For success in a career in IT, as we’ve discussed in other blog posts, podcasts, and videos, two separate and distinct skill sets are required. Obviously, you must have outstanding technical skills, especially related to the product(s) you support. For the purpose of this discussion, we’ll refer to that as your competence. Additionally, you must have an ability to understand, get along with, and influence people. We’ll call that your charisma. Think about all the people you know, both personally and from their public personas. Some of the people who come to mind probably have extremely high levels of technical competence and others less so, some are very charismatic and others less so. In fact, for the purpose of this discussion, we can divide people into one of four quadrants on a four quadrant model:
- Neither Competent, nor Charismatic
- Charismatic, but not Competent
- Competent, but not Charismatic
- Competent and Charismatic
Within these quadrants, people exist on a dynamic continuum where their levels of competency and charisma vary greatly from person-to-person. Not only that, but the personal levels of competency and charisma within an individual can vary from moment-to-moment.
Now, think again about the people whom you know. Generally, the most successful people, by most measures of success, display extremely high levels of both competency and charisma. The late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer is someone who comes to mind as having extremely high levels of both competence and charisma. Conversely, the least successful people display extremely low levels of both competency and charisma. Someone who dropped out of school and remains uneducated, doesn’t work, perhaps is even in prison, has a disagreeable personality, and always blames other people for his or her situation is an example of someone with extremely low levels of competency and charisma.
Some people show extremely high levels of competency, but have limited people skills. An example of such a person might be someone who is a brilliant coder, but has difficulty interacting successfully with other people. The character Sheldon Cooper from the television series Big Bang Theory comes to mind.
Finally, some people show extremely high levels of charisma, but have no competency. An example of such a person might be a con artist.
Look at the four quadrant competency-charisma model.
Where do you fall? Draw the four quadrant model on a piece of paper, including the x and y scales. Rate your people skills on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being no people skills at all and 10 meaning you are the best there is in the entire world. Do the same with your technical competency level where 1 means you have no technical skills and 10 means you are the best there is in the world. Mark the intersection of your two scores on the chart. Don’t give any thought as to where your scores are compared to those of other people. These scores are highly subjective, certainly not scientific, and are intended only as a very general guide to help people seeking to work on self-improvement. (In our world, we love to compare ourselves to other people, but that’s a really bad idea. Don’t do it, ever!)
Most of us will probably fall somewhere toward the middle of the chart. Each of us will land in different areas, based on differing levels of technical competence and people skills (charisma). Your position on the chart today doesn’t matter. What matters is to do everything we can, every minute of every day, to move ourselves closer to the extreme upper-right corner of the upper-right quadrant where we show the highest possible levels of both technical competency and people skills or charisma. This is very similar to the Japanese concept of Kaizen, used by Toyota and other highly successful organizations. The idea is to make small improvements every day which, over time, add up to big improvements.
For technical competency, work on certification, set up a test lab, attend training, watch training videos, or join a users group. To improve your people skills, your charisma, read books such as Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, or any of the multitude of books, audios, or videos on how to get along better with people.
As you work on improving your competency and your charisma, realize that we’re all subject to that bane of our species called human frailty. Sometimes you’ll backslide, to paraphrase John Wesley. When you do, don’t dwell on it. Just reflect on what happened, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep heading toward a high level of technical competency and charisma in that upper right quadrant.
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