Professional and Career Topics

  • 1.  Leadership/Management Assessments

    Posted 12-08-2021 12:44 PM
    We have a company of 18 employees and are formalizing our processes to promote individuals into Project Management (PM) roles within the company.  We would define ourselves as a structural engineering consulting firm where most of our project teams are made up of 3-4 individuals executing tasks over varying lengths of time (generally 4-8 weeks).  Also, I will add that PMs tend to be individuals with approximately 7-10 years of industry experience.

    As we add to our number of PMs, we are realizing that different individuals bring different styles of management as well as varying levels of strengths and weaknesses in different areas.  I'm wondering if any of you have used standardized tests to formalize this information, specifically as it relates to identifying styles of management and management strengths/weaknesses.  I understand that there are many types of tests out there (Myers Briggs, DISC, etc), but am looking for firms that actually use them as a tool to help facilitate the process of promoting individuals into leadership within the company.  Please share your experience on how this is working out for you.

    Thanks in advance for your responses!

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    Reuben Zylstra P.E., M.ASCE
    Principal Engineer / Partner
    Foothills Bridge Co
    Boulder CO
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  • 2.  RE: Leadership/Management Assessments

    Posted 12-10-2021 04:18 PM
    My advice is that you engage a human resources expert. Your people are your most precious resource and this is not an area where you can afford to get it wrong. There are also important legal considerations to advancement and promotion and you want to avoid issues that would create legal jeopardy for you and your firm.

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    Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE
    Houston, TX
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  • 3.  RE: Leadership/Management Assessments

    Posted 12-13-2021 06:20 PM

    Reuben –

    Kudos to you and your associates for taking the time for this thoughtful approach, as project management is key to so many aspects of a successful consulting firm.  As for standardized tests, I am not a fan (too many dark secrets to keep hidden!) as I have seen too many incorrect / improper uses without improvements in the success rate for the objective on which they were employed.

    As you further consider the matter, I humbly offer some additional thoughts for your consideration:

    - What do your clients value most from your firm?  Is it your firm focus on engineering expertise or completing projects in the most efficient way?

    - Will the PM's be at a different level than the engineers?  How will compensation differ between engineers and PM's?  Is such stratification for your firm desirable?

    - What is the job description for your PM?  What are the traits and skills PM's must have to be successful in your firm?

    - Will your talented engineers be compelled to "leave" engineering for project manager positions so they don't fall behind in compensation?  Will there be paths for engineers to progress based on their technical prowess?  Will that compensation be comparable to that for PM's?

    - Do your clients prefer to meet with the engineer or the project manager?  Will your projects flourish with communications channeled through the PM?  What customer service have your clients come to expect and how is that best delivered by your organization?

    - Have you considered an approach in which the engineers are familiarized with project manager principles so each can remain engineers but also become competent managers?  While not all are natural PM's, learning will elevate most to achieve core competencies.

    - Different PM styles are not necessarily a bad thing but minimum core competencies are critical.  Have you considered lunch meeting type sessions for the engineering staff to help them develop PM skills over time, especially leadership and client relation skills, and also marketing and business acumen?

    I'm retired now, after rewarding efforts in consulting (structural engineer, PM, officer) over the first half of my career, and Director of Construction for a real estate firm for the rest.  I was attracted to PM work early on and made an effort to learn as much as I could – reading, seminars, mentoring.  I found this continuous learning over time allowed me to develop my own style, essentially through trial and error, during my career.  Mentoring others in this approach has reaped some fruits.  Over time, also, I found that the contribution of our talented engineers was more a factor in firm / project success than that of the project manager, including yours truly.

    As technology allows individuals to leverage more and greater portions of an engineering project, projects should require fewer staff to accomplish; should these future project leaders be engineers or project managers?

    Respectfully,
    Chuck Howard, P.E. M. ASCE
    Richmond, VA



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    Charles Howard P.E., M.ASCE
    MEMBER
    Richmond VA
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  • 4.  RE: Leadership/Management Assessments

    Posted 12-14-2021 06:00 PM
    Great insights, Chuck.  I need to ponder your questions a bit.  I really appreciate your thoughtful response.

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    Reuben Zylstra P.E., M.ASCE
    Principal Engineer / Partner
    Foothills Bridge Co
    Boulder CO
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  • 5.  RE: Leadership/Management Assessments

    Posted 12-13-2021 09:36 PM
    Reuben,

    I am retired but I did have some differing experiences, some PM's exceeded my expectations and did a better job than I had in same position.  However, I would be remiss if I did not mention some headstrong individuals who needed strong coaching and mentoring.  I also must add that more than one of my mentees moved to other rolls after several years of guidance and correction.

    I would always look at the final result to guide me on the next course of action.  I was very cognizant of the customer/owner appraisal and asked for feedback often.  I found that others were usually on the same wavelength as I was so corrective action was backed by others as well as my gut.

    As for tests, I did not us them.  I did follow HR's suggestions on couching, mentoring and letters of expectations.

    Barry Anderson

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    Barry Anderson P.E.
    Granite Falls MN
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  • 6.  RE: Leadership/Management Assessments

    Posted 12-14-2021 06:00 PM
    Barry,
    Thank you for your response.  I like that you reached out for feedback from customer/owners.  I think that is an important one.

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    Reuben Zylstra P.E., M.ASCE
    Principal Engineer / Partner
    Foothills Bridge Co
    Boulder CO
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  • 7.  RE: Leadership/Management Assessments

    Posted 12-14-2021 10:34 AM
    At our firm, we believe there is great benefit in personality testing as a prerequisite for initial hiring. We use the Profile Performance Indicator  from profilesinternational.com     This test provides strengths and weaknesses of the applicant and compares them to the existing staff attributes. I feel its very difficult to be a good judge of peoples personalities unless you are a psychologist . We also review the results on occasion  as the employee progresses in the firm, during performance reviews and when matching them with a supervisor. It is  also an indicator of leadership potential. Another test we have used for leadership assessment is the checkpoint 360 by Pxt select. This is an awesome program, which includes a self assessment and supervisor, peer and direct report assessment comparison. it can be very eye opening as it points out your blind spots (which we all have). And it provides specific ways to build on strengths and work on weaknesses.  No matter how good these types of tests are, we have been advised by our managerial training provider, Dale Carnegie Training, to not rely upon them for more than say 30% of your decision. More importantly would be internal employee surveys, one on one interactions, and instinct. And of course its very important to utilize modern  Leadership training (there are many good firms, we use Dale Carnegie very successfully and also Engineering Management Institute) Those people who get it are fairly easy to identify, these are the ones who don't wait for direction constantly, they take reasonable chances, volunteer to take on additional managerial duties willingly. hope this helps -

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    Vincent Siefert P.E., M.ASCE
    Owner
    Siefert Associates, LLC
    Naugatuck CT
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  • 8.  RE: Leadership/Management Assessments

    Posted 12-19-2021 10:26 AM
    Great topic! I am learning a lot from these answers. Thank you!

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    Tung Nguyen, PhD, Water Resources Modeler
    Jacobs
    Sacramento, CA
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