Effective leadership is measured by customer satisfaction. Caring about your customers is crucial. Everyone is a customer: those who purchase and use your products, and your colleagues in every department.
Leadership requires a mixture of confidence and humility. Change doesn’t always happen quickly. Success may require all of the creativity, resourcefulness, and diplomacy you can muster.
Use these 7 Habits of Highly Effective Technical Communication Leaders to learn how to effectively put the customer first in all of your work. You can be an effective leader, regardless of your position.
1. BE A CUSTOMER ADVOCATE
While you may have less product knowledge than an engineer, you can view the product from a user’s perspective. Share your input and advocate for product and process improvements. Support similar efforts initiated by others. Focus on quality.
2. ADVOCATE FOR PROCESS IMPROVEMENTS
Process improvements can benefit everyone on the team, and improve product quality. Can the quality assurance team test the documentation? Can technical writers edit the user interface text and error messages? Can written documentation reviews become a factor in the performance evaluations of all product team members? Would documentation review meetings improve quality?
3. CARE ABOUT ALL CUSTOMER-VISIBLE CONTENT
If you’re only writing the customer documentation, there is a chance that no one with your skills is editing other user-visible content. Even if you cannot edit this content, you can educate others about key technical writing practices. For example – One concept, One term – each word should be used to mean only one thing. This avoids user confusion, and saves translation funds. Another key technical writing practice: short sentences.
4. BE AN EFFECTIVE INTRAPRENEUR
Think about how to create change – look before you leap. Understand the who, what, and how of change. Who are the key stakeholders and decision-makers, and what motivates them? What do they care about? How can you best bring them on board? What are their backgrounds – cultural, professional, educational? Start with curiosity. Listen. Discuss. Ask questions.
5. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
What do you know about the users – education levels, roles? How do they use the product and access the documentation? What percentage read the documentation in English? Collaborative efforts with other teams can aid your research. One way to learn more is to conduct a user survey. While gaining approval can be an uphill battle, the insights gained from a well-designed survey can make the effort worthwhile.
6. PROMOTE APPROPRIATE TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION METHODOLOGIES, GENTLY
Not every organization needs to use the latest methodologies. What worked elsewhere may not work for your team. Bring others along with you – educate and involve engineers, quality assurance personnel, marketers, and product managers in assessing and exploring new methodologies. For example, some organizations can benefit from adopting topic-based authoring, without XML or DITA.
7. KEEP PERSPECTIVE, AND DE-STRESS
Mistakes provide tremendous opportunities for personal and organizational growth, including improved processes, communications, and skills. Accept these moments and make the most of them. Learn from successes and failures. Remember that what is truly irreplaceable is human life. Learn what you need, and what your coworkers need, to reduce and relieve stress.
Consistently practicing these 7 habits will support your development as an effective technical communications leader, continue process improvement in your organization, create harmonious work relationships, and improve content and product quality. Be the change you wish to see.
Want to learn about the key steps to success in technical writing outsourcing, how outsourced writers integrate into Agile teams, and how to manage these approaches to improve quality, save time, and reduce costs? Then check out this December 8, 2016 webinar held during The Content Wrangler’s Virtual Summit on Advanced Practices in Technical Communication.