IT leaders know strong communication skills are important. It’s becoming a top skill they look for in new hires and an area of training for existing teams. Some CIOs have their own dedicated writers and communications professionals on their teams to effectively communicate messages within and outside of IT.
The best leaders are often great communicators themselves. But it’s a tough skill to master, and even seasoned professionals put their foot in their mouths from time to time. Improving takes continued practice – and requires acknowledging mistakes when you make them.
Communication mistakes leaders make
Read on for bad communication mistakes leaders make, often unintentionally. If you have been guilty of any of these faux pas in the past, know that you can bounce back with this advice from communication experts and IT leaders who have been in your shoes.
[Also read: 9 must-read books to make you a stronger communicator ]
1. They don’t pay attention
“Put your phone away when you walk the halls. Don’t just focus on the 'important people' or those you think are decision makers. Instead, see everybody because seeing and being seen is a sign of respect for the person you are looking at and also is a rewarding experience for you." – Melanie Katzman, founder of Katzman Consulting and author of the book Connect First: 52 Simple Ways to Ignite Success, Meaning and Joy at Work.
2. They minimize others’ feelings
“Minimizing how someone is feeling is one of the easiest mistakes to make when communicating and can be one of the most detrimental. Making light of someone’s reaction to a problem at work will make them question themselves, question your support of employees, and ultimately their ability to bring up future issues.
“Walking back this mistake isn’t easy. If you’ve already put the proverbial foot in mouth, then coming back from this becomes a trust-building exercise. First, apologize for minimizing. Explain that it wasn’t your intention and that you were only attempting to help make a problem more manageable. Second, offer time to come up with a solution. Everyone wants to feel that they are valued and that their opinion is important. Coming up with a plan tells them that you’re trying, instead of brushing them off. Third, encourage that person to return to you with problems in the future – and promise it will be different.” – Shayne Sherman, CEO of TechLoris
3. They aren’t respectful of others' communication preferences
"With 86 percent of developers working remotely in some capacity today, strong communication skills are not only key to driving strong business results – but necessary to ensure that different team members are communicating most effectively, no matter where they are based.
“For example, across the developer community as a whole, most developers prefer to communicate over business collaboration software (such as Slack, Skype for Business, and Salesforce Chatter), as opposed to phone or video options. Learning about your team’s communication preferences not only helps with effectivity but also opens the door up for team members to voice if there are points of friction or confusion with the way things have been communicated in the past.” – Eddie Zaneski, manager of developer relations at DigitalOcean
[ Beyond communication, read about the 10 soft skills every IT team needs ]
4. They don’t talk enough about strategy
“Leaders don’t communicate often enough, particularly about strategy. Leaders expect direct reports to remain engaged in their work without doing the work necessary to inspire their teams. The fix? Talk to your team about the overall strategy of the organization. Inspire them by talking about the mission, vision, and values of the enterprise, and by modeling the behavior you want to see them use in daily interactions.” – Dr. Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler, founder and CEO of Alignment Strategies Group, author of Optimal Outcomes: Free Yourself from Conflict at Work, at Home, and in Life