I talk to so many IT (tech) people who are genuinely puzzled why they progress up the corporate ladder for a season to a certain point, but then seem to get stuck. Most of them are completely oblivious to (or choose to disregard) the EXTREME CRITICALITY of being an expert in communication and interpersonal relationships in addition to being an expert at the technology.

Think about it.  Many of the IT (tech) concepts are difficult and challenging, and if someone doesn’t pay keen attention to how they communicate and building their interpersonal skills, as well as managing how other people might perceive them as a person, they won’t have those strong professional relationships that are so critical for upward mobility and sustained success across the long haul.

Just because something is a good idea or “right”, doesn’t mean people will readily adopt it and start doing it.  Everyone is busy and their plates already overflowing.  You have to be observant and present it to them in a custom way that corresponds to how they operate and perceive the world, what provides them value, and how that aligns to their priorities.  A tech person who is good at that, is one who is sought after and gets promoted seemingly effortlessly.

No business person wants to have the extra burden or work of the IT Security disciplines, for example. I see many IT Security people face resistance after resistance after resistance, and then I see far too many of them resort to commanding practices (“just do what I tell you to do”) because they know they’re right and can’t get people to do what they want. That might accomplish the momentary goal, but it’ll have a price to pay for the overall relationships.  A better approach always is to communicate with someone in their own behavior style and motivators to help them understand the importance and priority in their own context. To take it a step further, help them to see the value for what they do and care about such that it becomes their own choosing. Then you have the thing done AND you’ve built a solid professional relationship.

Another one from my own experience is the GRC (governance, risk, compliance) concepts. Those are great things, but quite frankly, unless you instill into people the VALUE of why THEY should CHOOSE to participate, it’s just going to become an exercise because you’re making them do it, and the value will be minimized or lost. That defeats the whole purpose, whether it’s the right thing to do or not.

In addition to being a top technical talent, what has made me successful across the IT organization for the entirety of my career is to:

  • Value people for the expertise they do have and bring
  • Understand how I’m driven, think, and how people are prone to perceiving me (self-awareness)
  • Actively engage other people’s perspective by being observant and adapting

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