Chapter 43

What Makes an Outstanding Employee, Manager, or Organization?

 

43.1.   Introduction

 

No engineer worth his salt wants to be at the bottom of the list, to work for a poor supervisor, or to work for a non-competitive company.This chapter covers all three of these topics.It begins with a discussion of what it takes to be an outstanding engineer.This is followed by a discussion of what are the qualities and characteristics of outstanding managers and ends with a discussion on outstanding corporations.

 

43.2.   What Makes an Outstanding Engineer?Itís Not All Technical!

 

There are four major qualities that help to make an outstanding engineer and they are shown in Table 43-1.Being in the right place at the right time and being lucky helps.Each of these qualities is further defined in the remaining subsections of this chapter section.

 

 

Table 43-1. Required major qualities for an outstanding engineer

 

1.      Knowledge

2.      Communication skills

3.      Interpersonal skills

4.      Appropriate personal characteristics and actions

 

 

43.2.1.           Technical Knowledge

 

First, one must be technically knowledgeable; this includes several items.One must understand the possible and applicable technologies.He/she must know how to apply each of the technologies and what are the strengths and weaknesses of each.That person must make sure that his/her work is correct.If one doesnít know the answer, he/she show know where to find the answer (without just asking his/her supervisor) or how to go about finding the answer.That person also should make use of all reasonably available sources of information.This doesnít mean repeatedly beating oneís head against a brick wall, but it does mean spending a reasonable amount of effort to solve the problem on oneís own.

 

In addition to being technically knowledgeable, one must have technical common sense.First, one must understand what the potential customer wants, both in terms of capabilities and form.Second, one must be knowledgeable of what the competition offers, including its shortcomings and long-comings.This also includes knowing what is and is not cost effective.It also involves knowing what can go wrong and what the associated impact will be.One must also keep life-cycle values, not just initial values, in mind.Finally, one must understand the difference between a primary product/service and a secondary one.

 

43.2.2.           Communication Skills

 

Obviously, communications skills can be separated into written and oral capabilities.Each is very important in its own way.Written communications skills are used with both people that one can and cannot communicate with orally easily.Written communications also provide a more permanent record.Written communications must be technically correct and specific/detailed enough.For example, a project report is sufficiently complete, if another person or team could complete the activity and produce exactly the same result as the original person or team envisioned.Written communications must also be grammatically correct.Anything else creates suspicion of the technical content.

 

The material must be written to the appropriate age level and technical knowledge level of the intended audience.It must be written in a clear, effective, and concise manner.It also means that any specified space limitations are met.Both common and technical slang and jargon should be avoided.While it is important to be clear about the subject matter, fifty examples are not required or wanted.Donít take five pages to describe or discuss what can be covered in one well-written concise, but complete page.Your readers will appreciate for this.Make sure to define the terminology and units used.The Mars Climate Orbiter failed because one design team used English units and another design team used metric units (not just a trivial detail).Be sure to include visuals; remember the saying that ďa picture is worth a thousand words.ĒNot only should visuals be included, they should be referenced in the text and the reader should be told what he/she is to learn from the visual.

 

Oral communications skills involve both talking and listening.A few comments on listening need to be stated up front.First, no one ever learned anything while talking, with the possible exception later, that they had made a fool of themselves.Second, God gave people two ears and one mouth, so listening must be more important.As a part of the transition from listening to speaking, think before you speak.Remember the old adage that ďan empty drum rattles the loudest.ĒSpeak up and be grammatically correct; otherwise the importance of your words may be lost on your listeners.Admit when you donít know something, but find the information as soon as possible and provide it to the appropriate person/people.

 

Public speaking has a few more rules and is important to your professional career.You need to be able to speak before a large group of people.The best speakers can sell their audience something they donít need or even want, such as selling snowballs to Eskimos.If there is not a public address system, be sure to speak up so that you can be heard in the back of the room. Also donít be regarded as a politician (unless you are running for public office) or a used car salesperson; both of whom have a reputation for saying whatever their audience wants to hear.Donít take more than your allotted time and be willing and able to shorten your presentation on the spot.Any good speaker can do that.Finally, remember the three rules of public speaking: (1) stand up to be seen, (2) speak up to be heard, and (3) sit down to be appreciated.

 

43.2.3.           Interpersonal Skills

 

Interpersonal skills involve how one functions with other people.The golden rule of interpersonal skills is to treat other people as you want them to treat you.There are three classes of people in the workplace and you must deal effectively with each group.Those people who are above you on the organizational ladder are your superiors and their actions can make or break your future professional career.Treat them with respect and support them in any legal and ethical way possible.The second group is your peers (those you are parallel to you) in the organization.Support them and they will support you in return.Donít support them and they will torpedo your ship.Finally, donít ignore people below you in the organization.Often, you can learn from them.Also, remember that you may someday be working for some of the people in these last two classes.You donít want them to have a grudge against you and to take the opportunity to get even with you.

 

Understand thoroughly how the organization foe which you work really functions.Be politically smart; understand and use company politics to your advantage when it is to the benefit of the company.Remember that secretaries have tremendous power; they determine who gets to see their bosses and who doesnít.Also, remember that the customer (or client) is always right unless your organization is willing to do without the customerís (or clientís) business.If you feel that the customer is wrong, politely attempt to explain why you believe that the customer is wrong.If you suggestion is accepted, great; otherwise be prepared to do the work the way the customer wants it done, since the customer is paying the bill.

 

Finally, a word is in order to engineers about working with the human-relations or personnel department.This department often runs interference for the organization by screening potential employees.However, this department does not make the decision on whether or not to hire a particular engineer; the department where the engineer will initially work makes that decision.The human-relations department, at most, may determine is the employment offer is within the guidelines of the overall organization.When considering working for a company, remember that the best that you will be treated is when the company is attempting to hire you.Finally, remember that the human-relations department always follows the company line and rarely supports the individual employee in his/her time of need.

43.2.4.           Personal Characteristics and Actions

 

Personal characteristics and actions involve how you appear to other people and how you respond to them.Some of this may seem like a repeat of the previous chapter, and it is, but it is so important that it deserves repeating.The same three categories (workplace, interpersonal, and personal) will be used as before.This time the characteristics will be phrased in the form of questions.The workplace characteristics questions will be asked first as shown in Table 43-2, followed by interpersonal characteristics questions in Table 43-3, and the personal characteristics questions in Table 43-4..

 

 

Table 43-2. Examples of needed workplace characteristics

 

1.      Is the person an outstanding co-employee?

This includes such considerations as being intelligent, having common sense,

being factual, and being creative.

2.      Is the person a contributor?

This includes such considerations as being committed, being a team player,

being cooperative, being productive, being industrious, being inquisitive, being

motivated, and being a self-starter.

3.      Is the person a professional?

This includes such considerations as being honest, being ethical, having a

positive attitude, being loyal, being dependable, beingcompetent, being

responsible, being objective, and being trustworthy.

 

 

 

Table 42-3. Examples of needed interpersonal characteristics

 

1.      Does the person interface with other people in a positive manner?

This includes such characteristics as being courteous, being considerate, being

diplomatic, being polite, being tactful, and being friendly.

2.      Is the person fair to co-employees?

This includes such characteristics as being open-minded, being truthful, being

unbiased, and being unselfish.

 

 

 

Table 42-4. Examples of needed personal characteristics

 

1.      Is the person well-mannered?

This includes such characteristics as being straightforward, being modest, being

humble, being humorous, being perceptive, and being sensitive.

2.      Does the person have a positive attitude?

This includes such characteristics as being confident, being courageous, being

energetic, being fearless, being willing to take a chance, and being an optimist.

3.      Does the person have a positive work ethic?

This includes such characteristics as being mature, being organized, being

flexible, and being persistent.

 

 

Your personal actions make a major impression on other people.Remember the old saying that ďactions speak louder than words.Ē†† Actions can be divided into several groups.Time-related actions are not only important, but have a tremendous impact on how people will judge you.For this reason, they will be presented first (see Table 43-5).An attempt has been made to list them in their order of importance.The second group of actions relates to your work habits.The actions identified with work habits are listed in Table 43-6.

 

 

Table 43-5. Examples of needed time-related actions

 

1.      Be punctual

Habitual lateness is immature, a professional insult to your co-employee, and

repeated excuses are worthless.

2.      Donít procrastinate

If your are either assign to or agree to do something, do it in a timely fashion;

excuses are worthless.

3.      Donít wait to the last minute to start doing something

Things always take longer that expected; Murphyís law has been proven

correct numerous times.

4.      Meet deadlines

They may be as important as the actual results.

5.      Manage your time appropriately

Attempt to make progress on all fronts every day.

6.      Plan a schedule of what you want to accomplish each day

You will be interrupted many times each day, butyou will make much more

progress than without the schedule.

7.      Donít expect too much to soon

You have an entire professional career in front of you, and Rome wasnít built in

a day.

 

 

The next group of actions involves the relationship between your supervisor and you.These are important because they determine how you supervisor will or will not reward you for your actions or lack thereof.Several examples are provided in Table 43-7.Self-improvement is another major group of actions.This group plays a major role in your career advancement; it includes the items listed in Table 43-8.How you deal with other people is the final group of actions.It is no less important than any of the other groups; it includes the items shown in Table 43-9.Two last actions donít really fit into any of the above lists, but are very important; they are shown in Table 43-10.

 

43.2.5.           Five Final items

 

The first two items are associated with your personal assets.It is important to stay healthy by eating well, getting plenty of exercise, getting plenty of sleep, and doing thing in moderation.Also, it is important to maintain oneís personal hygiene; this should go without saying.Each of the remaining three is separate.Enjoy your work; if you donít, attempt to find out why not.Maybe you need to look for another job.Have fun, but maintain the proper balance.Do you live to work or work to live?Get involved in outside activities including professional, civic, volunteer, and religious activities.You will not only make the world a better place to live, but they look good on your resume and they will be a welcome change from your regular work activities.

 

 

Table 43-6. Examples of needed work habit actions

 

1.      Donít agree to participate in doing something unless you are willing to meet the

associated deadlines -

Missing deadlines will ruin your reputation as fast as anything.

2.      Complete what you start -

Otherwise, you will be considered a quitter.

3.      Have a good work ethic -

This means work hard and work smart.

4.      Be a contributing member of the team -

Others donít like covering for you.

5.      Be willing to be the team leader -

Leaders advance faster than followers.

6.      Be a willing, cooperative follower when necessary -

There are often too many chiefs and not enough Indians.

7.      Be detailed-oriented -

It will help tremendously in preventing mistakes.

8.      Admit and learn from your mistakes -

Be sure not to make the same mistake twice.

9.      Give credit where credit is due -

Other people will be more supportive if they are given credit for their

contributions.

10. Absorb information quickly and retain it -

Learn something new and positive each and every day.

11. Have the courage to do the right thing even if it is unpopular -

It will prove to be the right decision in the long term.

12. Be willing to make decisions quickly with the information available -

Leaders must make the correct decisions quickly.

13. Be able to cope with emergencies -

A cool head generally prevails and will be recognized for his/her

accomplishments.

 

 

43.3.   What Makes an Outstanding Manager?Itís Getting the Most Out of People!

 

An outstanding manager needs to be technically knowledgeable.Depending on the specific assignment, the manager may or may not need to be at least as technically knowledgeable as the combination of those working under his/her supervision.Sometimes the manager is not required to be a technical guru. In any case, the manager must be able to correctly evaluate the results of those working under his/her supervision.Being technically incompetent isnít an allowable option.The manager must also be a technical facilitator.Basic project management and business skills are imperative for a manger to have.People skills and leadership traits are two other areas where knowledge and experience is necessary.These are addressed in the following two subsections.

 

 

Table 43-7. Examples of needed employee-supervisor actions

 

1.      Keep you supervisor informed -

Donít let him/her get blindsided.

2.      Always make your supervisor look good -

You will be rewarded in return and the word gets around if you backstab others.

3.      Take frustration and rejection in stride -

This will cause satisfaction and acceptance to occur more frequently.

4.      Take criticism in a positive manner -

Learn from criticism and donít just complain about it.

5.      Donít go around your supervisor if there is any other alternative -

Your supervisor will find out about it and you will suffer the consequences.

 

 

 

Table 43-8. Examples of needed self-improvement actions

 

1.      Strive for continuous self-improvement -

This will expand your skills and help you to promote further and faster.

2.      Donít be afraid to ask questions -

Remember your teachers saying ďthere is no such thing as a dumb question.Ē

3.      If you canít say something positive about the person, donít say anything about

Him/her -

If it is negative, people are likely to know it already if it is true; people that

generally are negative get a reputation for always being negative.

4.      Be proactive (if it were easy, anyone could do it) and not reactive (I give up) -

Think of the challenge as an opportunity to demonstrate your skills and

capabilities.

5.      Exercise self-control -

You donít want to be referred to as the unguided missile.

6.      Be a lifetime learner -

It will help make your job easier and aid your career advancement.

7.      Be able to conduct a conversation will almost anyone -

Ask them questions about themselves, their families, their work, etc. (people like

to talk about themselves.)

8.      Be a good storyteller and slightly theatrical -

This may help you to get your point across, but donít come off as the company

clown.

9.      Have a career plan and follow it -

Review and update it on a regular basis.

 

 

 

Table 43-9. Needed actions for dealing with other people

 

1.      Show respect for other people and their opinions -

In return, they will show respect for you and your opinions.

2.      Help other people solve their problems -

In return, they will help you solve your problems.

3.      Avoid associating with the wrong people -

You will be the loser and the one who gets hurt.

4.      Enjoy being with other people -

You canít live alone in a cave in Todayís world.

5.      Donít take your work problems home to your spouse and family -

They deserve better.

 

 

 

Table 43-10. Two other needed important actions

 

1.      Dress appropriately -

If you want to command respect, you must dress appropriately.Many companies

have reduced or eliminated their casual dress codes because of how poorly

people dressed.

2.      Donít make excuses -

People have already heard them.Excuses get very old very quickly.People,

Who make excuses on a regular basis, are considered unreliable and

untrustworthy.

 

 

43.3.1.      People Skills Are Essential

 

An outstanding manager must have several different types of people skills.The first group to be described includes those associated with new or young employees.In this group of skills, the manager must do the things listed in Table 43-11.The second group of skills required by an outstanding manager involves working with all supervisees, regardless of the amount of experience each supervisee has. The manager must do the things shown in Table 43-12.Other management skills that an outstanding manager must have include the items listed in Table 43-13.

 

43.3.2.      Leadership Traits Also Are Required

 

There are many traits that an outstanding manager must either have or develop.Many of these traits will result in good people skills.These traits include those shown in Table 43-14.Finally, an outstanding manager must be able to understand the other personís position; this means putting him/herself in the other personís shoes (position).

 

 

Table 43-11. Examples of skills required for managing new or young employees

 

1.      Be a mentor or provide one for each person coming under his/her supervision.

2.      Be a good teacher.

3.      Be willing to delegate work to his/her new supervisees, but must provide the

necessary goals and directions.

4.      Allow new supervisees to learn by doing.

 

 

 

Table 43-12. Examples of management skills needed to manage all employees

 

1.      Be supportive whenever a supervisee has an opportunity for promotion and/or

advancement.

2.      Not criticize supervisees publicly Ė it should be done in private and be done on a

constructive manner.

3.      Listen to supervisees and be sympathetic to their personal problems.

4.      Communicate with supervisees so that they know what is expected.

5.      Know what is occurring in his/her group and the company as a whole.

6.      Be fair, open-minded, and honest.

7.      Understand that supervisees have a personal life that may include personal

problems.

8.      Be supportive when a supervisee do good work or has a problem.

9.      Motivate and challenge supervisees.

10. Be patient, particularly with new/young supervisees.

11. Provide the necessary communications link between upper-level management

And his/her group.

 

 

 

Table 43-13. Examples ofother required management skills

 

1.      Must show leadership and lead by example.

2.      Must be a team player.

3.      Must respect those both above and below him/her as well as peers.

4.      Must be an effective decision maker.

5.      Must ask the right questions to get the right answers and be afraid to ask them

again until he/she receives the right answer.

6.      Must have his/her priorities right.

7.      May have disagreement within the group, but present a unified front to the outside

world.

8.      Must not be a gossip.

9.      Must run efficient and productive meetings.

 

 

 

Table 43-14. Examples of traits required by an outstanding manager

 

1.      Knowledgeable

2.      Self-confident

3.      Team-oriented

4.      Logical and to-the-point

5.      Risk taker

6.      Intuitive and trustful of own gut-reactions

7.      Careful in decision making

8.      Competitive

9.      Mature

10. Conscientious

11. Highly energetic

12. Enthusiastic

13. Charismatic

14. Dominant

15. Emotionally stable

 

 

43.4.   What Makes an Outstanding Organization? Reputation is Extremely Important!

 

There are four essential components to an outstanding organization; these are shown in Table 43-15.Without great people, most organizations will be mediocre.Even with great people and great resources, great leadership is absolutely essential.Great resources imply all of the items listed in Table 43-16.The remaining material discussed in this section is subdivided into the following four subsections: (1) corporate organization, (2) customer or client commitment, (3) employee commitment and (4) stockholder or owner commitment.

 

 

Table 43-15. Essential components for an outstanding organization

 

1.      Great people

2.      Great leadership

3.      Great resources

4.      The right sense of purpose

 

 

43.4.1.      Corporate Organization

 

An outstanding corporate organization can almost always be described in one of two ways listed in Table 43-17.The first group of characteristics that is essential for an outstanding corporate organization involves achievable goals and proper planning.The items shown in Table 43-18 are the goals and planning elements that an outstanding corporation must have.

 

 

Table 43-16. Components of great resources

 

1.      Great facilities

2.      Great equipment

3.      Outstanding suppliers

4.      Outstanding subcontractors

5.      Great components and supplies

 

 

 

Table 43-17. Possible outstanding corporate structures

 

1.      It is the leader of the pack and working hard to remain the leader.

2.      It is not the leader of the pack, but is working harder or smarter than the leader.

 

 

 

Table 43-18. Necessary elements for an outstanding corporation

 

1.      Must have foresight and a series of short- and long-term plans.

2.      Must have corporate goals and be committed to those goals.

3.      Must never be satisfied with its current situation or condition.

4.      Must eliminate any incentive to build large complex, internal organizations.

5.      Must provide incentive to simplify processes and streamline operations.

6.      Must promote growth and expansion.

 

 

Leadership is the second group of characteristics that is essential for an outstanding corporate organization.The elements of leadership should include those items listed in Table 43-19.The organization itself must have a special set of characteristics that include the elements appearing in Table 43-20.

 

43.4.2.      Customer or Client Commitment

 

A commitment to its customers or clients is imperative; this involves a number of elements including those appearing in Table 43-21.

 

43.4.3.      Employee Commitment

 

An outstanding organization also must have a commitment to its employees is it is to be or to remain successful.Some of the elements involved in employee commitment include the items for the employee shown in Table 43-22.


 

 

Table 43-19. Required leadership elements for an outstanding corporation

 

1.      Must be ethical.

2.      Must understand the industry in which it competes.

3.      Must have competent management who are caring and knowledgeable.

4.      Must be team-oriented.

5.      Must encourage open, two-way communications.

6.      Must stimulate innovative thoughts and actions.

7.      Must be innovative and willing to take a risk.

8.      Must explain to employees why a major policy decision, particularly if unpopular,

was made.

9.      Must manage with common sense and not with a policy and procedure manual.

10. Must partner with stockholders.

11. Must provide employees with feedback on their performance.

 

 

 

Table 43-20. Necessary special characteristics of an outstanding organization

 

1.      Must have earned and maintained its respect.

2.      Must be flexible and able to alter it direction in a short period of time.

3.      Must have the best products or provide the best services.

4.      Must have better people than its competitors.

5.      Must have better equipment and machinery than the competition.

6.      Must have managementís complete support.

7.      Must have good marketing.

 

 

 

Table 43-21. Examples of an outstanding corporationís commitment to its customers

 

1.      Must be fully committed to its customers or clients.

2.      Must stand behind its products and services.

3.      Must understand the customerís or clientís needs and desires.

4.      Must deliver quality products or services on schedule and within budget.

5.      Must not forsake it existing customers in an effort to acquire new customers.

 

 

43.4.4.      Stockholder or Owner Commitment

 

Last and not least, there must be a commitment to the stockholders or owners.With the possible exception of owners who are independently wealthy or who are owners of professional athletic teams, stockholders or owners are in business to make money.This means that the corporation must do the things listed in Table 43-23.

 

 

Table 43-22. Examples of an outstanding corporationís commitment to its employees

 

1.      Must have opportunities for development and advancement.

2.      Must have competitive pay and good, employee-tailored benefits.

3.      Must have a good work environment including the necessary support.

4.      Must provide continuing educational opportunities.

5.      Must provide the necessary training.

6.      Must feel that they are essential and important.

 

 

 

Table 43-23. Examples of an outstanding corporationís commitment to its owners

 

1.      Be financially stable.

2.      Provide the stockholders or owners with a greater return than if their invested in

certificates of deposit at their local bank.

 

 

43.5.   Summary

 

To get a head start on a great professional career, a young engineer needs to have developed an attitude and a set of actions that will provide him/her the opportunity to get ahead.Essential to having the highest probability is selecting a great company for whom to work and having a great initial supervisor.This chapter has attempted to present a set of selection criteria for the young engineer to use.