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Think ahead and get your message out

MANAGEMENT: Civil Engineering Manager of the Year Award - Improving communication is the key to improving management in civil engineering, argues Colin Clinton.

We have more tools around us today than ever before to communicate the message. But if the content or nature of the detail is not relevant, it does not matter how sophisticated the tool, the communication will fail. Good managers think ahead.

The profile of civil engineering and that of civil engineers will only be raised in the future if we go out right now and communicate the gospel according to civil engineers. Investment in civil engineering, particularly in the UK but also in North America and parts of Europe, is booming. Add to this the global shortage of trained civil engineers and we will never have a better time.

The challenge for all civil engineering managers is to find a more modern approach to this communication. We need to stop talking to ourselves about ourselves. We need to use every avenue possible to get our message across.

To the best managers the challenge will come naturally. A few will aspire to it with support, training and a change of mindset.

Others will have to try harder.

All will have to plan their strategy, complete with what they want to say, why and how it will be delivered with maximum impact and also what medium and where.

We need to use every opening available and create the some that do not exist. Here is the big challenge for our future managers.

Compared to our forefathers we have lost our way. They held public meetings, spoke out in government circles and above all inspired others to follow in the same footsteps. Today's civil engineering managers need to gain this ability to excite and enthuse about our profession.

The best civil engineering managers have to be not only technically and commercially coherent but competent communicators and positive promoters.

Training must reflect this.

To do this we must let people do what they do best.

If you find a good manager, let him manage. If you find a good communicator, let him lead. A good manager will often not know where the opportunity may lead or what might develop, but he is happy to give it a go.

Managers need to inspire others to think in a different way, particularly when it comes to communication. Think laterally for a change. With communication we need to consider what mediums a good manager should exploit.

For example, externally there is TV, international, national and local press, trade and business press, technical press, conferences and the Internet. And of course there is radio - my own involvement with Heart FM in Birmingham promotes the Midlands local association.

Internally, there are news sheets, bulletins, intranets, company journals and presentations.

But how many times do we sit in the audience when we should be on the stage? We must stop talking to ourselves and encourage others to listen. As good civil engineering managers we must be interesting and fun.

The role of the civil engineering manager is changing. Clients are expecting more than technical excellence, they want and need communicators. In civil engineering the art of communication is not dead, it has just been dormant for far too long.

Colin Clinton, is an associate direct and business development manager at Ove Arup and an ICE vice president.

Path to success

This year's award will adopt a slightly different format from the past to encourage the busiest and best civil engineering managers to enter.

The judging process is as follows:

1.Candidates put forward a brief explanation and citation about why they are the 2001 ICE Civil Engineering Manager of the Year.

2. Judges shortlist the best dozen candidates by the end of July. These will then be asked to prepare a more detailed citation about their methods, achievements and projects.

3. Finalists announced in mid October in advance of the Awards final on 21 November.

4. The final will see the best candidates present to and be questioned by the judging panel. The winner will be announced on the day.

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