Factors Affecting Promotion to Manager

Generally speaking, there are some basic prerequisites for engineers to receive promotions to the managerial ranks. These prerequisites will be discussed next (Humphrey 2013; Mohapatra 2014; Bhatawdekar and Bhatawdekar 2013).

The engineer must be able to master the duties and responsibilities of his or her current position, have the respect of his or her coworkers, and receive favorable recommendations from his or her superiors.

The candidate must have demonstrated his or her readiness to handle greater and more challenging responsibilities, as well as having gained the required skills and knowledge via courses, seminars, on-the-job training, professional activities, teamwork, volunteer work, tasks related to proposal development, feasibility studies, technology assessment, and other avenues. The candidate must possess the skills to manage time, and have the desire to seek leadership positions and opportunities to exercise power and manage people, spearhead change, and resolve conflicts.

Being competent and ready for promotion to managerial positions is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for being promoted. The candidate's ambition, desires, and capabilities must also be a good match with the current and long-term needs of the company. Well-organized enterprises constantly need new managers and leaders because of the dynamics in the business environment, advancement of technology, competition in the marketplace, and the mobility of people.

Managerial competency may be classified according to the categories illustrated in Figure 9.2. Specifically, it is helpful for engineers who aspire to become managers to focus on the following general capabilities:

  • 1. Engineering management skills: These skills include the engineering management functions of planning, organizing, leading, controlling, and the ability to work with people, and are built on having excellent communication skills.
  • 2. Power base formation: Candidates must nurture the ability to build personal power by technical know-how, experience, and networking. Promoting and marketing one's own achievements are important, following the well-known saying, "Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell, and advertise!"


Managerial competency.

3. Assertiveness: Candidates should demonstrate the ability to become and remain assertive in exercising judgment and making decisions. They should be proficient in resolving conflicts and problems of a technical, political, conceptual, and people-centered nature.

One primary talent that defines managerial excellence is the ability to deliver tangible and measurable results regularly. Harvard Business School (2004) published the "The Results-Driven Manager" series comprising the following 21 concise, action-oriented guides

  • 1. Motivating people for improved performance
  • 2. Presentation to persuade and motivate
  • 3. Face-to-face communication for clarity and impact
  • 4. Winning negotiations that preserve relationships
  • 5. Teams that click
  • 6. Managing self for the career one wants
  • 7. Becoming an effective leader
  • 8. Managing change to reduce resistance
  • 9. Taking control of own time
  • 10. Dealing with difficult people
  • 11. Getting people on board
  • 12. Making smart decisions
  • 13. Retaining the best people
  • 14. Writing communications that inform and influence
  • 15. Business etiquette
  • 16. Connecting with customers
  • 17. Creating breakthrough innovations
  • 18. Hiring smart for competitive advantage
  • 19. Managing performance for maximizing results
  • 20. Executing strategy for business results
  • 21. Managing knowledge to fuel growth

It should be useful for STEM professionals to review these capabilities and seek continuous improvements in all the requisite skills.

Example 9.1

According to Aucoin (2002), engineering managers must possess a set of skills that are not taught in a typical college engineering curriculum. These skills include the ability to (1) deal with ambiguity and uncertainty, (2) lead (teams, projects, and technological development), (3) take prudent risks, (4) delegate tasks to become increasingly effective, (5) be a team builder, (6) communicate, (7) initiate new projects, (8) negotiate to resolve conflicts, (9) network to form support groups, and (10) build alliances and partnerships.

How do you propose that an engineer acquire these skills?

Answer 9.1

To acquire the previously described skills, engineers could follow these steps:

1. Understand why each skill set is important, and verify its importance by talking with trusted partners (e.g., parents, close friends, relatives, professional acquaintances, and mentors). Other steps useful for enhancing understanding and building leadership skills are to

a. Browse technical, business, and managerial publications (e.g., technical journals, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Wall Street Journal, and Harvard Business Review).

b. Keep informed of new advancements in the field, such as business strategies, market expansion, technologies, innovations, customer relation management, enterprise integration systems, supply chain management, business models, lean manufacturing, and e-business.

c. Absorb new concepts and practices, and become proficient in identifying best practices, success factors, and other benchmarks.

d. Recognize new opportunities in technologies, business, and products potentially valuable to the organization.

  • 2. Understand the metrics (standards) for measuring and monitoring progress made in acquiring these skill sets.
  • 3. Conceive a plan for operation, including specific action steps and milestones.
  • 4. Make a commitment to implement the plan by setting aside time and effort.
  • 5. Take courses and training seminars, observe experienced managers and leaders in action, and ask experienced people to share their insight into acquiring the specific techniques needed to facilitate technical and managerial growth and to build and maintain skills. Training programs are available at professional societies. Some companies offer internal training services or subscribe to external courses. The American Management Association holds public training sessions. There are also some university-based training programs.
  • 6. Proactively seek opportunities to practice the learned techniques. Volunteer for team assignments. Become an officer in a students' organization. Do volunteer work in church, scouting organizations, charities, the United Way, the Rotary Club, or political groups. Spend time in professional societies or industrial committees. Join Toastermasters International to practice publicspeaking skills.
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