The third and final part of our series is on communication best practices. If you haven’t read the first two parts, read Part One – Getting Started and Part Two – Senior Leadership and Executives here.
So far, we’ve covered some tips on communicating IT concepts to colleagues, employees, and senior leadership. To be an even more effective communicator, there are a few general best practices that you can follow as well.
Our experts offered a few pieces of advice for implementing techniques that will serve you well both in the near and far future. These recommendations will help IT information resonate more with your audience and help your team work better together in the long run.
Meet the Experts
Miguel Jacq runs mig5, a sysadmin consultancy based in Melbourne, Australia. He blends the art of communication and systems administration for agencies and other sysadmin teams around the world, helping to improve and evolve their IT systems, workflows, and customer solutions.
Teresa Banks is a Manager for Information Security and Compliance Programs at the University of Arizona.
Communication is Like Sleep: You Probably Need More of It
An important step to being a more effective IT communicator is to, well, do more of it. For one, it can break down the “anti-social IT guy” stereotype.
“Frequency creates normality. It establishes you as accessible to others, and it helps break down that stereotype of being the anti-social IT person,” says Miguel Jacq, who runs mig5, a sysadmin consultancy. Plus, practice makes perfect. “The more you make an effort to communicate, to stay in the loop or keep others in yours, the better you get at it,” he says.
Start “Feedback Loops”
Jacq recommends creating regular meetings for anyone to air problems, concerns, or demonstrate something you’re working on. This can facilitate communication because people are likely not talking at all, let alone solving those issues. Plus, it’s a great way to know your colleagues better.
“Everyone has strengths and weaknesses—the problems begin when people wanted you to solve a problem last week that is just not in your repertoire and you need help,” he says. “In addition, by talking about what you know, soon you’ll be recognized for the skills you do have, and you’ll be sought out with ideas or questions.”
Don’t Forget about Documentation
Written communication is important, and not just in company-wide emails, either.
“Docs are an oft-overlooked method of communicating with co-workers and customers, and can help avoid repetition,” says Jacq. “Good documentation will also ease the on-boarding of fellow IT colleagues, and reduce stress by offering a good reference point during incidents or risky change windows. Remember that good documentation ‘communicates’ to others on your behalf if you’re busy, sick, or on holiday.”
Frame Things in a “What’s In It For Me?” Context
We mentioned this tip in Part Two – Senior Leadership and Executives, but it’s a best practice that you should follow because this approach is effective on everyone—not just senior leadership.
Teresa Banks, Manager for Information Security and Compliance Programs at the University of Arizona, uses this tactic when creating security awareness for the students and employees on campus.
For example, if you frame a phishing email in the context of how it can affect someone and what can happen as a result—aka “what’s in it for me,” why it should matter to someone—your security message resonates much more deeply.
“Making it ‘what’s in it for me’—we talk about that with them a lot,” says Banks.
She doesn’t just explain what a phishing email looks like; she illustrates the disastrous consequences of a successful phishing scam. “It’s showing them: ‘Now I can get into your employee record, I can find your social security number, your date of birth, and I can steal your identity right there. Oh, you have direct deposit. I can change the routing number and the account number and I can reroute your paycheck to me now.’ Once you visually walk people through scenarios that relate to their lives, they get it.”
The Psychological Benefits of Effective Communication Go a Long Way
And finally, don’t overlook the impact that effective communication can have on your team and how you work together. The effect can be profound.
“A team communicating frequently and without ‘blame language’ solves problems, makes things work faster, better next time, or with less necessary effort,” says Jacq.
“Everyone wants to work more effectively. Doing so fosters better morale, quality through pride, improves billable versus overhead ratios, and reduces staff attrition rates.”
If you missed the first two parts of our communication series, read Part One – Getting Started and Part Two – Senior Leadership & Executives here. Plus, learn six simple, everyday analogies to explain IT concepts (that everyone will understand!) by downloading our free guide here.