The soft skills developers most need to be successful

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Organizations large and small continue to navigate their business and technology transformation and as they undertake their unique transition, the need for insightful, candid and emotionally intelligent leadership has never been greater.

Having discussed this point with leading technology authors and practitioners, one can conclude that much of the heavy lifting in the digital transformation of any business lies with the change leadership of the people involved, more so than the technology implementation itself.

We’ve observed that non-technical courses and books that cover the softer-side of agile development are often more heavily utilized than the technical titles. When you factor in that many of these organizations have widely dispersed or virtual teams which may be working on opposite sides of the globe, the need for advanced management and leadership skills is readily apparent.

Below are a few of the skill areas in high demand with technology-driven organizations based on the learning consumption patterns observed in our own learning catalog:

  • Change Leadership
  • Business writing
  • Presentation
  • Critical thinking
  • A candid conversational approach
  • A “To-sell, is Human" mentality

With the pervasiveness of business and technology transformation sweeping through most enterprises, having a change leadership culture is key to success.

To create a successful change leadership culture, it is critical that leaders can effectively communicate in writing to the organization, groups, departments and individuals. Business writing must be clear, concise well-reasoned and supported.

Perhaps many professionals that have navigated themselves into an enterprise technology team to this point have focused most of their learning on honing their tech skills. That makes sense. Though in today’s world where agile methods are in play across the organization, communication and writing skills are paramount for success throughout all departments and levels.

In addition to writing skills, being able to present a compelling narrative about plans, goals, research, architecture, API design considerations and a host of other important information is one of the most important soft skills to master.

Presentation skills make your stories, plans and information come to life and in turn, help people galvanize around your message. There is nothing worse than sitting through an hour of a death by PowerPoint presentation full of chart-junk, non-sequiturs, obfuscated bulleted lists, etc.

Having a basic level of presentation skills is good, but those that succeed have finely honed repertoire of presentations skills. This is especially noticeable in an industry that has historically favored code over communication.

As you think about what you want to write, or present, it is equally important to apply critical thinking to the flow, logic and main points of your message or presentation. Critical thinking skills that enable you to focus on process, problem, issue and solutions are essential for success.

In addition to analytical evaluation of an issue, objectivity and looking at many sides of a challenge is paramount. Even in cases where human error compounds a situation, using critical thinking to break down a problem into solvable solutions can make sure you keep everyone working towards a common solution or goal. If you focus on critical thinking to find solutions or fixes, rather than people errors, you are likely to develop a culture of honest-objectivity where your technical staff are willing to put their work out for scrutiny.

While you practice using critical thinking, it is also important to have candid discussions with colleagues, managers, staff, executives, partners, customers and everyone you come into a conversation with. Candid does not need to be rude or blunt, but honest and straight-forward.

Perhaps a quick read of Radical Candor would help tech professionals develop an environment of trust and honesty that permeates everything they work on together. Building a framework that enables candid feedback and discussions can accelerate your development staff and move your culture forward.

Once you start to see the benefits of change leadership, business writing, presentation skills, critical thinking and building a candid conversational approach, it is time to get everyone in your organization to understand how selling is in everything we do as humans.

On the surface, this may have your technical staff reacting negatively though once they understand it is more about requirements elicitation and aligning with mutually beneficial actions, this becomes a very powerful change agent. A quick read of To Sell, Is Human will hopefully get your tech staff and whole organization working like a well-oiled-machine.

Of course, this list of soft skills is by no means conclusive or comprehensive. There is so much change going on in business today with transformations hurling organizations into unsettling times, harnessing as many soft skills can be a differentiator for many enterprises, agencies, groups, organizations and individuals.

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