Why communications skills for IT professionals is key to career success
Irrespective whether you are in a leadership role or not, successful individuals have honed the skills of creating influence. Influence is important when it comes to dealing with others over whom you have no direct authority.
Irrespective of your role, influence is a key skill to acquire. For example, it is thorough influence that you can:
- Get others to help you
- Help reshape others’ opinions and perceptions on matters of importance to you and/or the organisation
- Seek support for an idea or concept
- Achieve a common understanding of problem challenges
A cornerstone of developing influence starts with the ability to communicate in terms others can understand and relate to. Here are a few pointers to help
- Empathy: Not to be confused with sympathy, Empathy is simply being able to appreciate the circumstances faced by others, and is pivotal to being able to shape discussions so that others appreciate your position
- The power of metaphor: The skill of a explaining a concept by likening it to something else is a powerful way of communicating complex concepts. Check out this TED Talk video for a great explanation of metaphor
- Open-ended questions: Hone the art of using open ended questions, that is, those that do not just have a Yes-No answer. Open-ended questions invite discussion, and informed discussion is critical in being seen as a person of influence.
- Start off on the right foot: Always start your conversation with something others already know, understand and can appreciate. If you open the discussion with terms such as application stacks, network proxy’s or server virtualisation, the game’s over! Speak in terms that others can understand, such as reducing risk, improving sales processes, increasing margins or delivering value. Mastering the art and skill of explaining complexity to those that don’t care should be at the core af any effective IT mentoring program.
- Research: If the topic or individual situation is important, understand and research your audience as best you can. Try to understand what motivates those you are trying to influence (eg: are they sales people who only really care about their sales commissions and targets?)
- Listen, and observe: If you can bring a fresh perspective to the discussion that will help, do so. This shows independence of thought and how your valuable insights are really worth listening to.
The stereotypical IT ‘geek’ image is sometimes worn as a badge of honour by some IT professionals. Those that do, will find this approach self limiting and can be a real liability when it comes to communicating with important stakeholders.
If you are interested in maintaining some semblance of control over your future career in IT, hone your communications skills and start enjoying the conversations!