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Engaging and Managing Engineers Who Lack Confidence

Collaboration
Motivation

18 January, 2019

Michael Galloway defines ways to boost the confidence of one of your reports by encouraging collaboration with team members as well as ownership of projects.

Problem

Many teams contain a mix of technical levels. Depending on the size of your team the influence of this variance may be felt to a greater or lesser degree. However, you may find that some of your engineers are struggling to fit in or find a purpose within that team. Perhaps they are not getting approval from their teammates or their confidence level is low. As a leader, it is your responsibility to address these types of issues, as well as to inspire individuals to grow and achieve beyond what they think they are capable of. Here are suggestions on how to, specifically, engage with engineers who lack confidence so that they can gain self-esteem and find a welcomed place collaborating with other team members.

Actions taken

  • Encourage the sharing of information. Have conversations around technologies and areas that everybody is excited about or interested in. Get people comfortable with each other and with sharing their opinions on these topics.
  • Factor in some degree of coaching or guidance to help create a path to learn. Struggling engineers should ask questions, share their vision and ideas, and gain the ability to solve and deliver on problems. Have them contribute in some way and publicly acknowledge that contribution.
  • Encourage team members to give positive feedback when they see positive direction or give critical feedback if someone needs to work harder in certain areas. Create a culture that acknowledges struggle and achievement. That recognizes and provides external visibility for hard work and advancement.
  • Find opportunities to give struggling individuals projects. Set up something that they can own, tackle, and be effective at. It could be something that other engineers find less interesting, less challenging, or a component that is underserved, though, it's important that they work on something that is perceived as valuable to the whole team. The project requires the engineer to do research, learn, and build something while providing value to the rest of the team. The individual would also, surely, build up confidence with their success.

Lessons learned

  • It is important to develop an environment where people feel comfortable being vulnerable. Create a space where it's safe for people to say that they don't know something, for them to explain when they've made a mistake, or to be candid about things that are disturbing them at work.
  • Struggling engineers have to own their own development. You are there to help and coach them but, ultimately, you are not there do it for them
  • As a leader you want to understand the interpersonal relationships between people on your team. Otherwise, you are unable to debug problems that manifest such as snarkiness, inefficiencies, and subtle comments along the way.
  • The effectiveness of the team is not calculated by the developmental velocity of individual engineers. Everybody on the team in responsible for making the team successful.

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