Want to Own the Future?
Build Rich Relationships
FOR MORE THAN 20 YEARS, I’ve been hearing complaints, concerns and panicked hysteria about the end of the IT career as we know it. Just below the surface, we all seem to think that we’re about to get he ax. And that’s because we persistently misunderstand what our
Paul Glen is CEO
of Leading Geeks,
an education and
devoted to improving
and people. You can
contact him at info@
business partners want most from us. We think
they just need the best technician, but they don’t.
What they need most, now and in the future,
are technical people who can communicate and
collaborate with nontechnical people. Regardless
of their specialty, individuals who can work across
the cultural divide between geeks and nongeeks
will always be highly valued and in short supply.
My business partner and I have taken to
referring to these folks as “The Magical People.”
Everyone knows who they are. They are the ones
we in IT turn to when we really need business to
understand our point of view. They are the ones
business people turn to when they need jargon interpreted, or details distilled down to what’s most
important. With some sort of magical, inborn
translation device, they build consensus, drive
decisions and get results.
What makes these people magical?
Empathy: They are able to grasp not only what
business people want and need, but how they feel.
They can sense the emotional state of others and
reflect that awareness back in ways that make
others feel understood.
Flexible perspectives: They appreciate that no
one holds the ultimate truth regarding a certain
situation; they know that an issue can be validly
viewed from many perspectives. And they can place
themselves in other people’s shoes, imagining the
ideas, constraints and feelings that others must have.
Flexible communication: They adapt their
style of communication to match the needs of
each audience. They are able to make themselves
understood by many different types of people.
Understanding: They use their flexible perspectives and empathy to understand what other
people consider important. They can communicate what’s important to both IT and the business
in order to reconcile priorities and feelings.
So how do you become more magical? You need
to change your perspective on what counts as
work. Engineers usually think their work is creating technology. It is, but there’s much more to it.
Your job is to apply your knowledge to improve
the condition of your organization and users. If
you want to figure out what will be most helpful,
you need to forge collaborative relationships with
those you want to help.
You can start building those relationships by
recognizing that nontechnical people don’t think
the same way we do. The reason our partnerships
flounder is not because nongeeks don’t understand
technology, but because we each see the world in
radically different ways. So we need to set aside
judgments in order to be more empathetic and
loosen up our idea that there is only one right way
to approach a problem.
So if you want to secure your career, focus on
becoming more magical rather than more technical.
Technologies come and go, but the ability to connect
business and technical people will always be the
rarest and most valuable skill you can offer. We
geeks have precious insight into what’s possible and
feasible; business people are responsible for knowing
what’s important to the business. Geeks and nongeeks will have to work together to find the intersection of “what’s possible” and “what’s important,” so
that together we can determine “what’s next.” u