Technical Professionals Must Learn to Communicate
The days of quiet isolation are over for technical professionals who once made things happen behind the scenes with little interaction with co-workers and the public. "Today's environment, with its heavy emphasis on speed, cost and quality, renders this old model of detached contribution obsolete," writes Harry E. Chambers, author of Effective Communication Skills for Scientific and Technical Professionals. Technical professionals are now expected to maintain more business relationships than ever, and these require better communication to effectively transmit ideas. "The scientific and technical community has become extremely competitive, and increased communication skills elevate your ability to compete," he writes.
To bring technical professionals up to speed with our communication-reliant times, Chambers sets out to deliver the techniques he has developed while working as a successful communications consultant and trainer. To do this, he first lays out "six critical communication realities," that must be addressed by scientific and technical professionals who are looking to become better communicators. Then, he has readers rate themselves according to their own perceptions of themselves as communicators, to assess weaknesses and realize where there is room for growth. These six realities are:
- You are more task-oriented than people-oriented.Scientific and technical professionals are technically competent but often lack training and development in leadership skills, such as effective communication.
- You are highly committed and dedicated to the work you do. "Your passionate identification with your work sometimes blurs the line between professional performance and personal identity," Chambers writes. This attitude can often lead to difficulty accepting criticism.
- You are highly motivated to pursue exceptional quality and perfection in your profession. Obsession with quality, however, can sometimes come at the expense of other important factors, such as time and budget constraints.
- You cling to obsolete success strategies. In the past, technical professionals were expected to establish their uniqueness by becoming "sole holders of specific, critical knowledge." Now, experts are needed to effectively disseminate information.
- Your logical and linear thought patterns can contribute to miscommunication. Some professionals in the science and technology field can come across as abrasive and confusing due to their "no-frills" mindset. This can be a liability to communication when trying to provide others with criticism or bad news.
- You must communicate with an expanded constituent base. Once-insulated professionals are now expected to communicate with customers and funding sources, calling for expanded competencies for "determining needs, aligning those needs with actual capabilities, and determining the criteria to be used for measuring success or acceptability."
Upgrading Communication Skills
Once readers determine which of their communication skills need work, they can utilize the strategies and tactics in this book to improve them. At the root of these strategies is the need to understand two critical components of communication - the content of the delivered message and the emotional impact of the message on the receiver. Connecting these two issues is the bridge of effective communication that this book strives to create. To build this bridge, the author has laid out clear and well-organized chapters to take readers through the process of upgrading their skills.
Numerous "Specific Procedures for Effective Communication" in these chapters give readers reference points from which they can move through the book's content. These "SPECs" are informative summaries of the book's lessons and include such gems of wisdom as:
- Consistently provide others the opportunity to offer constructive criticisms of your efforts.
- Avoid the deadly questioning trap of answering or responding to your own questions.
- Always expect customers and funding sources to change their minds, needs and expectations.
Chapters include topics such as: giving and receiving criticism; communicating with the boss; communicating technical information to non-technical people; developing effective listening skills; communicating with customers; mastering organizational politics; and communicating in meetings.
A Succinct Resource
Chambers tackles practically every scenario likely to present a stumbling block for professionals at all levels. A succinct presentation of material that often gets overlooked until miscommunication creates momentous problems, Effective Communication Skills for Scientific and Technical Professionals is a helpful resource for anyone looking to connect with others more effectively, and thus increase his or her professional productivity.