There are many different personality traits found in individuals in our industry. One trait that I’ve found dominant in technical roles is that of introversion. This trait is one that often manifests itself by creating challenges with verbal communications. Depending on an individual’s role, or desired role, this can prevent a technology rockstar from reaching their full potential. Honing ones ability for concise and effective communication at work is an important step in reclaiming that potential.
In technology, like any other field, you are a leader or you are a follower. To be a leader requires effective communication. Effective communication isn’t necessarily speaking in front of a large audience. The audience could be one co-worker, your manager, or a group of like-minded individuals. In any case the ability to articulate a message is your chance to translate and transfer your ideas, your knowledge and your requirements to others. Since many of our efforts are quite useless in solitude, the ability to effectively communicate is part of what we do each and every day. This is literally the protocol for exchanging information.
As is often the case, a technically astute individuals may be overlooked in favor of their less proficient, but “outgoing”, counterparts. This creates a lot of frustration. We tend to focus on sharpening our technical skills. Addressing our personal challenges with effective oral communication is similarly important. While many find public speaking frightening, communication is more than getting up in front of an audience. There are those who think “I Can’t” when it comes to communication. However, I need to reaffirm their potential. There is absolutely no reason why a tech savvy introvert cannot delivery an outrageously awesome presentation, communicate an idea to their supervisor or have an informative conversation with their colleagues. To do so, these skills simply must be developed.
While I would make the case that communications skills can be improved, we cannot fully change how we are wired as individuals. Someone who struggles making “small talk” should not expect to become the bubbly and outgoing person that they view their co-worker to be. They should, however, work to overcome deficits in their communication skills that are holding them back in their technical careers.
I’ve heard it said that the fear of speaking is greater than the fear of death. While that is a strong statement, it is one that many can relate too. If that is representative of how you feel prior to a presentation or talking with a group, developing effective communication skills will help you become a bit more comfortable. Maybe, just maybe, you can get to the point that you can compare speaking to something a little less dramatic than death (for example—paying Taxes). In the end, the absolute best conversations that can be had are when you can simply be yourself. Nothing turns off an audience, especially a technical audience, more than when they sense that someone isn’t being genuine.
There are also those who are completely comfortable with their communication skills. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t need improvement. Maybe they are that good, but maybe they aren’t. A good way one can gauge their effectiveness is to record themselves. As they replay the recording or video, the speaker should be asking themselves if they are okay with what they are hearing or seeing. In addition, an audience will give clues that should help determine if they are receiving the intended message. Even though some don’t experience the fear of speaking, there are very few of us that shouldn’t strive to improve our communication skills.
Our jobs are ultimately more than just technology. Our jobs involve many soft skills areas, including the ability to communicate effectively. Although verbal communication can be particularly challenging, it is also necessary. Many successful people in technology have struggled with their ability to comfortably and effectively communicate with others. By identifying the problem and working specifically to polish these skills, you too can become a more effective communicator. The skill of effective communication is very important and will allow you to unleash your full potential in your technology career.
In my next article, I will outline several steps that can be taken to improve the effectiveness of our communications.