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8/19/2005
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SmartAdvice: Planning Ahead Means A Disaster Needn't Wipe Out Your Business

Planning ensures a business will have in place a road map and people to give direction, The Advisory Council says. Also, managers have to work on 'soft skills' to get ahead.

Question B: Which interpersonal skills are most important in an IT leader's career?

Our advice: The common denominator of all leaders, managers, and followers is working with people. It's those "soft skills" that you must master.

So, here's my "Top 10" list of interpersonal skills:

  1. Listening: This capability is probably the most difficult to master. There are so many obstacles and distractions to hearing what someone else is saying or not saying. It takes great concentration and desire to listen deeply to the other person.
  2. Crucial conversations: The other side of listening is speaking. Knowing how to have those very difficult conversations in emotionally packed situations leads to success. Knowing how to sort out the facts and logic from the emotions leads to solutions.
  3. Relationships: It has been said that credibility is 80% relationships and 20% expertise. One needs to constantly work on building and maintaining one's network. For the extrovert, this is relatively simple. For the introvert, he/she will need to operate outside of their comfort zone.
  4. Persuasion: The ability to sell your ideas is crucial to leadership. This is usually done in informal conversations, where you must first understand the other person's point of view. It's then that you can put forth yours in a manner to which they can relate.
  5. Negotiation: Budgets, headcounts, contracts, project plans … all require negotiation. It's here that "think win-win" really applies. If both sides don't walk away from the table believing they got what they needed, there will be a future price to pay.
  6. Related Links

    Top Ten Skills for Future IT Managers



  7. Managing conflict: Seeking resolution to conflict draws upon many of the other interpersonal skills. The ideal is to be sensitive to other people's emotions to avoid the conflict. Once into the conflict stage, diffusing emotions takes a lot of empathy, objectivity, and courage.
  8. Presentations: The key to presentations is to immediately relate to the audience's problem and demonstrate that your solution will bring value to them. If you don't have their attention by the third slide, you've lost them. If you could only use one slide, what would it be?
  9. Writing: This seems to have become a lost art. Our technology has taken us away from formal letter writing, and made us more dependent on the informal E-mail. Word-smithing and proper grammar are still requirements of effective written communications.
  10. Saying "No": Learning how to say "no" is often a matter of overcoming a fear of being seen as a poor performer. What's really needed is the capability to sort out priorities with others, and being able to communicate your position.
  11. Use of humor: Knowing when and how to use humor in various situations can often be the winning advantage. It can be a test of whether the other person or audience is listening to you. It demonstrates both brightness and balance.

Developing these skills will draw upon your natural talents and will take constant practice. First, know yourself. Then, instead of judging others, try to understand them. Where there's mutual understanding, there are successful interpersonal relationships.

--Bart Bolton

Ron Bleiberg, TAC Expert, has more than 25 years of increasingly senior responsibility and experience in the areas of consulting management and delivery, disaster-recovery planning, document-management systems, and total-quality management. His primary focus is working with clients to develop strategic business plans, identify opportunities for the use of state-of-the-art techniques to improve client-interaction capabilities, revenue and profitability, and the solutions associated with those efforts. He is VP of products and services at FileOn, a document-management vendor.

Bart Bolton, TAC Thought Leader, has more than 30 years experience leading the consulting arm of a major IT equipment manufacturer. He is recognized as one of the country's leading experts on building effective organizations. His specific areas of expertise include development and documentation of "Best Practices", individual and organizational development, and change management.

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