Engineering Manager More than Quadruples Leadership Responsibility

This is the story of an engineer who went from getting in his own way to showing others the way.  If you’ve ever gotten in your own way, you’ll relate to his story.  This is running together on the site.

Richard was bored.  He was an engineer who had been promoted to manager over a team of four. Being a manager was exciting at first, but after a few months he realized the job didn’t challenge him. He felt he was still being underutilized. You know that feeling, right? That you could do so much more if they’d just give you the reigns?

Turns out Richard had a strong personal drive, an essential emotional intelligence (EQ) competency for leaders.  That drive was pushing him to seek a Director position. But Richard had never been to management training, much less had any leadership development. How could he move up the corporate ladder without those skills?

That’s when Richard sought out a leadership coach at DayBreak.

Since Richard’s goals were to increase his leadership capability, we first helped Richard answer the following questions:

  • What are the traits of a great leader?
  • What type of leadership suits the organizational culture?
  • What are the successful leaders in the company doing?

Next we evaluated Richard’s current leadership capabilities and identified the gaps.  And finally, we incorporated all the data with his natural leadership talent to create a vision for the type of leader Richard wanted to be.

One by one, we addressed the leadership skills. Richard was amazingly adept at taking a new concept, digesting it, and applying it to his own situations on the spot. You could almost see the gears turning in his head as he processed.  What an incredible feeling for both of us each time that proverbial light bulb went off in his head!  But Richard kept getting in his own way.  Have you ever done that?

Like many of us, Richard had fallen prey to ANTs.  ANTs are automatic negative thoughts. Richard had a habit of ‘awfulizing’ or thinking the worst without having all the data.  If there was even the most remote possibility of something going wrong, he would obsess about it.  And that would really take a toll on his productivity.  We had to help him get control of his thoughts.

We came up with a few self-awareness techniques to help Richard catch himself awfulizing. We then applied the ABCDE technique (see Martin Seligman’s work on Optimism).  It took some time, but eventually Richard was able to better manage his thoughts.  How freeing it was for him!  Imagine not having to spend time worrying about things that never happen.  And guess what he spent his time doing?  Practicing his new leadership skills and building relationships.

What was interesting about Richard was the combination of self confidence and self doubt.  He was keenly aware of his technical competence and his ability to grow as a leader.  What he doubted was if others recognized it.  When he had the opportunity to shine, he lacked the assertiveness to do so because he was uncertain how it would be received.

Improving Richard’s assertiveness involved getting him to face the fear of someone rejecting his idea and being able to self regulate.  Most of us relate to fear of rejection, right?  Once he was able to master his emotions around this, Richard became the king of assertiveness.

Does Richard’s story have a happy ending?  He was promoted to a director level position with five supervisors and over 25 employees in his organization.  Mission accomplished.