Interview with Richard Steiner, Director of Engineering, R&R Engineers – Surveyors, Inc.

Published on Mar 6, 2019

3 min read

image for Interview with Richard Steiner, Director of Engineering, R&R Engineers – Surveyors, Inc.

Location: Denver CO

What’s your background and how did you get into management?

I have a technical background which includes an undergraduate and graduate degree in civil engineering and a professional engineering license in several states. Speaking in the context of my industry (e.g.: consulting engineering), I transitioned into management the traditional way. I started my career as an entry-level staff engineer, worked hard at the opportunities in front of me and built upon those experiences to earn management positions and new opportunities.

What are the biggest challenges you face?

Finding, training and retaining talent. Talented and skilled individuals have many good choices in where to work, especially in a market like Denver. I’ve become convinced that, when an employee leaves, you never have to look far beyond their manager for “the why”. Especially in the professional services industry, training managers to recognize the softer side of their roles is among my biggest challenges.

An additional challenge for me is communicating with a multi-generational staff. Today’s workforce includes four or five different generations. Each generation wants/expects/needs different things from their career experience. My unique challenge as a baby-boom leader is understanding and accepting that fact and helping our younger staff align their goals with the larger company objectives.

What is your approach to hiring?

I look for people that have a long-term perspective about their careers, how they plan to achieve their career goals and what my company can do to help support their goals.

What’s your advice for managers who are just starting out?

There are no short-cuts to success in a management role. Never forget that the people you “manage” are people just like you. As a manager, you need your people more than they need you. Your people expect you to be competent and knowledgeable in the industry but understand that you cannot know everything. Let them be involved in planning their schedules. Most importantly, be grateful for the opportunity to influence the people in your care and never forget the solemn responsibility you have.

What’s your workday like and how do you manage your time, emails, etc.?

The demand for your attention is relentless. Email is one area that I’ve focused on over the years with some success. Here are a few tips that have worked for me:

  1. turn off your new email notice;
  2. commit to checking for new emails once or twice daily and at times that work for you;
  3. work toward acting on an email when you read it – delegate it, reply to it, trash it, etc.;
  4. if your staff copies you on every email, work with them and help them understand what type of subject matter you want to be copied, need to be copied on, etc.

Especially this last tip can decrease your email traffic by 10% or more.

What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?

The notion of success is highly subjective and usually defined by outward measures. On that basis, here are mine: be proactive, be genuine and say thank you. Success, to me, is more comprehensive and is summed up in Man in The Glass by Peter Dale Wimbrow.

Share an internet resource or tool that you can’t live without.

Harvard Business Review and the project management software my company uses.

If you could recommend one book to managers, what would it be and why?

Extreme Ownership | How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. The principles in this book embody the meaning of high-performance teams. Regardless of where you are in your career, or in life, everyone can learn something meaningful from this book.

What is your approach to mentoring and coaching members of your team?

I work hard to establish a professional relationship quickly and encourage honest and frequent communication. I believe coaching is an on-going process and more of a day-to-day activity. For example, I give “on-the-spot” feedback and ask for feedback as well. Mentoring is has a long-term perspective and requires a relationship of trust and honesty; in order to be successful, the relationship needs both mentor and mentee to commit to mutual goals and a process to achieve them.

I am constantly looking for “what staff is doing well” and recognize that and give positive feedback for a job well done. This type of coaching feedback needs to be very specific. For example, “thanks for getting that report done last night like you said you would. I know you had to work late to do it and I just want you to know that I appreciate you keeping your word.”

Where can we go to learn more about you? (LinkedIn, Twitter, GitHub)

I have a profile on LinkedIn. Here is a link:

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