Aviation maintenance personnel always welcome the opportunity to attend technical training classes to enhance their ability to maintain today’s complex aircraft. In addition, obtaining the latest tools and support equipment is also a high priority in the maintenance community.
These items are the foundation of our daily work and we feel very comfortable when functioning in this technical environment. As we move forward in our career, opportunities for increased responsibility occur and usually result in assuming a supervisory or management role. A highly talented technician on Friday is a crew leader on Monday or the highly effective crew leader becomes the shift supervisor overnight.
These opportunities are the culmination of years of hard work and recognition of that work by our peers, customers, and management. Quite often we find ourselves placed in a position of increased responsibility with little or no professional training to function effectively in our new role. Inadequate professional training is a major reason why excellent technical personnel, fearing failure, refuse promotional opportunities resulting in a loss of next generation leaders.
In order to be successful in our new role, we must have professional training that is useful and applicable at work and in our personal life. Sometimes this training is referred to as “soft skills training.” This training should address the interpersonal skills necessary to be a leader. I specifically use the term leader because in our new role we want to motivate and inspire those with whom we come in contact. However, regardless of the specific name, this type of training is mandatory to complement the individual’s technical skills.
It should be noted that increased responsibility does not necessarily mean having personnel reporting directly to you. It is safe to assume that increased responsibility will require interaction with additional personnel. In either case how you interact with people will determine the long-term success of your career. Not unlike technical skills, interpersonal skills are acquired by training and ongoing reinforcement of that training. Interpersonal skills training begins with our parent’s first admonishment to say please and thank you. From that point forward we have the lifetime challenge to treat others with respect and empathy.
Leadership skills should be part of both our professional and personal lives. How we interact with our fellow employees and customers should be no different from the treatment of our family members and neighbors. True leaders are consistent in their behavior and treat everyone with respect. Conventional wisdom dictates leaders should be cold and impersonal on the job, leaving your personal problems outside of the workplace. In a perfect world that separation may be possible; however, the reality of today’s fast-paced work environment requires an effective leader to have a blend of skills that can handle both technical and personal matters.
I am not advocating that the leader’s role should be that of a “babysitter.” I am recommending a deeper personal involvement beyond a few words a month passing on the hangar floor and an annual review. The outstanding leaders go out of their way to know about the people with whom they come in daily contact. I have never met an employee who did not feel good when their boss asked how their son or daughter did at the last soccer game. Everyone likes that recognition. It is this need for social interaction that makes us human beings. The larger the organization, the more difficult the task of staying connected; however, regardless of size we can maintain our interpersonal relationships if we are willing to work toward that goal every day.
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Take steps to improve your interpersonal skills and move up the career ladder
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