For as long as I’ve been covering the IT industry, I don’t recall meeting a single IT pro who was anxiously anticipating the annual office holiday party. But according to one leadership development expert who knows about these things, those occasions can be excellent opportunities not just to practice the career-enhancing art of conversation, but to connect with executives who may not know you even exist.
That expert is Susan Scott, founder and CEO of Fierce Inc., a leadership development and training company in Seattle, and author of the book, “Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time.” In an interview earlier this week, Scott acknowledged that engaging in a conversation at an office holiday party doesn’t come naturally to a lot of IT pros.
“The conversation we often have with IT professionals is trying to help them understand the importance and role of conversations in their lives,” Scott said. “I remember doing some work with a team at Microsoft years ago, and they were so funny. They said, ‘We don’t want to talk to people. We like to work in the dark.’ Well, if you still want to be programming in the dark 30 years from now, then there’s no need for you to have a conversation.”
According to Scott, whatever conversations we’re having with people who are important to our success shape the relationship we have with them. “During the holidays, here’s a marvelous opportunity to get some good work done in that area,” she said, “to really enrich a relationship, or start a relationship with somebody who doesn’t even know you exist.”
Scott said she’s a card-carrying introvert, so she can empathize with IT pros who think of themselves as introverts.
“But it’s not that hard to go up to a senior executive and say something like, ‘Thank you so much for hosting this party,’” she said. And then you can ask them a question, like ‘What do you hope never changes about our company’s culture?’”
Scott has encapsulated her advice in a list of what to do, and what not to do, at the office holiday party. Here’s what she said you should do:
And here’s what she said you shouldn’t do:
A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.