Contenders or Pretenders?

Both Leaders and Followers Need to Cultivate Their Skills to Create a Successful Process Automation Environment

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Heinz North America in Warrendale, Pa., provides specific managerial training, outlined here by Douglas Rheinheimer, an electrical and automation manager for the company. “Process automation managers must create specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-sensitive (SMART) goals that are co-developed with the manager and the subordinate. Pulsing these SMART goals periodically through coaching and positive feedback will create a sense of ownership and empower the subordinate. The boss must also create a framework that will allow the subordinate to envision a picture of the tasks at hand.”

The best process automation managers come into their positions with strong technical capabilities. They have the aptitude to learn management, but often must be trained. The best managers are not dictators, but are instead leaders who coach their employees to success and revel in the accomplishments of their flock.

Dan Hebert PE is Control’s senior technical editor

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Eleven Commandments of Management

Some of the best input for this article was necessarily anonymous, particularly the eleven commandments of management delivered from on high by a U.S.-based process automation engineer with over 25 years’ experience as a boss and as a subordinate.

  1. You shall give unambiguous direction: Your employees need to know what to do. Not all employees can function without guidance, and even your best employees will feel better if they know their intended path.
  2. You shall not hang your employees out to dry: Unless the employee does something that you didn’t know about that is completely unacceptable, you have an obligation to provide political cover. If she is working on the things you expect her to be working on, and if it doesn’t work out, you have to own that. Make corrections privately and with a learning attitude.
  3. You shall set clear priorities: There will always be more work than resources. When the management team wants everything done right now, it’s impossible to know what to work on, so employees learn that no matter what they accomplish, they’ll get punished for whatever it was they didn’t do.
  4. You shall not be impressed with yourself. Have you ever sat through a meeting where your boss spent the whole time talking about how he did X in 1977 with a shovel and two toothpicks, and you should do it that way too? Those managers are talkers, but not listeners, and it is impossible to have a meaningful interaction with them because they already know all the answers. You must understand that your employees, even the 24-year-old who wasn’t born when you started with the company, probably know something you don’t. You can work out a better solution if you are willing to listen and learn.
  5. You shall not be afraid of decisions: I’ve had more than one manager that was decision-shy. Maybe they were the models for the Dilbert cartoon that says, “Never be in the same room as a decision.” Being afraid of decisions invites an employee to either do nothing or to go in the wrong direction.
  6. You shall not micromanage: Strong technical engineer almost always have an opinion about how something should be done. Offer your knowledge where it will help, but otherwise keep your mouth shut. If the employee wants to do something different from how you would do it, and there are no obvious hazards, then allow her to do the job her way. Most important, if that way turns out to be wrong, don’t tell others, “I told herm not to do that.”
  7. You shall not hide from unpleasant tasks: This is an essential part of leadership. There are always messes to be cleaned up, people you don’t want to deal with, and tasks that you don’t particularly like. If you hide from them or delegate all of them, your employees will get that message and respond accordingly.
  8. You shall not be a hit-and-run manager: Don’t be the boss who pops into your office two minutes before a meeting and says, “I need you to do this TODAY,” and blows out again, leaving a whole host of questions unanswered. When asked to do a task, an employee needs to know who is the customer, what the customer wants, when the task needs to be done, and, most important, why. The manager and employee then need to work through implications on priorities to see if the job can be done in a timely fashion.
  9. You shall not prevent your team from getting the training or tools they need: Really, how do you expect them to do their jobs otherwise? However, you should also require your employees to tell you what they need.
  10. You shall not be inflexible: Priorities will change, people’s situations will change.
  11. You shall be a benevolent dictator: Most people find this commandment shocking, but it allows a manager to get to the essential part of the manager/subordinate compact, which is the work must get done correctly and on time, but there is a lot of latitude for how it gets done. Smart managers must be willing to listen to employees’ input, but ultimately the manager owns the final outcome, and in the event of essential disagreement the manager has the final say.

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