Top Ten Skills

I came across a research tip from an analyst house. Their research covers the practice of information technology. The tip was how IT managers should prepare themselves to survive and be successful five and ten years out.

In looking at the list, it seemed applicable to many different careers.

1. Leadership: This is far and away the most important capability an IT manager will need to have. It begins with knowing who you are, what you”™re good at, and what you believe in. With that as a foundation, your self-confidence will allow you to lead people whether they work for you or not. Effective leadership allows you to transcend geographies, organizations, and cultures. It will produce desired results despite the ambiguity and level of risk. The key is to be an “authentic”? leader.

2. Relationship Building: Having a significant personal network of people will continue to be a smart way to operate in one”™s career. Not only does it provide the right contacts for career situations but also enables you to practice “just in time learning”?. Building and nurturing relationships is essential to working with people who are not your direct reports, or who live halfway around the world from you. Relationships ”” not technology ”” are the basis of your personal credibility.

3. Learning: Given the rate of change we”™ve experienced for the first fifty years of IT, there are so many and so much to learn. It”™s a never-ending process.  So, one must learn how to learn. One needs to understand how he/she learns, from both effectiveness and efficiency points of view. There are so many books that need to be read. So, how does one learn to take an allotted period of time and get the most he/she can out of the book in that period of time? That”™s the only way one can practice continuous learning.

4. Business Acumen: There is no question today that the IT manager must be good at “business speak”?. We must be able to talk with business people in their language but even more importantly, we must understand the industry, where our company plays in that industry, our unique selling proposition, how we make money, and what our customers are like. We need to get to know some of the key customers. How else can we possibly understand where our technology can help add to our revenue stream?

5. International Cultures: The globalization that is upon us, and the off-shoring to foreign countries, requires that we learn to work with and understand international cultures. More and more industries, e.g. life insurance and healthcare, are beginning to venture into other countries. The “American way”? will not always bring success in how we run our business, or in how we develop and nurture our relationships.

6. Listening and Communicating: Probably the least understood skill is that of listening. We all seem to hear, but seldom do we listen. We need to hear what is not said ”“ the body language, the tone being used, etc. Too often we are busy determining what we are going to say next, rather than understanding what is currently being said. It follows then that bad communications stem from bad listening practices.

7. Mentoring: If an IT manager is going to have an effective organization, he/she has got to help develop the people who work for them. Learning how to be an effective mentor takes some practice, including especially listening skills. Both Jim Collins (in Good to Great) and Jack Welch believed that the real legacy an executive leaves in an effective, skilled organization. That”™s the real job of the IT executive.

8. Project Management: This is a capability the IT manager needs today and in the future. The emphasis of the future has to be in the leadership and interpersonal skills that ensure sound project management practices. Projects fail because relationships and expectations fail.

9. Change Management: This, like project management, is a necessity for today”™s IT manager. It will also continue into the future, as “change”? will become our steady diet. I would add that an IT manager will not be able to lead others through changing times and situations if he/she can”™t learn to change himself/herself first.

10. Producing Results: All of the first nine items on this list won”™t matter if the IT manager can”™t make things happen. A successful leader will get results by setting the direction, aligning the people, and motivating them to produce results. It can no longer be done by just commanding the people to do work. Just make sure you know what the results are that you are striving to attain, and remember to be a technologist and not a technician.

From TAC, The Advisory Council.

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