IT directors and finance directors share many challenges when it comes to interpersonal skills, according to consultancy Positive Presence, which ran several seminars for IT directors and finance directors last month.
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About 50 IT directors in the financial services sector attended the sessions at the City IT conference on board the cruise ship Oriana, and another 50 attended similar sessions at the parallel Finance Directors Forum.
"There are many similarities between finance directors and IT directors," said Nicola Murray of Positive Presence. "Generally, both are technical, their interpersonal skills are not so strong and they are not as gregarious as other groups. They tend not to be 'people people'. They both tend to move through the ranks in their departments, where there is no issue about communicating internally.
"However, it is when they become more senior and they need to be more outward facing that they come across problems, and these are best identified early on."
Murray said the three core areas for IT directors to focus on were: grooming, pitching ideas and behaviour. She stressed the importance of appearance, body language, voice, and etiquette for successful managers.
"They need to simplify their elevator pitches and communicate in layman's terms when they communicate externally. IT people tend to over complicate. They need to think simply and in bullet form," said Murray.
On behaviour, she said that IT directors should try to think out of their niche and about who their target audience is. "They should consider what the target audience knows, what it does not know, and what it does not want to know."
Murray said they needed to be able to read people to get the best out of them and to sell themselves.
Highlighting the differences between IT and finance leaders, she said, "IT directors tend to be less confident than finance directors because controlling the purse strings of the organisation brings confidence and authority - but not necessarily presence."
On the other hand, finance directors do not like surprises and tend to be less quick at thinking on their feet than IT directors.
Murray said that IT people were quick on their feet about IT solutions but from a management perspective they were less quick - they think of the design of solutions, but do not think so much about the impact on business.