The Three Essential Skills For Tech Managers

Communication came just second in the list of the most in-demand skills for 2023, according to LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report.

This means that now is the time to brush up or show off the communication skills you have as a Manager in Tech, for the best chance to progress your career smoothly.

Despite this fact, there are many people in tech who would much rather sit in isolation with their heads hidden behind two screens, or buried in a spreadsheet than use their communication skills. At a basic level, they might be able to coast on this but sooner or later they’ll falter without effective communication. After all, the research points to the fact that people are hired for their technical competence but more often than not, fired because of a lack of interpersonal skills.

Managers have to bridge the gap between technical expertise and interpersonal connection, not just within their own department but beyond. They need to influence people, use non-verbal communication with skill and be an effective problem-solver.

That being the case, here are the three essential people skills tech managers need to be successful:

Presenting skills

Presenting skills

Being able to communicate effectively to an audience is a critical skill in a tech environment. The common mistake is to assault your listeners with slides and endless bullet points, thick with text.  Even when individuals have decided to opt for strong visuals, they tend to forget other key aspects that make a presentation engaging beyond the technically competent members of your audience.  Many struggle to have the audience act on their presentations.

Presenting is an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and credibility. So how do we improve our presentation skills?

  • Think about the audience – What are the roles? What are their expectations? Adapt what you say to your audience, thinking about tone and style. Much of the time, you’ll have an audience who may include the more commercially focused so it’s essential to consider the diverse needs of your listeners.
  • Give the audience a key message – Your presentation needs central point that articulates the benefit to the audience- even if they’re mixed – to encourage buy-in. Although this may seem obvious, most Technical Leaders don’t mention it, or briefly imply it.
  • Plan and prepare – This sounds obvious but make sure the speech uses conversational hooks such as questions to draw your audience in. Use a mind map to sketch out the structure, keeping the key message in the middle so you have it in mind with every point you make.
  • Delivery – Make sure your delivery is confident and enthusiastic, don’t look at the slides more than your audience or dart around the audience. Hold the eye contact.  Use gestures to emphasise and illustrate your voice as well as varying vocal tone to add colour to your speech.

Active Listening

An effective tech manager must be a skilled active listener. It’s this skill that helps them to validate requirements, unearth concerns, and encourage input from their business team, clients and stakeholders.

Active Listening

Conversely, research has shown that a lack of listening not only creates conflict but also contributes to flawed decision making. Active listening makes others feel more valued and involved, promoting collaboration.  Ultimately, this saves managers from firefighting, giving them more time to achieve their goals. When listening to your team you need to:

  • Focus – Avoid and turn-off distractions so you can give full attention
  • Use verbal and non-verbal cues – Show that you’re interested with your body language. Subtle mirroring of the speakers face or body language, or vocal cues such ‘uh-huh’ indicate listening.
  • Ask Open Questions – Ask relevant open questions to open up the conversation and bring to light core issues. This will encourage the team member to explore their ideas further.
  • Reflect back – Paraphrase their message back to them to demonstrate you’ve understood it: “so what you’re saying is………”.

Deal with Difficult Conversations

Challenging and sensitive conversations arise all the time so an essential part of management is having the courage to face them in a constructive and respectful way. Such conversations may involve offering feedback, carrying out an appraisal, raising a complaint, managing expectations, or delivering bad news. If ignored, difficult situations and interpersonal conflict can fester and turn toxic.

Deal with Difficult Conversations

You therefore need a plan for how to address these quickly, considering these factors when doing so:

  • Feelings – Start by asking yourself why you feel anxious about addressing this situation. Consider how you feel and have a think about what is at the root of it. The problem might not seem as bad as you thought.
  • Purpose – Identify the purpose of the conversation and what the goals and objectives of it would be. What is it you want the other person to understand or do, if anything?
  • Reactions – Anticipate what the possible reactions would be and how you could avoid these or deal with them should they arise.
  • Time – Think about what the best time would be to have this conversation, avoiding anything that would add pressure or discomfort.
  • Setting – Make sure to have this conversation in a private setting where the person feels most comfortable.
  • Language – Be clear and direct in your language, avoid blame or negative assumptions about the intentions of the other person. Take responsibility if you have contributed to a negative situation evolving.
  • Listen – Be empathetic and acknowledge the issues.
  • Mutual benefits – Find a mutually beneficial solution, if possible. Where there’s a possibility, offer options and alternatives to avoid forcing your perspectives on them.

Communicating with greater effectiveness will bring real benefits to any business in an area where people skills might not be the highest priority, using communication skills will single you out as a super-communicator: someone that speaks so others not only listen, but act on your words.  In addition, the greater credibility means that it’s simpler to influence others, ultimately driving you and the teams you lead closer to your goals.

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