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Information Technology Leaders Need Good Communication Skills

Do you ever feel like you cause animosity and anger just by answering a simple question? All you tried to do was help, and they took it the wrong way, right? The old adage, "It is not what you say, but how you say it," is as true in today's business environment as ever before. The wrong word or tone of a word can cause misunderstandings, ill feelings and resentment, producing communication barriers that cost your organization more money than server downtime. It is essential that you approach and communicate effectively with your Front Line people.

When discussing issues that you are more familiar with, it is very easy (inadvertently) to make people feel belittled or even stupid. This causes associates, team members and even mentors to fear talking to you or asking questions. No one wants to feel like they've asked a dumb question. Now, small problems that you may have solved quickly fester and grow to become major obstacles before they come to your attention. So how do you communicate with people and not sound like you are trying to hit them over the head with an encyclopedia? Developing effective communication skills requires training and practice. However, here are a few tips for avoiding making people feel inferior.

Listen. Do not be a Wizard.

Someone comes to you with a question that you have heard and answered 10,000 times before. You know what they are going to say before they say it. You may have a tendency to cut them off and jump in with the answer to their question. When this happens, you tell them, "I am the all powerful, all seeing OZ! I know what you are going to say and it is a stupid question that you should already know. Take this answer and get out and stop wasting my time!" This is a mistake. You may already know what's coming, but you must let them talk. Let the person get it out and look them in the eye as they explain. This question is important to them---hear it!

Wait. One Mississippi, Two Mississippi...

When the situation, problem or question is a real a major issue (at least to the person seeking your advice), then you don't want to have the answer or the solution to the problem too readily available. In other words, it can't be too easy for you to solve. You may have the solution on the tip of your tongue, but don't let it pop out. You can build significant value in your advice while simultaneously giving credibility to the question simply by delaying the response a second or two. Just count to two or three, while giving that, "That's a good question," pondering look into the air. Then respond with an attitude and tone of voice that projects, "Ok, I think I've got it..."

Can I get back to you?

Let's face it; sometimes you are simply too busy to talk to anyone. However, you don't have to say, "I don't have time for you now, get out! You can still lend credibility, and build value and camaraderie by the way you "put-off" people. You need to help people feel that it is in their best interest that you do not talk to them at that moment. As an example, cutting him off, you might say, "Listen, Bill that is a very good question and it's going to take me some time to really look at this. In fact, I think it's too important for me to try to figure it out right now, when I only have a few minutes. Look, let me get back to you first thing Friday, when I have the time we need to give this the attention it deserves."

Can you help me?

You can give commands and orders all day long. However, often it is better to ask for help instead. When you have to delegate tasks, especially those that may be tedious or labor intensive, it is easy for people to feel like you dumped it on them. A good thing to do is to ask for help with the project. You, the big boss; the technical genius, actually needs their help. "Mary, I really need your help with something..." You will find that people are more inclined to want to help you, than run errands for you.

Ineffective communication acts like a cancer throughout your organization, directly and indirectly costing your company precious time and money. Communication however is a process and an effective communication process will increase productivity and decrease costs, thereby enhancing the bottom line. And remember, Your Front Line IS the Bottom Line.

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About the Author

John Landrine, John Landrine,
1804 Quincy Street
Savannah, GA 31405

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