Leading is a challenge for everyone. Some seem to be born with the DNA to lead while others have to work at it. At the Younger Member Leadership Symposium held Sept. 21-22 at ASCE’s northern Virginia headquarters, 34 Younger Members took the initiative to develop leadership skills they need to succeed.
Participants practiced self-reflection about their personal management style, debunked common leadership myths, isolated key leadership traits that contribute to successfully managing projects, and discussed ways to implement what they learned immediately as well as overcoming challenges they may meet along the way.
Project management is often seen as the next step in a young engineer’s career; who better to share their knowledge about this than other Younger Members who have recently reached this important milestone in their careers.
One younger member, Associate Vice President and Managing Principal with HDR in Seattle, WA, Erin Slayton, P.E., M.ASCE, shared her experience as a deputy GEC program engineering manager for WSDOT’s $4.65B SR-520 bridge replacement and HOV program project, the longest floating bridge in the world. Drawing on her career experience and ASCE’s new Supercharge Your Career leadership training program, due to be launched in November, Slayton concentrated on the 4 core areas of planning: identifying the issue; identifying stakeholders; setting goals, and determining scope, resources, and tasks.
Slayton’s 3 Key Take-Aways
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: A common theme throughout the symposium. Erin stressed just how important communication is at every step of project development. Erin says that once you have the basic principles of project management covered, you should take the time to learn how to write a good project scope. According to Erin, “Do this and you will be GOLD!”
The Goldilocks Principle: In developing the project scope, think like Goldilocks. It needs to be “just right”; not too detailed, but not too simple either.
Don’t reinvent the wheel: Use the resources already available at your company, including project management plans and templates.
She concluded with a group discussion on how tradeoffs between scope, cost, and time can really affect the quality of a project, giving attendees insight into how their activities on projects can have an unpleasant effect on the outcome of their projects.
Many of Slayton’s tips were inspired by three books she highly recommends: The Situational Leader by Dr. Paul Hersey and People Styles at Work by Robert Bolton, which both recognize that people are critical to the success of any organization, so understanding them, developing and leading them is critical. The third book, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a classic and also a front runner in her mind. “The sweetest sound to anyone is the sound of their own name,” she said, paraphrasing Carnegie, noting that it’s easier than ever to save and store details about the people you work with so you can acknowledge them personally and be encouraging when you see them.
Keep an eye out for other YMLS inspired blogs focusing on leadership and communication in the ASCE Roundup.