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20 Reasons Tech Leaders Fail At Communication (And How To Improve)

Effective communication with stakeholders—whether they’re members of the leadership team, colleagues, direct reports or customers—is the key to any professional’s success. However, some tech leaders may struggle with being comprehensive and clear, which can create misunderstandings and hinder collaboration.

“One common pitfall is failing to consider the audience. Tailor your communication style and language to the specific group you’re addressing to avoid inadvertently alienating nontechnical stakeholders with technical jargon. This will help tech leaders avoid misunderstandings and misaligned expectations.” – Craig Davies, Gathid

With technology driving today’s workplaces, it’s essential for tech leaders to be able to effectively give and receive important messages. Below, 20 members of Forbes Technology Council share common communication pitfalls for tech leaders and offer practical solutions to increase clarity and connection with all stakeholders.

1. Failing To Actively Listen

One significant reason a tech leader may fail at effective communication is the use of overly technical language that may not be easily understood by nontechnical audiences. This can lead to misunderstandings, disengagement and a lack of alignment on goals and expectations across different groups within and outside the organization. The other and more important reason is a lack of active listening. Leaders must actively engage in dialogue and discussions that improve buy-in and trust in the information they are presenting. – Erum Manzoor, Citigroup

2. Not Paying Full Attention To Others

A tech leader might fail at effective communication with stakeholders because they don’t listen well. If they talk too much and don’t pay attention to others, they can miss important feedback and issues. Pay full attention when others speak, acknowledge their points and respond thoughtfully. Encourage open conversations so stakeholders feel heard and valued. – Vikas Kaushik, TechAhead Inc.

3. Not Matching The Message To The Audience

A tech leader may fail at effective communication by not catering to the audience and failing to adjust details based on the audience’s knowledge level. This leads to misunderstandings and disengagement. To overcome this, tech leaders should adapt their communication style to listeners. Simplify technical jargon, use analogies and visuals and tailor the depth of detail to the audience. Actively listening and being flexible ensures all parties are aligned, fostering better understanding and collaboration. – Rohit Garg, Meta

4. Ignoring Important Context

While many IT leaders focus on conceptual clarity, they often miss out on context. Context is the key to effective communication. Understanding what motivates the stakeholder and framing the problem and benefits from the audience’s perspective are extremely important to overcoming this. – Hari Ramachandran, Real Chemistry

5. Not ‘Connecting The Dots’ For Stakeholders

Tech has complexities and vocabulary that can be different from what’s common in the rest of the business. If tech leaders don’t provide enough context or fail to connect tech specifics to business and customer situations, stakeholders feel lost. Taking the time to explain situations from the stakeholder’s perspective and “connecting the dots” between tech jargon and stakeholder needs is an effective way to keep audiences engaged and informed. – Viren Gupta, Box

6. Relying Too Much On Data

I’ve been guilty of an overreliance on data rather than storytelling, and I’ve seen other tech leaders fail at communication for the same reason. Raw data can be overwhelming and impersonal. To overcome this, we should craft compelling narratives around data, linking it to real-world impacts and human experiences. This approach makes information relatable, memorable and easier for various stakeholders to embrace, creating stronger connections. – Rob Tillman, Copy Chief©

7. Communicating In Writing Rather Than Verbally

Tech leaders often believe others know what they know and can extrapolate information the same way they can. They also often use emails or posts to communicate messages that should be conveyed verbally. Effective communication takes skill and practice. While many tech leaders keep up their technology skills, they often do not learn to communicate effectively. – Laureen Knudsen, Broadcom

8. Overlooking Regular Communication With Stakeholders

Effective communication requires an ongoing dialogue. Often, tech leaders get busy managing issues, people and projects and overlook regular communication with stakeholders. Tech leaders must schedule recurring meetings with stakeholders to have a venue for sharing project updates, understanding the issues and needs of stakeholders, and determining how best to serve them, and these meetings should continue as their requirements evolve. – Jason James, Aptos

9. Concentrating On Technical Details, Not Benefits

Tech leaders might struggle to effectively communicate with business stakeholders if they concentrate on technical details rather than the benefits technology delivers. We’ve all watched how quickly eyes glaze over when we share an exciting new tool or enhancement. To resolve this, use language that stakeholders are familiar with and emphasize how the technology adds value to their operations. This approach can help bridge the gap between technical enthusiasm and business relevance. – Sarah Lackey, Open Lending

10. Not Having A Communication Plan

A communication plan is essential for effective communication. Tech leaders must be able to identify stakeholders, understand their needs and engage them. Engaging stakeholders entails knowing the appropriate communication style for each stakeholder or group of stakeholders. Effective communication is a two-way process between the sender and receiver. – Nihinlola Adeyemi, ErrandPay Limited

11. Getting Excited About The ‘How’ Instead Of The ‘Why’

Tech leaders often speak a different language. They get excited about the “how” of the technology but forget that the “why” matters to everyone else. We need to translate our enthusiasm for technology into real-world benefits for stakeholders, making them excited about the journey, not just the nuts and bolts. – Aditya Malik, ValueMatrix.ai

12. Not Verifying The Intent Behind A Request

Tech people don’t always “speak the same language” and often fail to verify the intent behind a request. They must get stakeholders together to enable teams to meet shared business goals. Use clear communication and policies, and be sure to put an end-to-end ownership model in writing. – Agur Jõgi, Pipedrive

13. Slipping Into Technical Jargon

One common pitfall is failing to consider the audience. Tailor your communication style and language to the specific group you’re addressing to avoid inadvertently alienating nontechnical stakeholders with technical jargon. This will help tech leaders avoid misunderstandings and misaligned expectations. – Craig Davies, Gathid

14. Hoarding Knowledge

Tech leaders may struggle with effective communication due to hoarding knowledge and neglecting to share challenges and opportunities. This tendency often stems from a lack of understanding or empathy for stakeholders’ perspectives. Overcoming this requires actively listening to stakeholders, tailoring communication to their interests and establishing frameworks for transparent information-sharing. Implementing structured feedback processes enhances collaboration and ensures concerns are addressed, driving the success of initiatives. – Ankur Pal, Aplazo

15. Lacking Self-Awareness And Emotional Intelligence

One common reason for a tech leader’s communication failure is a lack of self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Understanding oneself and maintaining consistency are vital. Incorporating elements of psychology and self-analysis can enhance leadership effectiveness. When a leader is self-aware and at peace with themselves, they project this confidence to stakeholders, fostering successful communication. – Yuriy Golikov, DEVBROTHER LLC

16. Failing To Craft A Real-World Narrative

Crafting a narrative that resonates with stakeholders can mean the difference between connecting with them or missing the mark entirely. Bridging the gap between tech leaders and stakeholders requires a strategic approach that combines relevant information—such as financial impact data and relevant case studies—and compelling narratives. Speak their language, leverage data and statistics and highlight the competitive advantage of what you are advocating, all while drawing relevance from compelling real-world examples. – Dara Warn, INE

17. Assuming You Know What Matters To Someone

Failing to ask what your audience cares about leads to miscommunication. Ask them about what they want to know and the motivation behind their desire for the information. Don’t assume you know what matters to the individual you’re speaking with. – Amir Khayat, Vorlon Inc..

18. Lacking Passion

A tech leader who lacks charisma and passion will often fall flat when communicating with stakeholders. As humans, we are bombarded with messages coming at us from all directions. Being a signal in the noise requires clarity on mission, vision and values, which should tie back to direction, measurement and relevance. Regardless of where you work, team members want to be inspired by your words. – Terry Mirza, Compugen Systems, Inc.

19. Talking Past Each Other

Business comics are full of clichés about tech leaders and stakeholders talking past each other. People have different perspectives, learning styles and levels of domain expertise. It helps to engage with diverse forms of communication. Finding the right combination of graphics, data and narrative can bring clarity to complexity, connecting the dots for people with different vantage points. For example, dashboards and data visualization packages with the right levels of summarization can make numbers interesting and give them context. – Kempton Presley, AdhereHealth

20. Leaving Important Information In Silos

Tech leaders often face delayed, inaccurate information. Business integration—such as connecting a CRM with HR and financial reporting—can eliminate data silos and enhance communication through quicker information flow, reliable reporting, improved performance evaluation and better decisions. Leverage technologies including the cloud, data analytics, AI and ML, the IoT, and APIs to connect employees, customers and suppliers. – Ed Macosky, Boomi

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