10 soft skills needed by IT managers

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I was just promoted from a Java programming job to Manager of Software Development. As a manager, what else do I need to know in addition to my technical skills?

As an IT manager, it’s your ability to communicate, work with others, solve conflicts, negotiate on behalf of yourself, your team and your company, and other soft skills based abilities that will ultimately drive your success or failure in the IT management ranks. In fact, the higher your organizational level, the less important your technical skills become.

That said, there are a number of soft skills that would be well worth your while to master, include the following:

1. Conflict Management: Conflicts can arise from many different directions. You may have a business user unhappy with your services or a decision you made on his/her behalf. You may have an issue with an employee who refuses to follow your directions. You may continually be at odds with one of your fellow managers. Whatever its origin, your ability to work through the issues in a business-like, efficient, and socially viable manner can enhance your reputation as a team player and simultaneously help you reach your objectives.

2. Negotiation Skills: As the title of Chester L. Karrass’ book title alludes, ”In Business As in Life, You Don't Get What You Deserve, You Get What You Negotiate”.

As a manager, you are not only negotiating for yourself, you are also negotiating items related to your team. For example, if you do a poor job negotiating the end date of a project, your poor negotiation skills may force you and your team to work nights and weekends to meet an unrealistic due date. As another example, if you negotiate poorly with your boss over your department’s office space, your team will get a view of the parking lot behind the building instead of the beautiful view of the ocean on the other side of the building.

3. Vendor management: The selection, oversight, and administration of vendors is key to managerial success. Within IT, this skill will continue to grow in importance as IT outsources more and more services and processes to third party providers.

4. Active Listening: This may sound like a rather unimportant skill, but think again. The ability to properly listen to the needs of your staff, management, vendors, and internal business partners can help you be a better manager as well as provide better service to your department’s constituency.

5. Presentation skills: Your ability to create and deliver a quality presentation to key decision makers within your company can help you increase your budget, get your favorite project approved, and even potentially get you a promotion.

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