Bring Energy and Enthusiasm
When you take on tasks and projects, do it with gusto. Truly enjoy your work. Make your efforts in some way… fun. We all like to do the things that we naturally have talent in. We love the things that fill us with pride and accomplishments. Getting things done is enjoyable. Enjoying things while you get them done may not always be easy.
When working with others, make sure that you are not putting out negative vibes that bring everyone down. Not every task is exciting, but every task can be done with some measure of vigor. And when you approach each task with a positive outlook, it is contagious. People will like working with you.
Working on exciting new projects gets everyone invigorated to do their best. It is not hard to get people involved in the fun, new and exciting efforts. A CAD Manager needs to move every project forward in such a manner as to make them inviting to others.
No one likes to slog through boring tasks, but you can find ways to make them more enjoyable. Not every task expands your horizons. Not every project is a ground breaking effort. Here are a few tips that might help make boring into a blast and routine into rambunctious:
Make each step a success. Even when you have a large amount of redundant work, you can celebrate the milestones of getting 10% done. Then shoot for 25%. Then make the next 25% get done quicker.
Find ways to automate. Look for ways to make something that is drudgery into dynamics by automating some portion of the work. See how much you can script out or program into the software. See who can come up with the best idea for making things run faster.
Make it a contest. Divide the work among the team and make it a race (but don’t sacrifice quality). See who can move toward the goal in less time. See who can find and fix more errors. See who can duplicate successful methods on the grandest scale.
Start conversations about the future. When you get this job done, what can you do next. What is this fix or modification going to open the doors to? Can what you are working on actually boost your technology curve by opening other doors to high tech?
Transfer the knowledge. Define lessons learned and see how you might apply them to other areas of your work. Document the best of the best. Tell others what you are finding that might improve processes elsewhere.
Calmness – Inside and Out
Rudyard Kipling may have said it best… way back in 1895… in his poem “If”. Was he thinking of Tech Managers?
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If- – read more
Sound familiar? I am sure that it does to most of you. There are times when everyone seems to think that the entire systems is falling apart and that you should have prevented it. There are times when everything that others try to do to fix things, jsut makes them worse.
Then you arrive… bringing calmness when things get tough.
A CAD/BIM Manager has to remain calm and reduce the stress level of everyone involved. How do you project calmness?
First you have to actually be calm. Internally you are confident that you can fix the problem, or get people back on track quickly. You know how to dissect troubles and find the root cause. You can make things better. If you are not the calm type… work on that first. start researching ways that you can remain cool as others heat up.
Then you have to have the outward expressions of calmness. Here are a few:
You take on relaxed mannerisms – not tensed up. You are not grabbing things from people or nudging them out of the way. Your shoulders are relaxed. Your breathing remains regular.
You use methodical approach – not just trial and error. You plan your researching steps and march through the plan. You quickly triage the problem and define possible solutions. You do not overlook the obvious (“is it plugged in?”)
You provide options. You let others know that they can do other things while you work on the problem. You define the largest looming deadline and work out a method to meet the deadline in other ways. (try another machine, send the plots to another plotter, etc.)
You defuse negative talk that travels down the “what if” path. Not letting long term conclusions be drawn from the current short term situation. (“if we miss this deadline…”). You calmly refocus conversations back to productive processes.
You don’t jump to conclusions. The methodical approach you are taking will get you through. Just stay the course.
You keep people informed. Let others know what you are going to do. If you leave the scene, let people know you are going to check on something and when you expect to be back. (“I need to check the server, I will be back in 5 minutes”). If you are gone longer, let people know or send someone back to the trouble spot to let them know. Texting works great for this now days.
You make sure folks know that you have a Plan B. (“I am going to try restarting the service on the server. It will take 10 minutes. If that does not work, I am going to restart the entire server and contact IT about the issue to get them involved.”)
You let them know you are making progress. And if you make small gains, let them know that the whole process is not fully restored yet, but that they can start using specific portions. This is a measured restoration that allows progress while you are working on a full restore.
By remaining calm and projecting a calm exterior, you will comfort everyone that is ramping up the stress levels. Stay cool.
CAD and BIM Managers have to communicate well. I have written much on that topic. With a little more refinement, I venture there again.
You need to have balanced interactions with others. Not talking too much, and not too little. Your words must convey your ideas, values and goals in clear and concise wording. You need to provide as much background info as needed, but stop when it seems like others do not care to keep listening. You need to also watch their expressions for signs of understanding and that they get the point. I often stop after three to four sentences and ask if it make sense to them.
You need to adjust the technical content of your words to the understanding level of the listener. Don’t throw jargon and a barrage of tech terms into a conversation with someone who is not looking for it. On the flip side, provide tech specifics to others who can understand.
You need to be complete and truthful, providing direct answers to direct questions. Don’t side step the question, but provide a clear and understandable answer. I tend to provide bottom line information up front and then fill in the needed details. If someone wants to know when a task will be complete, I give them a date and a little info to back it up. Then I stop to see if they need more info.
Be honest, with full disclosure, not lacking, not covering up so that others feel you have given more than is needed. Be forthright, sharing the entire story and information so that others do not think you are holding anything back.
By gauging your audience and adjusting to the needs, you can become an even more effective communicator.
Listens well with a desire to understand
Active listening skills take work. I have written about this in another series. Covey Habits training tells us to listen first to understand, then to be understood. Two aspects of that training call for us to repeat what was said and the restate what was said. Without falling into a pattern that people will soon be annoyed by, you should every so often restate what someone has said. “Are you saying that…” and then rephrase what they said, in your own words or repeating theirs at some level.
This helps to clarify and define what they are saying and also lets them know that you actually heard them. Ask questions that clarify, make statements that re-emphasize.
I have found that writing things down also helps in the listening process. Actively taking notes as someone talks slows me down and let’s me make sure that I have it right. My note taking is often scribbles that only I can decipher because I am writing so fast (and sometimes I can’t even figure it out). These notes help me stay tuned to their words.
Staying connected as a listener will go far in showing respect to the other people in the conversation and it will help you to get the entire idea before you start answering them.
My bad habit is to interrupt. Especially when I am in information gathering mode. I abruptly ask a question that might derail the persons thoughts. I think I am making sure that the message is clear in my head, but some times I just annoy the other person. I need to work on that.
Many of the Ribbon Panels in AutoCAD 2016 have more than meets the eye. Want to see more of the menu… Try This:
Click the little down arrow at the bottom of the Ribbon.
This will drop down the additional menu items.
Click on the Pin and it will hold the menu open for you.
Once you navigate away from that Ribbon Tab and swap Ribbon Panels, it will close back up and not be open when you return. Sure wish there was a way to make it sticky.
Besides B+ being my blood type… I am generally a positive person.
Tech Managers need to stay positive when interacting with others. No scowling and frowning allowed. Do not let your first words of reply have a negative slant.
Positive attitudes should pervade all interactions. Looking for the bright side of things takes effort. Complimenting others may not come easy, but it needs to be done. Strive to have positive comments. Make them your typical reply.
When responding to others ideas, start with a positive slant. “That’s a good idea” or “That is creative thinking”. You can then refine the conversation if you see the need by asking “Have you thought about…”. Even a generic “Let’s discuss this a little more” is better than “Thank will not work” or “We tried that before”.
There may be times when a negative stance may be needed, but negative comments are few and couched in kindness. You may never say anything like “That is stupid”, but you may deliver negative feedback that is too blunt and direct. I find that couching negative feelings in kindness works well. The message still gets across, but the other person is not totally offended. Using terms such as “it appears” and “there might be” prior to delivering a negative comment, might make it easier to take.
When interacting with others, your demeanor is showing all the time. Merriam-Webster defines “demeanor” as
Demeanor: a person’s appearance and behavior : the way someone seems to be to other people
Notice the word “seems” – it may or may not be reality. They way you appear to others may not be obvious to you, but it can impact your ability to encourage, support, converse and approach others.
There are so many subtle indicators that others notice when talking with you that if you tried to focus on them all, you would lose track of the conversation. But I wanted to run a few past you that I think may help when addressed. I fail at many of these from time to time, but always strive to improve.
And now – the list begins:
Connecting with People
You have to connect with people when interacting – it all starts with some body language.
Make direct eye contact when talking
This is pivotal in connecting with the other person. Some may be more reserved and avoid direct eye contact and it is taken as not listening. I remind myself of this one all the time. It is not so much that I avoid eye contact, just that I find myself averting my eyes when I ponder something that someone says. I just look away and start thinking about what was just mentioned. Others take that as disregarding the very words that I am actually focusing on. My bad. I often tell others that I am sorry for looking away and that I was thinking hard on their words. At any rate, my focus looks to others like disregard.
When speaking with others, look directly in their eyes. Do not stare for too long, a glance away every so often cut the awkwardness that some might feel by intense staring. But make sure that you look at the person speaking and turn your body and shoulders to face them directly. Do not glance at them from the side.
Turn your full focus and body toward them.
In a support role, many people will come to you to ask questions while you are doing other things. Stop what you are doing, turn toward them and look them in the eye. Do not keep typing and focusing on what you were doing. Allow yourself to be interrupted. And when interrupted, stop what you are doing.
If you are sitting at your desk, stop typing and lean back away from your computer. Do not leave your hands on the keyboard as if you will go back to your work the minute they pause. Push your chair away from your desk, turn your shoulders toward the person speaking and listen. Better yet, get out of your chair so that you are at eye level with them.
Don’t build walls
Make sure your gestures and body language do not put people off. I often find myself crossing my arms when in a relaxed position. Body language experts say that this is a defensive posture. It is not for me, but I find that others may think it is. So I make an effort to not fold my arms across my chest and leave them at my side.
Be aware of your facial expressions. A furrowed brow or a raise eyebrow might be taken by others as a negative thought in your head. I find myself chuckling under my breath at someones words not in disbelief but actually in agreement. When they mention their troubles and I share the same history, I actually smile because I have been through it myself. When I see them flinch, I verbally explain my giggles and smiles as having had the same trouble so there is no misunderstanding. Laughter can be shared and not seen as dismissive.
Other telltale signs of being bored that others might catch… fidgeting with objects or your hands, straightening papers, looking around, checking your watch or mobile phone and more. All of these might signal to others that you are done listening. If you find yourself doing these things… refresh your desire to listen again.
I do not overly focus on body language, but there is some truth in all of the writings of others. Do an internet search – there is tons of advice on body language.
More to come…
This is the start of a new series on the interactions that a CAD/BIM Manager has with staff, clients, bosses and just about anyone. I will focus on the mannerisms, approach, demeanor and presence that they have with others. How they present themselves. What they project. How they respond. These will be the unspoken items that leave impressions on people beyond the spoken words. They may include facial expressions, body language, stance, etc.
First impressions matter, but I am not one to be overly concerned about individual items in this list. It is the collective impression that is left behind. It is usually not just one interaction, since we usually get multiple opportunities to exchange info and ideas with others.
But have you though about how you interact with others and how your demeanor encourages or stifles openness. Being aware of how you posture yourself when collaborating with others can allow you to adjust. Taking stock of your mannerisms may bring to light some unexpected perceptions by others that you never meant to project.
Have you ever walked away from a conversation thinking that the other person did not hear a word you said? That they would not make any adjustments going forward based on your advice, even though they said they would. Have you thought that the person actually wrote off everything you mentioned before you even finished the conversation? I bet it was because they held themselves in a defensive manner or projected negative “vibes” in the way they stated things. It may not have been anything they actually said, but you got the feeling that they just did not care.
As Tech Managers, we do not want to leave that kind of impression. We want to be open to new ideas, critique and suggestions that others bring us. Don’t let your demeanor betray your desire to listen.
Moving to the Skills area now. It differs from the Character portion of this series. Character is who you are, Skills are what you do. I am not going to list a long march of skills that define every last thing that a CAD Manager does, but rather a shorter list of the skills that I think make the most differences between a competent CAD Manager and a great one.
Some of these slop over from the Character list, like Communication, Sharing Knowledge, Reporting, Documenting and many more. These Character traits that motive you internally also drive the outward efforts that each encourages. A desire to share knowledge and communicate will spill out as effective interactions with others. Character traits have to generate outward expressions – or you start wondering if they are internally driven at all.
So if the internal Characteristics of a CAD Manager drive the outward Skills, what would those skills look like?
Tech Skills – one giant bucket – this one covers every area and is the entry fee for moving from CAD User to CAD Manager. I lump everything together under Tech Skills because these have to be in place and rock solid. So what are some tech skills that are not directly linked to the character traits we discussed before?
Programming – An ability to increase productivity by using the embedded tools inside the software to increase speed, accuracy and consistency. The API’s that many start with include AutoLISP, VBA, Object ARX and more. Other more advanced tools also present themselves.
Customization – Using the Autodesk interface tools like templates, keyboard shortcuts, ToolBars, right-click customization, block creation, menu CUI, and so much more.
Staff Management – The prowess to work well with others. Gathering, organizing and moving teams forward. Knowing how to motivate individuals in a team effort.
Financial Skills – Knowing how to create and manage a budget. Knowing when to adjust and refocus funds toward strategic goals. Knowing the processes your firm uses to approve spending beyond just asking your boss.
Prioritizing – One of the most valuable, and least used skills that I think a CAD Manager needs. Always rethinking what to do next. Always taking the time to look up and around to see what is going on at your firm and with your tools and then change focus and direction as needed.
Troubleshooting – knowing how to dissect a problem, no matter how big, into bite size correctable tasks. Being able to follow clues and leads, weigh evidence and make a judgement call on how to get things fixed.