The Official E-Newsletter of the Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka   |  Issue 49 - December 2020

Three Rules in Leading People

By Eng. P.V.A Chathura Udayanga

The Engineers are leaders. When my nine years old son asked, “what do you do at your office?”, my simple answer to him was “I am solving problems”. In a nutshell, Engineers are problem solvers. It may be either small, big, simple, or complex. While the Engineering management routine works as a leader in problem solving, we have nothing to do with quantum physics theories or complex integration. It is all about crystal understanding a problem and application of common sense to solve it.

A leader may not be a person who makes everybody happy. A leader is a person who chooses the best alternative solution among several available options.

“If you want to make everyone happy, don't be a leader. Sell ice cream.” - Steve Jobs Leadership is a topic that was explored enough during the last decades by researchers and professionals. I am not going to repeat those theoretical aspects in this article. I am going to pinpoint you “Must-Follow” three essential rules according to my experience as a leader. Leadership is all about making decisions with common sense. It is a practical and hands-on experiential construct. I called this “Three Rule in leading people

Rule No 01: Report-Back-Report

As leaders, we are interested to know the challenges and barriers which team members face and when/where team members need our assistance to resolve those. It doesn’t matter whether status is positive or negative. Real status is much important as a leader to know that we are in a process of achieving agreed objectives. The biggest myth is that if it is negative, the team member doesn’t want the leader to know it because the team member thinks that it is his/her problem. We need to train team members to raise a flag at the correct time. Once issues or problems are informed to TEAM, problems may become “Ours”. It is no longer belonging to one person. It becomes a global and universal problem where all team members shall attend and try to bring their imaginations to resolve it. The problem becomes “OURS”. As leaders, it is our responsibility to facilitate team members to resolve problems. In such circumstances, it is paramount important to know the real information for a leader to assist him/her.

If news is negative, Please Report it. It is not your problem anymore. It is OUR problem.

Similarly, if the status is positive, it has a similar importance to a leader. It is called “Back-Report”. If a team member performs his/her duties and the result is achieved, the team member needs to inform the leader and say that “Mission Accomplished”. Most team members never back reported to the leader when it is positive. Team members think that if it is achieved, there is no necessity to inform the leader since the result is positive. As leaders, we shall emphasize to team members that positive news has similar importance as negative news.

It is super important to back-report positive results to the leader.

Regardless of news becoming negative or positive, Team members shall understand the importance of Report-and-Back-Report process as a shared responsibility among team members.

Rule No 02: Follow up – Follow up – Follow up

As leaders, we need to get a specific task done by each team member. As an example, if you need to get Y-Report from one of the team members on coming Monday, you need to keep contacting him for a minimum of 1 week.

It is all about making sure he/she is on the correct track to get it done. The best way to validate the progress of a task is to continuous follow up. It is not just one time to follow up. It is called three times to follow up. This follows up process ensures the interest of the leader for the task and emphasizes its importance in terms of achieving project objectives.

Without following up with team members, we cannot expect Y-Report within one-week time. It is a matter of reminding and making sure that the task is in a process of achieving objectives. It is as simple as that. There is No rocket science behind this.

The human factor called “Healthy relationship” plays a key role when following up with people. Again, making good relationships is not a Science, it is an Art.

Follow up and keep him Reminded until you get it DONE.

Rule No 03: Don’t Say it. Write it

All communications shall be in-writing. You may be surprised why I do note this as a rule. It is true. As a construction professional, we believe in documentation rather than words. On the other hand, it is a common fact that the brain has limited capacity. Therefore, everyone forgets things. Fittingly, “Write Down” may clarify things further and enable me to reconfirm what was communicated verbally. The “What Said” put into a paper by “In-Writing” makes both parties responsible for what we verbally agreed. Moreover, Work-day is full of facts and information. So, it is hard to keep memorizing things and prioritize actions without writing down the content.

In-writing facts are avoided miscommunication. No Final Moment Surprises.


If you just follow these three simple rules in the context of leading people, you may feel a BIG difference than ever before. These three rules are lessons learned in my work life. It is what I feel. It works for me. All in all, I feel that Leadership is all about Common Sense.

Lead Teams and Have Fun. Lastly, don’t forget to Taste Ice Cream.

Eng. P.V.A Chathura Udayanga
AM 14527
IESL Qatar Chapter

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Email Print