Cal Poly Pomona - IME Engineering Colloquium Speaker Series - Winter 98
What a Young Engineer Should Know About...
High Performance Work Habits
Based on a Presentation by:
Prof. Phillip R. Rosenkrantz and Ms. Vicky Davis
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By David Algallar (ECE) and Cristinamae Caguiat (ECE). Photography by John Kord.
Editing and Web Page Design by Phil Rosenkrantz.

 Introduction  Prof. Phillip R. Rosenkrantz Ms. Vicky Davis
This colloquium series would not be complete without discussing the personal qualities and habits it takes to be highly successful. This is not a presentation about what it takes to have an ordinary career or be the average achiever. Rather this presentation is about what it takes to be highly successful...the top 3-5% who advance quickly or who go it on their own. To be at the top you must have "high performance work habits" in some measure. If you are interested in this, please read on

High Performance Work Habits

Team Member/Leader
The Stages of Team Development
Factors That Effect Team Performance
High Performance Team Meetings


Technical Sales
Personal Traits Required
Advantages and Disadvantages of a Career in Technical Sales
Key Questions When Interviewing
Basic Work Habits

High Performance Work Habits: (top) (contents)

Consider the following professional engineer career paths:

**Team Member/Leader
**Technical Sales

All three paths require the same basic skills to be extremely successful - the measure and amount required to be successful varies depending on intended results. Dr. Stephen Covey's books: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and First Things First are two of the best. The following partial list complements Dr. Covey's work by giving several examples of what "High Performance Work Habits" look like:

Performance Area Good Work Habit High Performance Work Habit
Goal Setting Has one or two short term goals that are in mind. May have long term goals but not necessarily very committed to it. Has specific short and long range goals in writing with some ideas on how to achieve them.
Awareness and Understanding Understands why work is being performed. Also knows the "big picture" so that the end result of any work can be assessed and made more valuable.
Communications Good at getting information and ideas across to a variety of people. Learns to understand people and discover their interests. Sensitive to making all situations into "win- win". Visionary and helps other see the vision as well.
Initiative Does things when asked or reminded one time. Does things before being asked or after the initial request. Does not have to be reminded.
Deadlines and commitments Meets deadlines. Tenaciously meets deadlines. If there is possible advantage to being early, then finishes early.
Organization Keeps list of things to do and makes sure that all items are completed. Effectively uses a planner. Ability to diligently plan, prioritize and distinguish between the important and urgent things to do. Highest priority items are done first. Never forgets an assignment. Always looking for better ways to run things at a personal level. Helps keep those around organized and informed as well so that time wasting is avoided.
Opportunities Points out opportunities as they arise. Seeks and is always finding opportunities for improvement or new sources of business.
Problem solving Finds problems and assists with formulating solutions. Good at gathering information. Excellent judge of what is pertinent information, how to get it and how to assess it. Able to get to the root of problems quickly. Suggests one or two possible solutions when reporting a problem.
Time Usage Little wasted or idle time. Does not spend time on things that should be done by someone else. Tenacious about the use of time for productive purposes. Always looking at how to get more value out of time spent. Hates to waste time or spend $100/hr time on $10/hr projects.
Phone calls Returns calls within a day or two Almost always returns calls within the same day. Does not waste a lot of time on unnecessary conversation.
Dealing with difficulties on an assignment. Meets deadlines with required project deliverables. Ask for help if problems arise. Makes sure that potential difficulties are researched and removed prior to delivering final product. Always ask for help early so no one is surprised. Not afraid to ask questions.
Trust Can be trusted to meet obligations Trustworthy to a fault. If they say they will do something you can count on it. Loyal to the organization, bosses, and customers.
"Office politics" Minimal involvement. Aware of what could cause problems. Does not gossip or exacerbate "political" situations. Through the use of mentors and contacts gets to know key people in the organization and keeps away from awkward situations. Is, however, known for the quality of work they do, not who they know.

Team Member/Leader (top) (contents)

A team is a small group of people working together to achieve a common purpose for which they must hold themselves collectively responsible. Teamwork takes place when members work together so that their skills compliment each other and are used to achieve a common goal. Teamwork involves active participation and encourages a collaborative problem solving and action process. To be an effective team member, one must undergo some sort of formal or informal training program to acquire a set of "tools" that can be used to identify problems, collect data and analyze it, and make decisions.

In the work environment, one may encounter many different types of teams. There are teams that design, teams that improve, teams that fix and teams that run the operation.. Every member of a team must be willing to listen and respond constructively to others who raise important viewpoints, provide additional support, give others the benefit of the doubt, and to recognize the achievement of others.

Three aspects of teams were chosen as the focus for the colloquium presentation:

The Stages of Team Development
Factors That Affect Group Performance
High Performance Team Meetings

The Stages of Team Development (top) (contents)

In college classes we form teams in many classes and give students anywhere from one to ten weeks to get results. As you know, these teams are often dysfunctional and the workloads are imbalanced. In a real corporate setting it can take years for a team to develop into a high functioning group. Many corporate executives are naive about this when they start to form teams within their organizations. They expect great result far too quickly. Below is a well-known description of the stages of team development.

Forming - In this stage, one becomes acquainted with the other members and their abilities. Many people have encountered working in groups in previous encounters, have different goals, and hold different impressions, all of which may contribute to the groups working dynamics.

Storming - The storming stage is a stage of group development where conflicts may arise and emotions run high as team members start to interact with different expectations. Egos may take control and people may begin to show their "true colors".

Membership expectations are exposed and clarified.

Norming & Conforming - The conforming stage is the point at which the group begins to come together as one coordinated, functioning unit. Roles will normalize and positions will be filled. Personality differences start to get worked out or accommodated.

Performing - During this stage, a well-functioning, organized group emerges. The group is now able to cope with complex tasks and handle disagreements in new, creative ways. There is a strong commitment to excel. The group strives towards high performance. Strengths and weaknesses are accommodated and used to the team's advantage.

Factors That Effect Team Performance (top) (contents)

Rules or standards for what is considered appropriate behavior by team members can have a significant impact on group processes and outcomes. The size of the team may also have an effect on group dynamics. Many authorities say the optimum group size is 6-8, with six being a highly regarded team size. It has been the presenters experience that while large teams of, say 10-12, may seem like a good idea, they do not seem to create much momentum. Large teams often have the disadvantage of having to "carry" three or four members along. This slows down the whole team. It depends upon the cohesion created within the group. The greater the cohesion, the more effective the group is. Also having people with similar performance goals is helpful.. You can get to know other members on a personal level, and understand where they are coming from. Maximize your networking skills within your peer group. Understanding diversity and cultural differences and how they may affect work habits and behavior is essential in the workplace today.

High Performance Team Meetings (top) (contents)

Prof. Rosenkrantz had stated that he had never seen meetings conducted as they were supposed to except at one company that was using a "High Performance Team" format. Responsibilities would be rotated among the team members so that each person's team role was not fixed. In managerial team meetings, there would be a proposed agenda that would be closely followed. The proposed meeting's agenda would be prepared and circulated right after each meeting and finalized amongst its members.

Individual Roles at Meetings

The Timekeeper -
A timekeeper is assigned so that the meeting's agenda is adhered to. Each agenda item is allowed a predetermined amount of time. Part of the timekeeper's role is to also direct the flow of the meetings. He/she should be able to keep the panel focused and on track as to what should happen during the meeting.

The Leader - The team leader is responsible for preparing the agenda, circulating it well ahead of the meeting, and for leading the meeting. The responsibility rotates between team members.

The Evaluator - At the end of the meeting the evaluator gives an analysis of the meeting and the strengths and weaknesses of the presentations made. Individuals are praised or critiqued for their contributions. Difficulties are analyzed. From the criticism presented, the team must then identify areas where as a team; they may need additional training.

Secretary - One person keeps track of the discussion and writes items on the board.

The Parking Lot - Potential agenda items are placed in what is referred as the "parking lot." Items place under the parking lot are not discussed at the present meeting, instead proposed for the next meeting. The parking lot serves a waiting spot for items that are brought up during the course of the meeting which are not listed as part of the current agenda.

High Performance Team Meeting Format

The following meeting format is similar to team building program currently being used in industry. The goal is to build highly effective teams that are action oriented. Below is a very brief summary of the format for a two-hour maximum weekly meeting. Appropriate space should be allocated on a chart pad or white marker board for use during the meeting (Agenda, Future Agenda, and "Parking Lot").

 1. Good News Reports (5 min) - Go around the room and each person briefly share something positive that they saw, heard, or did since the last meeting. Pay someone a compliment if appropriate.

2. Measures and Problem Solving (25-45 min) - Review the 5-7 key measures that your group is following to track critical processes. Focus on problem areas if necessary. Convert larger problems into future agenda or action items or refer them to the "parking lot".

3. Action Items (20-30 minutes) - Review list of items assigned for action from previous meetings that are due at this meeting. Responsible individuals give their results or reports.

4. New Agenda Items (30-50 minutes) - Each person putting an agenda item on should also give an estimate of the time that will be required for the item to be covered. Focus on the main agenda items for the current meeting. Let each person on the agenda prioritize their item for the group as either A (requires action soon), B (action critical or important but could be delayed), or C (important, but not critical and can be delayed). Go over A items first, then B, etc.

5. Parking Lot - Any items that come up and are candidates for future meeting or as future action items should be relegated to the "Parking Lot" by the facilitator until the end of the meeting. Having the "Parking Lot" allows you to stay focused during the meeting and not go off on tangents.

6. Information Sharing (5-10 minutes) - Go around the room allowing each person to share information about events, programs, trips, jury duty, training opportunities, visitors, or anything else of general interest. This is an "information only" session. Potential discussion items should be referred to the "Parking Lot"

7. Plan next agenda (5 minutes) - Assign action items and agenda items from current meeting results and parking lot items.

8. Assign roles for next meeting (5 minutes) - Who will run the meeting, be timekeeper, evaluator, facilitator, etc.

9. Meeting Evaluation (5 minutes) - Designated person evaluates the meeting: Did the meeting start on time? How well did the meeting chair stay on track? Did the timekeeper do their job? Were exchanges healthy? Who did a good job on their action item? What could be improved? Who did or did not play fair?

10. Optional - Determine a meeting grade. Give your meeting a grade assessing the overall meeting for effectiveness, people being prepared, quality of comments, and progress made. Track grades on a chart to make sure you are improving and "under control".

Technical Sales (top) (contents)
(By: Vicki Davis)

For many people the most important factor when looking for a job is the being rewarded for their performance and making a higher "salary". Many people are not satisfied with fixed wages that are not very closely related to performance. This may lead people to enter the sales field on a commission basis. Also, an individual may decide to go to sales because he/she likes dealing with customers and traveling a lot. The following outline contains very useful information anybody planning on going for sales should know about.

Personal Traits Required (top) (contents)

If you expect to be successful at technical sales, you should have all or most of the following qualities:
1. Strong self-confidence
2. Self-motivation
3. Be able to assess personality in minutes
4. Maintain very organized work habits
5. Participation in extra-curricular activities (professional clubs, community events, networking opportunities)
6. Thorough product knowledge
7. Punctuality and reliability

Advantanges and Disadvantages of a Career in Technical Sales (top) (contents)


1. Can make lots of money at a very young age
2. Salary or bonus points for gift purchasing
3. Company may supply a car
4. May win pleasure trips
5. Job could provide travel both nationally and internationally
6. Not in the office all day & can meet many people


1. Company may require you to work more than 8 hours a day
2. Will hear many "no's" and complaints will be registered to you
3. Salary can occur in cycles
4. The car becomes your office
5. Travel hours can become excessive
6. Possibility of co-workers stealing your accounts.

Key Questions When Interviewing for a Technical Sales Position (top) (contents)

Company policies, products, competition, commission structure, training programs, territory assignments and other factors can have as much to do with your success as your personal qualities and skills. It is important that you make sure that the company has policies and procedures that allow you to be successful. When interviewing for a job you can ask questions to help you decide if the company is a good one to work for:

1. Will you have protected territories & accounts?
2. When is commission paid? How much of your pay is base salary and how much is commission? Are bonuses paid to sales offices also or just to individuals?
3. Can commissions be retracted if customer returns the product?
4. How long is their training program & how will you be paid during this time?
5. What will be your sales quotas and what is the % of successful entrants making these quotas?
6. Ask to spend a day in the field with an experienced rep.
7. Who is the major competition and what are the advantages of your products over the competition.
8. Can customers try out the product at no charge to see if they like it (trial period)?

Basic Work Habits (top) (contents)

In addition to developing your own high performance work habits, it is important that you become acquainted with your customer's work habits. Also, at the end of the day it is helpful to spend some time doing the following:

1. Reviewing list of clients
2. Pulling together sales promotional materials for tomorrow's appointments
3. Fill out expense reports, etc.
4. Write and send thank you letters or any other personal letters
5. Periodically, review your sales forecasting.
6. Keep a log of the phone call transactions
7. With each customer file, create a checklist for the inside cover

Entrepreneurship (top) (contents)
(By: Prof. Rosenkrantz)

Many times it is not worth it to an individual to work for somebody else. Why work for someone else when you can do the same work for yourself and keep more of the revenue that is generated. Some people will never be happy working for someone else and need to go it on their own. The risks are greater, but so are the potential rewards. The following are some concepts that every person thinking about Entrepreneurship should keep in mind to help them succeed.

1. Know what business you are in and what your goals are: You have to know exactly the nature of the business you are entering. Crystallize your thinking about what you are trying to do and what your short and long term goals are.

2. Business Plan
: You have to come up with a strategy to develop your business from the very beginning and be reasonably sure you have a saleable idea and the resources necessary to develop a successful business. A written business plan gives you an idea of whether or not you have an idea that can work. You can use the plan to attract partners, investors, or to shop for a loan. Generally, however, after the business starts, the plan changes almost daily to deal with changes and the unexpected. Experienced investors will key in on three parts of the business plan: (1) The management plan - are the people in-charge experienced and capable; (2) The marketing plan - is there a viable market and how will the product or service will be advertised, sold, and distributed in a competitive manner; and (3) The pro-forma financial statements - will there be enough cash flow to sustain the business while it grows into a profitable venture.

3. Competition: You have to know who your competitors are. It is essential to find out how much competition there is for a particular product or service because there might be enough people producing the same thing. Once an individual has started the business it is very important to keep track of how the competition is behaving.

4. Corporate structure/Partnerships: One of the first decisions you have to make before entering a business, is to decide how many people you want investing. You can have a partner or a group of people forming a corporation. These decisions affect control of the enterprise and how things are run.

5. Financing: One of the major concerns is to make sure there will be available funds to start the business and operate until profitable. You have to decide where the money is coming from and how much. It is very common to start without enough money to back up the operation and then run out of cash before profits are in place. This is when the entrepreneur may have to sell the business or take on investors or partners to provide the additional capital they need. Often this results in loss of control over the business and much of the incentive for starting the business is destroyed.

6. Financial management: Once the assets are available, a very well structured financial strategy should be developed and followed to always make wise use of all the property, equipment, money etc.

7. Winning Attitude: Probably the most important part of being in business for yourself is the attitude that no matter what happens, you will deal with it and continue on. Problems and challenges arise moment by moment. You need the resolve that any problem can be overcome if you just keep trying. This is essential.

8. Work Long Hours: Be prepared to work long hours. 60-80 hours per week at the beginning is not unususal. Keeping your life in balance can be a major problem. However, after you get the business off the ground, you should be able to cut back somewhat. If not, then you need to reexamine your priorities.

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