills. It’s invested time, not wasted time.

Let’s bring the best of engineers more fully into the world. It pays off in retention of staff and clients and makes the world a better place for us all. 


Author Byline: Founder and CEO of Blue Fjord Leaders, Shelley Row P.E. CSP, was named by Inc. Magazine as one of the top 100 leadership speakers. Professional engineer and former senior executive, she was recognized as one of the best minds in advanced traffic management systems.

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