5 Actionable Tips for Engineering Leaders to up their 360 Degree Communication

Working at the frontline of technology and innovation, technical leaders carry a unique combination of responsibilities - leading their teams, communicating effectively with their peers, advocating for technology, and ensuring smooth function of complex technologies. Effective 360-degree communication (your boss, your peers, and your team) is not only integral to delivering onthese responsibilities but also proves to set the technical team up for success. Here are five tactical tips that can help technical leaders master the art of communication:

1. Simplify the Complex: Your job is hard. The things you're building are complicated. But to get your message across, you have to make it simple to understand. It is not about diluting technical details but using analogies or condensing comprehensive concepts into digestible bits. You can do this by creating diagrams (even quick sketches can work), telling stories, or communicating one step at a time.

2. Advocate for Tech Investments: Being a technical leader can sometimes feel like a game of push and pull - you want to tackle tech debt and improvements but the business and customers want what's new. Listen to what your team needs and wants when you are framing your ask. Predict the potential questions and concerns about your ask and incorporate preemptive strategies in your pitch. Remember, you don't have to have solutions to everything, but if you can demonstrate that you've considered perspectives of others and tried to find common ground, you may have a better outcome.

3. Proactive and Collaborative Communication: Be proactive in sharing updates, accomplishments, and challenges with your peers. Shine a light on what is going well; bring up what isn't going well without placing blame ("we're facing this challenge and here is how we're trying to solve it"), and engage when others do the same. Your job is largely about trust, so show everyone that you're transparent, patient, and dependable with regular, clear communication.

4. Put your work in the context of the business: What you and your team is building is one part of a machine that needs all its parts to work together. Make sure that you are always putting your team's work in the context of the business goals. You can even tailor this to the audience - if you're talking to marketing then remind them that this new feature will help with competitive positioning, and if you're talking to sales you can point out the high value bug fixes that will help reduce churn.

5. Encourage a Feedback Culture: An open feedback loop can make your communications more effective. Let your team, peers, and leadership know that you welcome feedback and are open to adjusting your communication style. Ask for feedback at the end of meetings and practice open and honest retrospectives at the end of larger initiatives. Finally, you have to show your team that you will act on feedback. As we all know, not all feedback is actionable, feasible, or reasonable. But identify the pieces that are and make the change. This will build trust.

It isn't easy to be a technical leader, but sharpening your communication skills can significantly ease the ride. Remember, your ability to communicate effectively can be just as important as your technical knowledge. If you're looking for a sparring partner to help you implement better 360 degree communication, our team is here for you! Please reach out. Being an engineering leader is hard, we're all in this together.