The ideal engineering boss. You wish you had one. And maybe you aspire to be one.
You’re contemplating what your future leadership role might be. Maybe it’ll be a supervisory one. What better way to prepare for the boss you want to be than to reflect on what you – as an engineer now – consider to be the ideal?
I’d like to share with you insights on my ideal – and not-so-ideal – engineering bosses.
Putting aside what you’ve learned from leadership and management training, what would you like to see in a boss?
I thought this would be a fun exercise. So I’ve put together a list of practices that my ideal boss would have. You can do this exercise too.
It can give you some insight on what to expect from your boss. How to get your needs met. And how to help your boss help you.
But it can also spark your own ideas for what makes a good boss. And you can use that to develop yourself. Use it to help you become one of those awesome bosses. To help you think about how you want to be as a leader.
When I say boss, I’m referring to the person you report to. The person responsible for you as the employee, as the engineer on their team.
Usually this is the person you interact with regarding your progress, your performance and your goals. Your career overall.
12 Practices that Make You My Favorite Engineering Boss
I’ve had several bosses in my career and each one had their own particular strengths and weaknesses. Pros and cons, if you will. And no one boss has all the great characteristics. But if I were to describe an ideal engineering boss for me, it would go something like this:
Here are 12 ways that my boss lives up to my ideal: She
- Prioritizes my development and wants me to succeed.
- Shows an interest in my work and in me as a person.
- Facilitates my growth and inspires me to take on more responsibility.
- Encourages me to move on and move up.
- Is proactive in meeting with me.
- Works intentionally and creatively to get me what I deserve.
- Is on the lookout for opportunities for me.
- Helps spread the word about the good work I’m doing.
- Gives me honest, helpful, and complete feedback.
- Gives me suggestions for training and improvement.
- Is transparent about the decisions that affect me.
- Has my back and supports my work.
Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a boss who does all these things? It’s certainly a tough standard to meet. It gives you much to strive for. But it informs the future you – you, the future boss.
Where Not-So-Good Engineering Bosses Get Trapped
Now let’s look on the flipside. We talked about some of the challenges that bosses are up against in Episode 31. And let’s face it, managing people is difficult and exhausting work.
In reality, we have bosses at all stages of development and success. Engineers and their bosses have to work together and figure out the best way to optimize the relationship.
I haven’t listed the practices of my non-ideal bosses. We could be here all day doing that. Instead, here are 3 common situations that highlight where many not-so-perfect engineering bosses get trapped.
3 common (and unfortunate) situations in engineering organizations are:
- Good engineers get promoted into managerial positions… even if they’re not good managers.
I have 2 things to say about that. First, organizations should provide good training and not assume that engineers know how to be supervisors.
And second, some people are just not the type to be managers at all. So if you’re not cut out for supervisory work, it’s okay to stay on a technical track or otherwise go where your strengths are.
- Managers put more emphasis on technical management than people management. Some organizations expect managers to do both. Which can put a lot on your shoulders as a boss.
My opinion is that if you are a supervisor, then your people should be your primary focus. You should be able to pay a reasonable amount of attention to them.
You have a key role in growing your people to meet the mission. And in helping them establish their careers.
- Managers get possessive of their good engineers and don’t like them to leave for promotions or new opportunities. They get good people who are knowledgeable in what they do. And they hang onto them.
When, rather, as a boss you should consider it your success when your people succeed. You should want – and facilitate – your people to move forward in their careers. And take on new challenges.
These are situations for you to watch out for and avoid getting stuck in as an engineering boss.
What do you think makes a good engineering boss? Who have been your favorite engineering bosses and why? What characteristics can you develop to meet the challenges of engineering management?
Quick reminder: Don’t forget to get your free copy of my guide “4 Steps to Commanding Greater Influence and Impact as a Woman Engineer.”
Next time on Her Engineering Career Podcast we’ll dive into what’s holding you back from your next job. Be sure to tune in for Episode 57.