You may have noticed that the most successful IT professionals you know are not necessarily the whizziest of the bunch when it comes to technical knowhow, but have a noticeable ability to effectively communicate the most complex of IT concepts to their non-techie colleagues. You might be able to talk IP protocols and the intricacies of SDN deployments with the best of them, but if you’re doing so in jargon-filled language that only two other people in the room understand, you could just as well be speaking Martian. Here are our top tips for IT professionals looking to improve their soft skills:
While it might sound impressive initially, overloading someone from outside the specialist IT field with reams of technical language they don’t understand is one of the fastest way to alienate them. Terms that are part of your everyday lingo are likely to be completely foreign to your listener – try to anticipate these in advance of important conversations and come up with clear ‘translations’ that everyone can get to grips with. The look of dawning comprehension on their faces will be worth it.
Learn to listen
It sounds obvious, but some IT professionals are guilty of techie lecturing their non-specialist colleagues – another excellent way to get them to switch off entirely. Try to frame your conversation around your listener, pause regularly to allow them to ask questions and be as empathetic as you can to the fact that they might need to move more slowly through more complex technical solutions than you do.
Take a seminar
If a DIY approach to working on your communication skills isn’t doing the trick, there are plenty of IT-focussed courses and seminars out there. You can either take a more general business communication course live, or sign up for one of the online options which tend to be more IT-focussed. If this is a common issue across your organisation, it’s also worth seeing if your bosses are willing to employ a coach to do some specialist communication training in-house.
Find a mentor
If getting in a professional coach isn’t an option, look around you and identify those techies who obviously excel at communicating across departments and with key clients. Think about what qualities the person has that make their soft skills so exceptional, and – if they’re someone you trust – ask if they’d mind discussing your strengths and weaknesses in this area over coffee.