The Ability to Influence Others is the Key to a Successful IT Career

The organizational charts of the IT department used to be pretty easy to follow. Employees reported to one manager or supervisor and only worried about pleasing the boss. The modern IT structure blends dotted line reporting with cross-functional teams and scrum project management, which requires a leader with limited power to guide a group of professionals and eliminate obstacles that could hinder the team’s performance.

So what’s the secret to being a successful IT professional in today’s environment? Influence. IT professionals need the ability to persuade others without having a manager’s title or reporting authority. Persuading co-workers and managers to take action on your requests or agree with your idea requires some pretty sophisticated skills. Here are the secrets to influencing others in a complex business world.

  • Nurture relationships: Get to know people, because familiarity will motivate them to comply with your requests. Invest time, listen and understand their needs and objectives, and then tailor your requests to deliver a mutual benefit. You stand the best chance of getting to yes, if you find common ground.
  • Be trustworthy: Trust is crucial to being an effective leader, but it has to be earned. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, follow-up and be transparent and honest with your feelings so people will see that they can trust you.
  • Show appreciation and reciprocate: If a co-worker prioritizes a bug repair to advance a project, take the time to say thanks and return the favor. You’ll compromise your influencing power if you always take and never give.
  • Support your requests: Always explain your requests and provide adequate facts and details so co-workers will be persuaded to comply. When you don’t have reporting authority, you have to sell your ideas and support your reasoning with data and logic.

— Leslie Stevens-Huffman

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