What skills do successful engineers possess? Obvious ones include strong analytical and problem solving skills, as well as boatloads of creativity and ingenuity. However, one other skill matters more than you might think: communication.
Engineers who practice and improve their communication skills work better and move their careers forward. How can engineers be better communicators? Keep reading to find out.
Why Are Communication Skills Important for Engineers?
Every day, you communicate with managers, colleagues and those who report to you. How you do it has a dramatic impact on your work. Ineffective communication reduces productivity, limits innovation and impacts work relationships. In fact, you spend most of your day doing it, whether by listening and speaking to others, emailing, or communicating through your actions and quality of work.
The bad news: If you don’t know how to communicate, you are holding yourself back professionally. The good news? There are ways to systematically practice and improve your communication skills.
This is the first post in our series on Communication for Engineers. In it, you’ll find suggestions for how to communicate better with managers, colleagues and reports. You’ll also find resources you can use to improve your communication skills starting today.
Communicating with Managers
One of the best things you can do is to make your boss’s life easier—especially when communicating. Keep communication brief, to the point and clear. Understand what communication types your manager prefers (email, phone, etc.).
Likely, you and your boss are both busy people. The quicker you make a clear point and communicate what you need, the more effective your communication. Respect their time: avoid tangents, jargon or rambling. The quickest way to communicate well is to highlight important problems early, explain why they happened and illustrate how your boss can help.
Listening is just as important. If you don’t understand something, ask about it. Effective communication involves making it known when you need clearer communication.
Resources on How to Communicate with Managers:
Communicating with Colleagues
Working within teams can be a challenge for many people. There are a lot of considerations: You must express your ideas respectfully, work together without alienating coworkers and make your expectations clear.
All of that is easier when you effectively communicate with colleagues. The first place to start is with the person in the mirror. How you act, how you speak and what you say all matter.
Seek feedback on your communication skills from trusted colleagues and managers. That will give you a benchmark from which to start improving. It’s entirely possible you have unnoticed habits and methods that are holding you back.
This will also give you an indication of how communication is supposed to work in your office environment—an important consideration, since every office is different. Armed with that knowledge, aim for direct, positive and conscious communication.
And don’t forget one of the most important aspects of communicating: listening. Practice pausing before you respond to a colleague’s comments or questions. Instead, internalize what they’ve said, and think carefully about your response.
When you do respond, tailor your message to each colleague’s communication style. For instance, if a person is very technical, speak in specifics and don’t sugarcoat your message.
Resources on How to Communicate with Colleagues:
- 10 Tips for Getting Your Colleagues to Work With You Better via Forbes
- How Can I Communicate Better at the Office via Lifehacker
Communicating with People Who Report to You
What makes some politicians so persuasive they can convince half a country to back them? Skilled communication. It’s how Al Gore got the world to talk about global climate change and how Bill Clinton captures a crowd.
Both are skilled communicators with the ability to take complex issues and turn them into clear, digestible topics. You can motivate your reports in the same way by engaging and communicating effectively.
Encourage their feedback and input. This allows them to feel valued, which leads to better work ethic and output. It also uncovers ideas they might not understand or require more communication to clarify.
Think before you speak and know what you are asking of reports beforehand. Give a clear indication of what needs to be done, what you expect and the end goal.
To this point, employ best judgment when choosing your communication mediums. Email, IM, phone calls and in-person meetings all have their place in time. Choosing the right form of communication will reduce confusion and avoid giving a false sense of urgency.
When explaining complex topics, try utilizing visual aids. Diagrams, drawings and photos all help to communicate large amounts of information quickly and clearly.
Resources on Communicating with Employees:
- A Crash Course in Communication via Inc. Magazine
Being mathematical, visual and detail-oriented are important parts of being a great engineer. Communication, however, is the other secret ingredient to take your career further. Why not start communicating better today?
What other tips do you use to effectively communicate? Share them in the comments!
Beat Pain and Strain in CAD With This Guide
Aches and pains at the desktop are not normal and can lead to long-term repetitive strain injuries (RSIs). It also disrupts your productivity, creativity and even your career! The CAD Comfort Manual is a complete guide to address and prevent pain and strain from prolonged CAD work. Download it today to start working more comfortably in CAD.
Image Source: Chris Potter via Flickr