The 3 Communication Pitfalls for Technical Experts
Some time ago, I walked into a client’s office to ask who the new CTO was: all I could see was the top of his head behind the barricade of 2 massive computer screens.
Was he expecting a volley of fire from enemy territory or did I catch him in a game of hide and seek?
Whatever the reasons for his visual masking, one of the Directors seemed a bit concerned: how’s he going to forge links with other departments and sell up services? We only see him between the cracks of his fortress.
The new CTO seemed to be under the impression that for anything more than a face to half-face meeting, an email would suffice: a clear example of the challenges with which technical experts struggle, when they suddenly need to manage people, push strategy and develop business links.
Here are some of the 3 main obstacles these specialists need to overcome:
1. Over reliance on email
Sitting behind a screen shooting off emails or slugging through reports can have a pay off: firstly you don’t have to get up, except for coffee, the phone or the loo and secondly, you are protected from the vagaries of pesky humans.
Unfortunately, you can’t use an instruction manual to help you navigate their utter unpredicted lack of perceived rationale, the proof of which lies in that email you’re replying to now. You know as you press ‘send’ it’s like throwing a missile but sod it. A point has to be made and you’ll be making it.
That email is not really a missile but a leaky boat – and you’re both in it.
The best way to really ‘get’ what someone’s intention is by seeing them. So if you want to get through those choppy little waves, you better row yourself over to their desk and save yourself a mauling by a shark later on.
2. Too much detail
That PowerPoint with the 70 slides, accompanied by aerial and close up photos of the processor you’re proud of is going to bore the pants off commercial when they see it.
They know you know your stuff, they just don’t know how it’ll affect them. To know how much to tell them seems like a telepathic skills. However, all that’s necessary is that you find out what their problem is and how you can be the solution. To do that, ask and the way will be obvious.
3. Not communicating the bigger picture
Having mixed commercial and technical teams in workshops is always an eye opener: they realise that they’ve been working with only half a map in front of them. Neither has the full picture and both realise how much they benefit from the missing half.
Management don’t communicate the bigger picture to tech teams: they think it either doesn’t concern them or they don’t care to know. So, technical teams need to be more proactive. Ask questions such as:
- How does this affect the business in the long run?
- What difference will it make to you when this is completed?
- What’s the rationale for this?
The last question could be replaced by ‘Why? But that could provoke a defensive reaction, especially in email.
The developers and coders need this information – and want it – so it’s important to ensure that the context is filtered through the teams.
Once this information is clear, tell everyone – not just the decision makers. Knowing why we do what we do and what difference it can make, means teams can be more proactive and driven.
What other specific communication challenges do you think technical experts have?
Let us know in the comments!