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Tips to help engineers communicate like leaders

23 February 2017

You may have the technical skills under your belt, but that doesn’t mean you’re ready to step into a leadership position just yet. To be a good leader – meaning the kind of leader your team wants to listen to and be led by – you’ll need to develop strong communication skills.

Being a manager is a job title. Being a leader is so much more. You’ll need to learn to maintain positive relationships with clients, superiors, colleagues, suppliers, contractors, subordinates and employees. Along with setting you up for future management positions, great communication skills are actually required of all engineers at every stage of their careers.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to communicating, there are steps you can take to become a better communicator.

1. Understand your communication style

When it comes to communicating – and leading – everyone is different. It’s nearly impossible to adopt an effective communication style unless you’re self-aware of your unique quirks. Different personalities communicate in a range of ways. According to the DISC profile test developed by American psychologist, William Moulton Marston, there are four main behavioural types that affect how we communicate. They are:

  • Dominant;
  • Influencer;
  • Steady; and
  • Conscientious.

Take some time to think about which type you may be. If you’re goal-orientated and direct, you may be Dominant. If you’re outgoing, enthusiastic and good at persuading others to see your line of thinking, you could be an Influencer. If you’re detailed and task-orientated, you’re likely the Compliant behavioural type. Similarly, Steady types are reliable, methodical and team-focused.

2. Learn how to communicate with other personalities

Understanding which type you are can help you communicate better – especially when dealing with other behavioural types. For example, many engineers fall under the Compliant category. This means they like including lots of detail and data to back up their arguments. This is a useful quality but becomes less effective when dealing with Dominant people, who like their communication to be short, succinct and to the point.

On the flipside, an Influencer may enjoy lots of small talk and banter, which can become annoying to Compliant types, who are often left wishing they’d just get to the point. Learning which style of communication you prefer – and which the people around you prefer – means that you can adapt how you interact with different people at work. Doing this effectively means you’ll be more influential, get along better with colleagues and be able to do your job more effectively.

3. Practice the qualities of good leadership

Understanding how to best communicate with your team isn’t a transition that happens overnight. In fact, many great leaders spend years developing the communication skills that make their unique leadership style so effective.

Maintaining a level of self-awareness is a great way to start communicating better. Set conscious reminders to reflect on your communication patterns at work and identify situations where you did well, or could have communicated more effectively.

However, sometimes the best way to truly understand ourselves and how we communicate is to get expert, outsider advice. Southern Cross University Online’s Master of Engineering Management is designed to provide graduates with a strong understanding of their own communication styles and how to improve and adapt them for different situations. You’ll also learn other leadership skills that are crucial for the engineering industry.

Speak to one of our expert Student Enrolment Advisors today on 1300 589 882 to learn more.