by Alex A. Kecskes
Most engineering firms will have you team up with other engineers to solve a particular problem. Much like team sports, if you don't work together, you lose.
That said, it's not always easy to work in a team, especially when team members come from different cultural backgrounds, attitudes and levels of experience. Personalities can sometimes interfere with effective communications. If you are in a supervisory or lead role, you must find ways to unite the team and take advantage of the strengths each team member brings to the table.
Here are some helpful hints for working in an engineering team:
Respect Each Team Member. Give everyone an equal voice and ensure that others listen to them courteously. Involve junior engineers in your discussions and support them.
Supervise Properly. Don't hover or nag. Know the limits of your role. Move about and be available to answer questions. Make yourself accessible. If you have a working task, complete it ahead of the others.
Stay on Schedule. Do what you can to meet the deadline. Set specific targets for each task and make sure team members understand these timelines. If you see that you're unable to meet the deadline, ask for help. This avoids putting the team in a position of missing the deadline.
Stay Positive. Even if things are not progressing properly or quickly enough, avoid negative remarks about the task or the team. Remember, just as in sports, you need everyone on the team to pull in the same direction to ensure your success. Always deal with problems directly with face-to-face meetings instead of memos or emails.
I've worked on many teams in my career, both as a team member and supervisor. One thing I learned early on was that mutual respect is a key element in achieving the team goal.
For additional insights, check out the book, "The Organizational Engineering Approach to Project-Management"
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Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of published articles on health/fitness, "green" issues, TV/film entertainment, restaurant reviews and many other topics. As a former Andy/Belding/One Show ad agency copywriter, he also writes web content, ads, brochures, sales letters, mailers and scripts for national B2B and B2C clients.