Guest Post by Leslie Anglesey
Writing is a necessary leadership skill, whether you’re a leader in IT or the PTA. But what does that mean? How do you define these particular skills, from a writer’s perspective?
Let’s look at some of the basic tenants of good Information Technology (IT) leadership writing skills that are sure to either point you to, or keep you on, the road to success.
Lighten Up the Conversation
It’s all about formal informality. Write conversationally. Spice up your writing with personality. Think like a search engine. If two articles are equally informative, to an exact degree, which one should it give to the searcher? The one that will likely provide a better “user-experience”.
Whenever possible, outside of specs, analytical data, or precise project communications, keep it on a less formal note. If you can deliver the goods in a way that’s easy to digest and personal-able, it’s typically received as authoritative.
Use Convenient Messaging
Rather than trying to schedule a team meeting, call in the National Guard and get NASA on the phone, it’s going to be far more effective to drop people a message or write them an email. What this says is a couple things:
- You’re on the Ball: These consistent and convenient messages let people know you are on the ball, making things happen, ensuring implementation goes smoothly etc. You’re…leading!
- You Value Their Time: Rather than bogging people down with extensive meetings and things, through unobtrusive and digestible messages you show people you value their time as well as your own.
Here’s the thing, even incredibly smart folks are only going to retain 20% of anything you tell them the first time you say it. Short meetings are more effective than longer ones with heavy IT topics, but a concise message can be more effective than both.
Hard Data & Soft Language
When it comes to IT, specifics and hard data are a big deal. You need to speak hard data in a softer language though. Think about any monolithic leader in the industry and then look at the way they write.
Oftentimes they’ll write very specifically about things when needed, but do so in a way that feels lighter.
It’s hard to stress the importance here. Your language needs to precise enough to get the message across, but needs to have the team’s response in mind. Be sure to proofread and edit. Be sure to polish and format. Don’t be sloppy in your pursuits to make hard data more attractive and easy to remember.
Always Provide Precise Instructions in Writing
Again, never depend on what you tell someone. We may be in the digital age, if anyone knows this you do, but put instructions in writing! This could be an email. It could be a blog post on the team website or within any number of the project management software options.
- Give people a checklist rather than a wall of text whenever possible.
- Break down complex instructions into easier to follow steps. This is a sure sign of a leader, and of someone who has a higher professional grasp of the subject.
- Be absolutely clear with deadlines, but don’t make that deadline more important than the quality of your team’s work. In the end, that’s typically going to be more important.
With written instructions, especially when they use precise language, the chance that someone could misunderstand you or do something wrong is minimized.
All Team Meetings Should Be Followed Up with a Written Summary
Follow-up summaries should be done the same way as your written instructions. After the meeting, hand people a basic summary or perhaps the PowerPoint outline. It just needs to be received as a “convenient message” that helps people perform better.
Once you get the writing aspect down, managing and maintaining a platform as an IT leader is far easier. Once you can easily communicate complex things in a conversational way that appeals to people, the rest is a cake walk. All in all, the quickest route to better IT writing is to study other highly effective IT writers. As you’ll see, personality goes a long way in not only leading but in making information much more impressionable.
Featured image courtesy of thinkpanama, licensed via creative commons, some rights reserved.
Leslie Anglesey is an associate professor, a writing geek, and a contributor to Essay Tigers. You can connect with her on Google+.
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