By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman
Having healthy relationships with several engineering managers can lead to more contract assignments, recommendations and even referrals. Plus, building positive associations with your colleagues and boss can make the time you spend working on projects more enjoyable and satisfying.
While each relationship will be unique, here are some general ways for contractors to develop productive partnerships with their engineering managers.
Clarify Expectations Upfront
You could be pushed beyond your limits if you agree to everything the manager wants. Clarifying your role and responsibilities, deadlines, reporting requirements and the manager’s expectations before an assignment can prevent misunderstandings and ensure success. Also, the manager may be willing to modify the requirements if you’re completely honest about what is feasible.
Collaborate and Confer
Reviewing the objectives with a prospective manager invites collaboration and inclusive planning. This gives you a chance to understand your manager’s goals and make suggestions. Experts recommend that engineering managers and contract professionals contribute to the scope of work definition and required duties. Establishing yourself as a partner in success will make the engineering manager feel better about your relationship.
Keep Your Promises
As Tom Ricci notes, it’s imperative that the client sees progress toward the end goal. So, do everything you can to meet deadlines and exceed your manager’s expectations. Document and report your progress, and check in from time to time. If you’re running behind, give the manager a heads-up, so he or she isn’t caught by surprise. Managers appreciate being kept informed, so respond to emails and requests for information in a timely manner. Staying on top of things inspires confidence in your abilities.
Provide Added Value
Sometimes an outsider can spot a solution to a problem that insiders can’t see. Go out of your way to share tips, advice and expertise when appropriate. Provide a link to a white paper or research report, share lessons from previous projects or offer to connect your manager with experts in your network. Give your engineering manager more than he or she expects by leveraging your expertise.
Be Open Minded and Curious
Don’t jump to conclusions or assume that you know all the answers. Take the time to ask questions and understand a particular, problem, client and/or project before offering a solution. As Kevin Eikenberry writes in Tech Republic:
“Few things will turn off the client more than if you immediately snap to a solution, assuming that their situation is ‘just like’ five others you have seen. There are always nuances that will make a difference. Take the time to inquire about them and integrate them into your solution.”
Be Appropriately Engaged
Being enthusiastic and participating in team meetings and strategy sessions deepens your connections and builds healthier, more productive working relationships. But don’t become so engaged that you venture into office politics or participate in water cooler talks. After all, removing yourself from gossip is one of the benefits of contracting. And your engineering manager will likely appreciate your professionalism.
Invest in the Relationship
Invite your engineering manager to coffee or lunch every now and then. Connect with him or her on professional networking sites and share a link to an interesting article. Or offer an invitation to a conference or seminar. While your association with your engineering manager needs to be professional, he or she’s a person, too. The key to developing and strengthening your relationship is to make the effort to get to know your engineering manager both personally and professionally.
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