Top skills for IT managers - Part 2: Advanced Communication and Interpersonal Skills

Joseph R. Czarnecki, project management specialist and senior consultant at ESI International, identifies six top business skills at which every IT project managers needs to excel.

In this six-part series, Joseph R. Czarnecki, project management specialist and senior consultant at ESI International, identifies six top business skills at which every IT project managers needs to excel.

It's a communication problem! How many times does a problem become a problem because of a misunderstanding? One of the most common challenges organisations face is the gap between the communication style of specialised professionals and that of business professionals. They often don't share a common language; as a result, clear and concise communication suffers.

The best way to combat this issue is to ensure a strong, enterprise-wide emphasis on "high-impact" communication in rising leaders. High-impact communication is clear communication directed at a target audience that achieves its purpose by producing desired outcomes. The ingredients required for great communication include:

• A clear intent - understanding of the purpose of the message, the audience and what message needs to be conveyed

• Definitive actions - which medium the communication is delivered (print, verbal, visual or a combination), the structure of message, and the time and tone of the delivery

• Clarity of message - the objective and the desired outcomes you want to have happen

In a survey of 143 multinational companies spanning 21 countries and 29,000 employees, the Kenexa Research Institute developed a leadership effectiveness index that ranks open communication as one of the top soft skills employees valued most among management.

India and China received the highest marks, while the UK landed at the bottom of the heap at number 17. According to a Grant Thorton business survey, over one-third of the respondents claimed that their leaders lacked the necessary communication skills to do their job. Due to the growing demand for transparency in today's business world, high-impact communication is a highly valued, yet sorely lacking trait.

Translating from a more technical language into business terms is one major hurdle IT professionals often face. On top of that, communication skills play a major role in other key interpersonal skills, such as facilitating brainstorming or requirements-gathering sessions and conveying concepts, visions and goals in a concise and understandable manner. It all comes down to making your communication high-impact and audience-specific. One would not deliver the same message to a board member and team member and expect the same result.

Transitioning IT professionals should adjust their communication style appropriately to different audiences, run high-profile meetings and be able to speak diplomatically and persuasively. Once you know your audience, presenting one's ideas in a clear, high-impact fashion can be done by following the TREOA™ approach.

Topic: What is the problem, issue or opportunity you are addressing?

Recommendation: What is your general recommendation?

Evidence: What evidence do you have that supports the topic and your recommendation?

Outcome: What outcome will the audience realise from this recommendation?

Action: What specific action do you want this audience to take?

If these questions are clearly answered before the message is communicated, half the battle is won. An IT manager's communication style, along with interpersonal, customer service and relationship-building skills, is critical not only to his or her personal success, but also to the success of a project or organisation as a whole.

Once we have our communication skills honed, we're ready for the next step: critical thinking and problem-solving, the topic of the third article in this six-part series.

Part 1: Establishing a business mindset

Joseph R. Czarnecki, PMP, MSP Practitioner, Senior Consultant, Global Learning Solutions - EMEA, ESI International, leads the development and customisation of learning programmes including courseware, executive workshops, coaching programs and assessments for many of ESI global clients. As a subject matter expert and recognised thought leader in project management, Joe has authored various professional articles for trade publications. He is a member of the PMI-UK Corporate Council.

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