Social Grace

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One of the new ways that IT is changing, and has been changing for the past decade or so, is that we no longer only interact with machines. In fact, a good portion of our job now requires us to work with people. And that requires a certain amount of social grace.

This is prevalent for both ICs and management. Some still subscribe that social interactions are only a critical path for management, but the most successful ICs in IT will also have the ability to socially interact with not only their end-users but also their peer group.

So, what is social grace in relation to IT? It’s knowing what to say and when to say it. As an IC, the main focal point of social interaction will be with end-users or the people or group of people one is supporting. As an IC in IT, you will need to exude a sense of confidence and calm. People come to you because you are the expert. That does not mean you must know all of the answers. However, it does mean you must know how to GET all of the answers and assure whomever you are supporting that you will work towards that end.

I have had this conversation with a few members of my team on how the IT landscape is changing and requiring more social grace of us now than ever before. In a nutshell, saying “I don’t know” is not really an option anymore. It’s always “Let me find out for you”. This shift forces us to realize that it’s not only WHAT we say, but how we say it.

Translate this into management and it gets even more important. We have to learn to talk the talk not only to our supervisors, but our peers and our subordinates. Why? Well, because IT organizations are simply a top-down system. If the leaders do not express social grace, than the rest of the tree will follow. This cannot be “do as I say, not as I do”. This must be “lead by example”.

Furthermore, as leaders we should always be aware of what we are saying and how those words affect those around us. Great leaders are built from foundations of trust and a lack of social grace is a quick way of disintegrating any foundation we have built.

In the end, we should all be mindful of how much social grace we subscribe to. In the end, we should have a service mindset and want to not alienate those around us with oversharing or undercutting. Kindness wins out…awareness is the key.

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