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16 Business Concepts Tech Leaders Must Understand To Communicate With The Leadership Team

With technology becoming an integral part of companies across industries, more businesses now have tech experts on their leadership teams. This is bringing tech leaders out of their silos to become everyday contributors to overall business decisions and direction—meaning they must be familiar with fundamental business concepts both to fully understand all potential outcomes and to communicate their ideas to fellow leaders and members of the C-suite.

So what do CIOs, CTOs and other tech executives need to know to become fully rounded members of the leadership team? Below, 16 industry experts from Forbes Technology Council look at the fundamental concepts that tech leaders should learn.

1. Agility

Agility is a key concept. In today’s fast-paced technology world, the ability to be agile and nimble is key. Leadership expects change, and as their technology partners, it’s important that we show that we’re able to adapt quickly to both business and technology changes. – Frederick John, Diebold Nixdorf

2. Empathy

I don’t know if it’s a “business concept,” but empathy, hands down, is a critical aspect to understand. It’s easy to get caught up in a vision of the future without recognizing that team members may not see the course we’ve charted in our minds as clearly as we do. Understanding that their perspectives, priorities and pains are different than yours opens a space for honest dialogue and creates opportunities for shared understanding. – Jason Cottrell, Myplanet

3. Transparency

Transparency could be one of the most important concepts. Sharing the good, the bad and the ugly is what builds trust within teams, fosters camaraderie and brings a team together to solve problems. Some leaders only share the good, and that’s just not how real life works. Also, people like to be told the truth so they can prepare and pitch in wherever they can. – Kalle Torma, Flowhaven

4. Accountability

Accountability is a key concept tech leaders should understand. If everyone is accountable for progress toward their goals, then there are no excuses. Therefore, if certain actions need to be taken, it’s because people are accountable and it’s the only way to get to the goal. – Nitzan Shapira, Epsagon

5. Emotional Intelligence

A fundamental concept a tech leader must master in any organization is the art of emotional intelligence. In all my years on leadership teams, the most cited quandary of communication has been the ability to understand an individual’s motivation. Crafting a strategy on how to address each constituent’s concerns or questions based on their different drivers is essential. Know your audience. – Amelia Quan, RollKall Technologies


6. Active Listening

Active listening is the cornerstone of good communication. I’ve seen senior leadership forums where each attendee takes turns giving thinly veiled sales presentations for their own initiatives. No one is listening to each other; they’re all just waiting for their turn to speak. Listen, then play back what you heard in your own words. This will help you get to the core of the other person’s message. – John Gist, Fidelity International

7. Value Proposition

I think the main thing tech leaders need to understand relates to the value proposition or, as I prefer to name it, the “why”—why we are doing this? Every executive must be able to answer the “why” question when talking with their peers, employees or superiors. The ability to explain the “why” allows everyone to understand the strategy, the spending, the challenges and the benefits. It also helps to lead the discussion forward. – Lior Arbel, Performanta Group

8. Change Management

Tech leaders must master change management. In the tech space, change is constant, and if you don’t evolve, you put your business at risk. With any change, communication is critical. Tech leaders must clearly communicate the cause and effect of the change as well as what is expected from everyone involved so that their business can adapt to—and capitalize on—that change. – Rob Cohen, Appriss Inc./Appriss Health

9. Customer Needs

Tech leaders must understand customer needs and communicate how technology can meet these needs and drive business goals. It’s not a single-point-in-time discussion either; it’s about how technology serves the needs of the customers throughout the entire life cycle—from purchase to adoption and renewal—creating value (and business results) at every step along the way. – Susie Wee, Cisco Systems Inc.

10. KPIs And OKRs

Key performance indicators and objectives and key results are critical for any leader to understand. You must know the differences between them and how they complement each other in driving all the different parts of a business forward. Technologists without an understanding of these foundational tools will struggle to align themselves and their teams with the execution priorities of the rest of the leadership group. – Jeromee Johnson, Tellus

11. Input Versus Output Metrics

Tech leaders make the best product managers, but they often don’t realize it. Understanding input versus output metrics and aligning these with business goals is key for tech leaders. It helps them communicate effectively with business leaders and also helps them align their teams (which are often the largest in modern organizations) to company goals. – Faisal Masud, Fabric

12. Business Drivers And Priorities

Tech leaders in today’s business world need to be able to understand business drivers and priorities. It’s critical to be able to articulate, in business vernacular, how technology and rapid development can impact business goals. – Leon Lerman, Cynerio

13. Asynchronous Communication

Asynchronous communication and becoming a “write it down culture” are essential concepts. It’s never been more important for leaders to be able to articulate their vision, discuss strategy and assign tasks through text. We can’t always Zoom, and you can’t depend on running into someone in the hallways or catching up informally after work. Precise written communication, done asynchronously, is a must. – Ben Forgan, Hologram

14. Individual Incentives

It is crucial to understand incentives to effectively communicate with the leadership team. Each team has its own incentives—such as social capital or monetary incentives. To effectively lead, stand where each employee is and understand their incentives. Tech leaders should focus on incentives that tie back to what key stakeholders—that is, the customers, prospects and board members—care the most about. – Vivian Wang, Landed

15. The ‘Art Of The Possible’

As companies evolve to compete through digital transformation, tech leaders must relay the importance of communicating the concept of the “art of possible.” This is achievable by tapping into the intersection of digital reach and a society thriving on the capabilities of innovation. Against this backdrop, tech leaders can inspire breakthrough thinking that can transform rather than simply evolve. – Thaddeus Arroyo, AT&T

16. Making A Pitch

When you mix tech and business leaders, it can feel like Jerry Maguire for geeks: one side’s spewing tech acronyms, the other side wants to see the money. If you’re in tech, make every conversation a pitch and align it with your organization’s business interests. If you do need to convey technical notions, cast them in terms of “snowclones”—analogy templates that are easily understood, such as “X is the new Y.” – Eve Maler, ForgeRock

What do you think?

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