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Teamwork in Engineering

Essential Leadership and Management Skills for Engineers

Teamwork in Engineering

A crucial part of managing people is getting them to be as productive as possible, whilst working in teams.  Team working is common in technical or engineering environments. Whether it’s a project team, product development, a production line, a maintenance team or a manufacturing cell, effective teamwork is the basis for most modern technical operations. But what constitutes good team working? As a People Manager what practical tips are there you can use to get the best out of your teams?

Teamwork is defined as a series of activities where two or more people work collaboratively towards a common aim. Consideration should be given to putting together a balanced effective team - team building (more in a moment). The team should ideally be cross-functional in its nature, made up of people with different but complementary skills.

The group environment in which the team operate ideally should be supportive, positive and underpinned by strong communication and plenty of encouragement. An effective method of tasking individuals should be established, with an opportunity for everybody to feedback and provide opinions and draw on others’ experiences to collectively solve problems. The team leader needs to display strong people management skills to ensure the team operates effectively using these principles.

Teamwork has a number of distinct advantages over working as individuals. These include:

  • Increased moral, as people believe they have a stake in something, are supported by others and if stuck, can seek assistance to get the job done.
  • More challenging problems can be tackled faster by drawing on the team’s collective skills, experience and knowledge.
  • Often solutions proposed by the team have greater credibility and therefore are more likely to be accepted. Proposals tend to be thorough, having drawn on the collective experience and skills of the group, as well as being scrutinised by all.
  • Working collaboratively helps team members to learn and develop, as they share ideas and experiences.
  • Teamwork encourages communication, trust, support and a positive working environment – all important for improved business productivity.

Teamwork in Engineering: Different Roles within Teams

Dr Meredith Belbin undertook detailed research over a long period by observing peoples’ behaviour and interpersonal styles. He concluded there are 9 different styles that make for an effective team. This doesn’t necessary mean a team should have a minimum of 9 people in it. Instead several of the roles may be covered by one person. The point is, for teams to function the best they should be balanced. By being aware of the different styles, an observant People Manager can put together a team likely to function well. Also individuals can use the Belbin roles as a guide to understand what their traits are, as well as areas they require development in.

  • Shaper – Attempts to shape the way the team goes about its business. They challenge the way things are done and constantly look for ways the teams approach can be improved. 
  • Plant – original thinker who comes up with new ideas. They are often innovative and creative, developing novel ways of doing things which may be quite radical.
  • Implementer – converts ideas and strategies into manageable tasks people can get on and do. They are practical and well organised, working in a systematic manner. You can rely on an implementer to get things done.
  • Team Worker – they encourage smooth collaboratively working of others in the team. They are particularly useful in times of stress, as they are supportive and encouraging to others. They are diplomatic and help others get along together.

  • Specialist – They are experts who contribute their specialist expertise to the team. They are often respected for their knowledge. Because of their technical prowess their opinions are sought by others.
  • Resource Investigator – they enthusiastically enjoy networking and establishing contacts in a quest to form new ideas and ways to improve. They communicate well with internal and external sources and are receptive to new ideas.
  • Monitor Evaluator – They typically review and analyse the ideas put forward in the team. By evaluating the pros and cons of each option Monitor Evaluators objectively work towards a decision in a logical manner.
  • Coordinator – They calmly listen to others within the team, before organising them to undertake tasks according to the skills they bring. Often they lead the team, delegate tasks to others and encouraging complimentary team working.
  • Completer Finisher – They push the team to make sure tasks are completed on time. Concerned with attention to detail, they are thorough and conscientious whilst ensuring projects activities are finished properly.

Teamwork in Engineering

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