There are a lot of smart people in IT. In fact the stereotype of IT folks are the smart guys and gals that are good a computers, math and science but are horrible at social skills. There is some truth, I believe, in this stereotype although the stereotype is greatly over exaggerated. It isn't that IT people don't have social skill it is just that they often choose not to use them since after all the power of their logic and the strength of their reasoning and knowledge is more than sufficient isn't it?
A recent post by Penelope Trunk at the Brazen Careerist blog entitled "Stop thinking you'll get by on your high I.Q." would suggest otherwise. She laments that we seem to value high IQ over social skills as if high IQ was all that mattered. In reality it is a balance between the two. But because we in IT are so comfortable with the technical side we tend to forget the people side. We have to remember that success is just as dependent on the social aspects at it is the technical on ones - the old people, process and technology cliche.
As Trunk points out based on an article from the College Journal, recruiters of B-school graduates look for 5 traits:
Communication and interpersonal skills
Original and visionary thinking
Ability to work well within a team
- Analytical and problem-solving skills
Interestingly enough these traits or competencies are very similar to ones that I wrote about in regard to a Russell Reynolds (a large international executive recruiter) analysis of the competencies required for a CIO.
So why are these so important?
I believe it is because the higher we progress in management ranks the more important these social skills become. This is because being a CIO is less about technology and more about sales, building teams and working with other groups. All of these are highly dependent on good social skills.
This aspect is a key factor to remember when hiring new employees. Although they may have excellent technical skill and be very smart which are important in the near term, do they have the social skill needed to become a long term employee?
What do you think is more important - intelligence or social skills?
<Thinking, I Think> photo by stenbough
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