In mid-May, K. N. Gunalan (Guna) Ph.D., P.E., D.GE, F.ASCE, ASCE President 2020, presented on his experience on transitioning to management role smoothly as part of the YMC Career Booster Series. You can watch the recorded webinar here:Access recorded webinarWhat did you think of the webinar? Or what tips do you have about transitioning into a management role?From what I have been told about the field of bridge engineering, if I continue in this field, this transition to a management role will be much later than most of my colleagues due to the technical nature of the field.
Seek out both formal and informal opportunities to build your management and leadership skills and style. An informal opportunity might be to lead a project element or improvement initiative under your existing role. Formal opportunities might come in the form of volunteer work within professional societies or not for profit organizations. These will allow you to grow your skills and experience and test drive if management and leadership is right for you.
Develop your technical competence before broadening or moving to a less technical role. It is hard to go backwards. Your skills and experience within your area of technical competence will establish you as a solid engineer and give you 'street credibility' throughout your career.
If your employer has a leadership framework or defined set of leadership attributes, understand, and internalize it. Otherwise, develop your own leadership framework or set of attributes from reading, observing, or seminars. Such a framework can become a coat hanger to hang your personal learnings. It will give you something to measure and test against. Start to model enabling behaviors as appropriate. My employer at the time of my retirement used a framework with four pillars, Authenticity, Growth, Performance and Collaboration, to capture what was needed and expected in its leaders.Observe the behaviors of those in management and leadership roles. Think about what they are trying to achieve and their effectiveness in achieving these goals. Observe their styles and how this enhances or hinders their effectiveness. Keep a running log of the good, the bad, and the ugly.Finally, I would encourage you to investigate the differences and similarities between management and leadership. In my view, they are distinctly different skills but not inseparable. You can find some great insight by searching on Harvard Business Review or HBR.Regards,Mitch