Unlock Engineering Growth Opportunities Through Focusing On People

Unlock Engineering Growth Opportunities Through Focusing On People

“As leaders, it is incumbent on all of us to make sure we are building a world in which every individual has an opportunity to thrive.” — Andrew Ng

In the modern engineering workplace, a critical concern and question often arises: Do you focus on building things or building people? 

This question is not just about tasks and projects; it’s about the core philosophy driving your team, company, or even family. By shifting the focus from merely accomplishing tasks to developing the individuals within your organization, you can unlock unprecedented opportunities for growth and success.

Building Things vs. Building People

The distinction between building things and building people is fundamental. 

Building things encompasses tasks, projects, products, and processes. It is the tangible output of your efforts, often prioritized to meet deadlines and achieve specific goals. However, this task-oriented focus can sometimes overshadow the development of the very people responsible for these outputs. 

Building people, on the other hand, involves enhancing their skills, capacity, and potential. It is about investing in their growth to improve their ability to contribute meaningfully to the team or organization.

To illustrate this concept, consider a model with two axes: the horizontal axis representing a focus on things versus people, and the vertical axis representing practical versus inspirational efforts. Sorry for my great handwriting 😉

Many organizations, particularly in engineering and technology, concentrate their efforts in the bottom left quadrant, focusing primarily on developing practical skills to accomplish tasks. Occasionally, some attention is given to the inspirational aspect, connecting people to the purpose behind their work. However, this often represents only a small fraction of their overall efforts.

The real opportunity lies in shifting focus towards the right quadrants of this model, thus building practical people skills while simultaneously inspiring them. This balanced approach can significantly enhance organizational performance. 

When you focus on people, several positive outcomes naturally follow. There is increased engagement, as individuals feel valued and invested in. Higher retention rates result from employees’ loyalty to an organization that prioritizes their growth. This, in turn, leads to higher productivity, as motivated and skilled employees are more efficient and innovative. Ultimately, these factors contribute to greater profitability and a healthier organizational culture.

Strategies to Shift Focus to People

To shift your focus towards building people, start by assessing your current emphasis. Are you predominantly focused on tasks, or do you also invest in developing your team members? If you recognize an imbalance, consider practical steps to enhance your people development strategies. Provide opportunities for continuous learning and skill development through workshops, training programs, and coaching. Encourage mentorship and peer learning to build a supportive network within the organization.

In addition to practical development, don’t underestimate the power of inspiration. Help your team members see the bigger picture and connect their work to the broader organizational goals and values. Create an environment where innovation and creativity are encouraged. Recognize and celebrate achievements, fostering a sense of purpose and motivation.

Focusing on people rather than just tasks can unlock significant opportunities for your organization. By balancing practical skill development with inspirational efforts, you can create a more engaged, productive, and loyal workforce. This shift in focus not only benefits the individuals within your team but also drives overall organizational success. Embrace the challenge of building people, and you’ll discover a path to sustained growth and innovation.

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