The other day I read a Pluralsight article titled Leadership guide: Your first 60 days as a CIO (registration required), and it made me think. While relationships are a big deal for CIOs, they also matter for everyone in IT. They matter to varying degrees based on your job role; nevertheless who you know and how well you know them makes a difference in your job and your career. Here is why I think in your career or your business, the further you go, the more those relationships matter.
The Pluralsight article talks about the new CIO spending their first 30 days getting a feel for the land. After that they move on to develop relationships with their boss, with the business units, with other executives, and with their managers/ directors who report to our CIO. The article stressed just how important it is to get to know these people, understand what their priorities are, and what their pain points are. I would argue the same applies to everyone on the team. It applies to the most junior developer, to the systems analyst, to the Quality Assurance (QA) tester, to the DBA, to the lead developer, architect, to everyone.
Relationships in a Work Context
So what do I mean by relationships when it comes to work? It means getting to know the other person. Get to know not just what their job role is, but a little bit about their personal life. What did they do over the past weekend? Are they particularly proud of their child’s accomplishment? What are their plans for the upcoming holiday season? Ask them how that vacation was in (wherever they planned to go). When they notice you remembered their holiday plans, children’s accomplishments, or weekend house maintenance chores, they remember. It makes them feel good.
Think about the last time when someone asked you these questions. When they asked you how your living room looks now after you told them about your plans to repaint it, how did that feel? Pretty good, right? It’s because they took an interest in what you told them about your life outside of work.
All this results in much closer collaboration. When you need to ask a co-worker for something, chances are they will go the extra distance to get you what you need. You’ll likely do the same. This is one of the benefits of strong working relationships.
As a newly-minted developer, you are usually focused just on the work assigned to you. You write the code and the unit tests, make sure they work, then you move on to the next task. But suppose you take a bit of time to understand who uses your outputs. Who is the next person in the process who will be using or relying on the code you changed? Typically it’s your lead developer or your peers who do the code review. If you take the time to get to know people, understand what is important to them, what they hate to see, what makes their day, what ruins their day, then you will be able to make decisions that help them.
Take it a step further, and suppose you get to know the analyst who wrote the story and the QA people who test it. Understanding what their values are means you are writing code that better fits the needs of the organization.
Analysts and QAs
As an analyst or a QA, the nature of your job role means you are interacting more often with other people. If you’re an analyst, you’re talking to business representatives to understand the problem they want to solve. You’re also talking to the technical team members to understand what is feasible. Similarly, if you’re a QA, you’re talking with the analysts and the business representative to understand the problem as you prepare your test cases. When you get to know your colleagues as people, when you understand what their daily lives are like, you develop those relationships, and form a deeper understanding of each other. Ultimately, the business and technical people believe you “get it”.
As an architect, you talk a lot. You are in a bit of a unique position in that you need to be comfortable speaking to business people in non-technical terms. You also need to be able to “geek out” and speak with the developers in deep technical terms. Being a great communicator is an essential part of your job.
Building relationships with the people you deal with is essential. It takes the collaboration to another level because you get to know them as people. People who have families, dreams and aspirations outside of work.
In your career or business, the further you go, the more those relationships matter. Get to know the people you work with and work for. Take a genuine interest in their life outside of work. Talk about shared hobbies or sporting interests. When they reciprocate, you both succeed.