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.
The final installment of my short list of character traits. These are also known as soft skills. The people side of things. The intangible inner perspectives and habits that make someone who they are.
Flexibility – Ability and willingness to go the extra mile, put in more hours when needed. This is closely tied to Dedication but presents itself as the ability to change direction on short notice. It also includes the understanding that work on routine CAD support issues cannot be ignored.
Passion – A love for CAD and BIM work. Not begrudgingly done. Not annoyed by mundane and repetitive tasks. Approaching every aspect of your work with vigor and optimism.
Productivity – Looks for ways to increase output, avoid unneeded steps, reduce time wasted for themselves and others. Puts productivity of others above their own. Seeks to make others tasks easier even if it makes their own a little harder.
Humility – Admits mistakes, take responsibility for errors, shares success, avoids prideful boasting. Stands confident on their own abilities without making others feel inferior.
Teachability – Willingness to learn from others, modify behavior as needed, admit and address shortcomings. Knows that they do not know everything. Never stops learning.
Next – On to Skills
Let’s take a look at the next set of characteristics.
Having a Plan B – Defines back out strategy as part of planning. Quickly develops options if things derail. Is not overly optimistic to the point of not thinking about things going wrong. Knows when to put plan B into action.
Team Player – Works well with others, hands off work, delegates, delivers on time, reports progress. Teamwork can be defined in many ways – here is something I wrote on it a while back – What is Teamwork?
Innovation – Thinks about new tools and methods that might improve the organization. Combines existing processes and methods into new approaches. Refines existing procedures to make them work even better.
Dedication – Completes tasks and projects 100%. Strive to not have to do things twice or return to a problem that was left uncompleted. Stays focused on a problem or task until it is done. Sets aside other tasks when needed to work on critical items.
More to come.