It’s likely that your organisation is undergoing some sort of IT-led transformation. This undoubtedly means your role is quickly shifting from being a supplier to a strategic partner to the business so a change in your approach and attitude is required.
This effectively means you need to develop a new set of skills. Simply stated, technical skills will get you in the door, business acumen will get you to the table, but human interaction skills are what will create an ongoing relationship.
Here are 7 things you must do if you want to be more consultative with the business.
1. Develop some business acumen
You must educate yourself to your client’s area of expertise and the current challenges that they are facing. Do you know their strategy? Their business goals and objectives?
Think of yourself like a student of your client’s business. Get to know their real issues and speak their language. To do this you must spend time with your clients and truly get interested in them. Become a good interviewer, ask good probing questions before coming to a solution.
2. Do your homework
Take the time to create a profile of your client. Rarely will your relationship start with the luxury of having zero past. Know whether the past interactions and experiences have created a positive or negative impression.
Is the client excited about working with you or have they been burned on previous projects. You can’t deal with those situations in the same way.
Effective listening is a skill that takes work and must be practiced. You must hear what is being said, be aware of your filters, judgements or opinions, absorb the information and keep it accurate.
The practice of active listening includes clarifying, paraphrasing, and making sure you haven’t made any incorrect assumptions.
4. Have a bit of empathy, be diplomatic
It is critical to show empathy and be able to think, see and feel from the point of view of the client. Diplomacy takes that a step further. It is the ability to still be respectful and courteous with others even if you don’t agree with them.
You won’t be able to influence anyone if your mindset is “I’m right” or “let me tell you why you’re wrong”. All you will accomplish is building a barrier to communication and a battle of positions.
The goal is to create a safe and trusting environment that sets the context for an open exchange of ideas.
5. Manage your emotional triggers
Our emotional reactions and ego defence responses have a significant negative impact on our effectiveness as a consultant. When other’s attack or irritate you, the first reaction of pushing back, being defensives or just withdrawing must be managed.
Develop an awareness of what hooks your emotions the most. It is this awareness that will help you maintain objectivity and deal with the situation in an intelligent and logical manner.
6. Be a teacher
How often do we hear IT organisations complain about clients not knowing what they want or that the requirements are not clear enough. It is your job to educate clients to what they don’t know and do it in a way that they understand.
Communication must never come from a place of arrogance. IT has a bad history of speaking down at clients that don’t understand technology. We even have a very unflattering term for our clients: Users!
7. Build rapport
As IT, very often we like to stick to the facts. Building rapport goes beyond the facts and it is about taking the time to build a mutual connection. You don’t have to get all touchy-feely but take the time to get interested in them as person.
Keep in mind you are developing solutions for people that use IT as opposed to just IT solutions.
Lou Markstrom is the co-author of Unleashing the Power of IT: Bringing People, Business, and Technology Together, published by Wiley as part of its CIO series. Lou is currently the practice leader for IT Culture and Talent Development at DDLS.
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