The position of IT specialists has changed drastically over the past few years. Where many IT staff members were almost literally hidden away in dark basements some years ago, today they are some of the most valuable employees working at a company. As provider of connections between all of the departments, and between technology and humans, the IT professional is simply indispensable.
For many IT professionals, this requires new skill sets, especially in the area of communication. I have been offering so-called Experience Training at Global Knowledge for this purpose during the past year. As the name indicates, it is all about having an experience. You can be told something ten times, but you will know it immediately after a single experience.
No Time for Feedback?
Last week I presented the training course: "ECHT" (Dutch for "real") Contact with Customers and Colleagues. Participants were experienced IT professionals who had been assigned increasing responsibilities at their place of work. They were often required to provide feedback for colleagues. However, this was not an easy task for this particular group. In fact, for a number of them, feedback and criticism were the same thing. It should come as no surprise that colleagues have no time for this "feedback" next time, and you are left standing there with your well-intentioned criticism.
The best way for participants to share their findings in a constructive manner was to put them to the test in discussions with an actor. Even when they were not interacting with the actor, it was an excellent experience. Participants became more familiar with each other during the course, and did not begrudge them any advantage they gained.
A truly inspiring situation ensued at this particular course.
Not a problem!
While one of the participants - let's call him Eric - tried very hard to communicate his feedback in a constructive manner, the other participates were sitting on the edge of their seats. With tensed muscles, they watched a thriller of Olympic proportions unfold in front of their eyes. Breaths were held, now and again deep sighs were heard, or a mumbled curse. Would Eric be able to present his feedback to his colleague (read: actor) without making him recoil in anger? The previous day, Eric had absorbed the theory and indicated that providing feedback would no longer be a problem for him. However, earlier attempts on this day had ended in outrage, deeply hurt feelings, and a total lack of understanding on the part of the person he was speaking to.
But now, just one minute before the start of the second coffee break, it was going to happen. Could he resist his inherent talent for presenting his points as facts? Would he be able to avoid using that belittling tone that was feared so deeply by many colleagues? Eric looked at the actor with a penetrating glare...surely, not again...? He cracked his knuckles... The tension among the watching participants was palpable. Eric took a deep breath... This was his chance... It had to happen now... He squinted his eyes... No, not again... And... And... And... Suddenly, there it was! A sincere look and constructive, friendly feedback. The other participants could not contain themselves, raised their fists, and shouted their approval! Yes! Eric looked at the others with pride and could not suppress a huge grin. Compliments were exchanged and the situation was praised. Eric did it!