IEEE Group Answers: “What makes an engineering manager great?”

Last night the San Francisco / Silicon Valley IEEE Technology Management Council met to examine the question: “What makes an engineering manager great?” Nearly 30 people participated. Over 40 good ideas were presented and considered. In the end the group ranked the following skills, attributes, and behaviors most important.

It is interesting to compare these results with those that two other groups generated here. Also interesting is how similar these results are to those generated by a group considering the most important things a technical manager can do to retain key contributors, which can be found here. While there are common themes that run through each group’s responses, the results are far from identical. This makes sense to me. Each group is unique, and has different values and needs. There is no ‘One True Way‘ to be a great manager. Certainly there are core skills and knowledge, but to rise to the level of greatness requires really understanding the group to be led, and giving them what they need.

Tier One
Enthusiastic & inspiring
Praise & reward
Listen well
Ask questions rather than give orders
Clear communication
Have a vision
Interpersonal skills
Respect staff input

Tier Two
Appreciates the service of others
Team builder
Build consensus
Know each staff member’s strengths and weaknesses

Tier Three
Recognize individuals, share blame
Big picture knowledge
Focus on fixing, not on blame
Ability to prioritize
Engender ownership
Clear goals

To learn more about the San Francisco / Silicon Valley IEEE Technology Management Council
click here.

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1 thought on “IEEE Group Answers: “What makes an engineering manager great?”

  1. AndrewCole

    Hi, Thanks for posting the results so quickly Chris. I didn’t write down all the points, but I think I got the big ones. If I group these, I get a dramatic (and unsurprising) winner:
    39 votes: Effective communicator
    … 13 – Listen well
    … 12 – Clear communicator
    … 8 – Honesty
    … 6 – Establish clear goals
    21 votes: Recognize efforts
    … 13 – Praise and reward
    … 8 – Appreciate service
    14 votes: Integrity
    13 votes: Enthusiastic & inspiring
    13 votes: Ask questions, don’t order
    12 votes: Have a Vision
    11 votes:
    Interpersonal skills
    Respect staff input
    8 votes:
    Team builder
    Build consensus
    6 votes:
    Engender ownership
    I suspect that if we’d been able to go further and group them we would have found even more common ground. Perhaps an exercise for a follow-on event?


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