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Leadership Practice

 

George Sadler

George Sadler
MIMechE

It’s made me want those [leadership] roles even more.


Verified by an engineer

As a Project Engineer at 3M, an industrial machinery firm near Durham, George Sadler spends his days ensuring programmes of work meet their objectives. Among a range of responsibilities, he oversees the management of costs and budgets, carries out line optimisations, and deals with contractors. A typical project might include the automation of a manual packaging line in a factory – he goes out to vendors, sorts through proposals, conducts design reviews and oversees installation.

George didn’t always plan to become a project engineer. After completing a technically focused international baccalaureate at his secondary school in Birmingham, he went to Nottingham University to do a Master’s in mechanical engineering. He’d always loved creating things in CAD software, but after a year in industry, realised his true passion was more on the people management side of things. George explains: “what I liked most about the job was the people interaction, spreadsheet budgets, and resource allocation”.

So, after completing his degree, he applied to join a project engineer graduate scheme at 3M, where he has worked for the last two years.

 

Why the Leadership Practice course?

George explains that while working at 3M, he and his manager have put together a professional development plan. “I’ve got ambitions of going down the people management route” he says, while staying within a technical industry where he can use his existing skills.

Management inherently requires leadership, George points out, yet it’s often assumed people will know how to lead as they get promoted, without any real guidance. “What I wanted is to actually have a foundational knowledge of what the different theories are, of what is good leadership, what is bad leadership”.

The course George attended is delivered in conjunction with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), where he’s also doing a financial management course; the CMI will issue his certificate based on training received at the IMechE, as well as a report he needs to write.

What was your experience of the course?

George attended a one-day, in-person course at the IMechE’s London HQ in September 2022. He acknowledges he was a little apprehensive at first: “I was expecting there to be some quite high up management personalities, since the course was on leadership practice. So, I was there, thinking, ‘I'm not a leader!”. But his concerns were quickly assuaged; of the six other attendees, he says there was a broad range of backgrounds and experience level. Some were like him, with no leadership experience, others had just been promoted and wanted a grounding in theory, while others were already quite senior.

The day involved a mix of teaching on leadership theories as well as a variety of discussions and groupwork. One thing George instantly liked was that there was no PowerPoint: “rather than just sitting there for eight hours looking at a screen” he says, the class was much more dynamic, and it allowed for plenty of discussion.

A lot of ground was covered during the day, but one thing he really took from the course was the notion of the learning curve, and “how you should tailor your leadership depending on where [the person you manage] is on the learning curve”. For example, a junior employee who has fewer skills and less confidence requires a leader who can give adequate instruction and feedback. More experienced employees might need different kinds of motivation, depending on where they are on the skill and confidence matrix.

The course also provided valuable insights into needs within a project. “You've got your task needs, individual needs, team needs, and how to balance all of those, as well as different levels of delegation”.

There were also discussions around the sorts of soft skills that leaders need. Using the learning curve concept, George explains that the class would break into groups and talk about “at this stage of the learning curve, what do you say to that person? And also, how do you say it?”. This helped with understanding “how to approach each situation”.  

Looking back on the course, George says he would certainly recommend it. And he stresses that “you don’t need to feel you have to have leadership experience to do it; everyone’s got situations where they’ve had to lead and can apply it in their own life”.

What are the three reasons someone should attend the Leadership Practice course?

  1. Learn key theories of leadership.
  2. Discuss practical examples with peers.
  3. Avoid common leadership mistakes.

What impact has the training had?

“It’s made me want those [leadership] roles even more”.

Although George is not yet applying for leadership positions, the course was very valuable as he thinks about his career going forward. During the day, the instructor explained “some people come on this course and go: ‘leadership really isn't for me’”. But for George, “I left thinking that it definitely is!” If nothing else, the confirmation that this is a career path he wants to pursue has been very helpful.

As an engineer, a big driver for George is “the improvements that you can make … I like the end-to-end process; you've got a problem, and then you see that final solution”. But, he adds, “what I also like, is how that helps people, and you know, the benefits to them. So, with managing, you've got that direct improvement” that you can see in the people you manage. The skills he’s learned on the course should help here.

While George doesn’t directly line manage anyone in his job, he does mentor one colleague. While this is not quite the same as leadership, “going back that the learning curve, it’s about understanding where [the mentee] is” in terms of his own development. So, George is already able to apply some of the theories he encountered on the course, even if he isn’t formally managing direct reports.

What’s next?

George is currently working towards his chartership, which he hopes to receive in 2024 (once he has four years’ professional experience – the recommended minimum). He also has additional learning for his CMI certificate to complete, including a financial management module. Looking further ahead, George may study for an MBA: “I guess this leadership practice and financial management will give a bit of an introduction to what I might start to see on an MBA course” when the time comes.

Six Sigma Yellow Belt

  • Duration:
    1 day
  • Location:
    Sheffield, London
  • CPD Hours:
    7
  • UK-Spec:
    C, D, E