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Walter Cronkite's IT Career Advice

Seven Career Best Practices Straight from the Desk of Uncle Walter

walter cronkite behind deskThe late Walter Cronkite as a role model for IT managers? At first glance, we might not see the connection between "the most trusted man in America" and high tech management. But if we pull back the layers of how Cronkite approached his job, there are solid day-to-day career lessons for those working in IT.

Seven Best Practices Straight From the Desk of Uncle Walter
1. Explain things in a simple way so everyone can understand. CBS' Bob Schieffer said people "understood Cronkite was guiding you through events." He translated the complex or hard to understand in a way that made you nod and think, "I get I now." When explaining the impact of an IT project for your organization, break it down so the non-techies get the light bulb over their heads. Explain it so your mother can understand it--use the criteria: how would Cronkite say this?

2. Have an unbridled enthusiasm. Neil Armstrong said that Cronkite's "enthusiasm was contagious." To the outside world, IT can be a drab, dry topic. When speaking about your technology contribution, inject an energy and passion about the project so the entire organization feels jazzed and gets behind your initiative.

3. Have a passionate curiosity. Schieffer noted that Cronkite had an, "insatiable, almost childlike curiosity about everything he did."  Keep your thirst for knowledge alive and find ways to instill that childlike curiosity in your team.  It will pay off in innovation.

4. Make people feel connected.  For Cronkite, it was getting people to feel connected to the event or story. Bits, bytes, clouds and servers might mean something to you, but for most non-techies in your organization, they are a "no compute." Find a way to connect technology's benefits to the day-to-day lives of its users. Talk about what technology can do for the end user.  Use analogies and real-world examples to make the connection strong and relevant.

5.  Don't make judgments; just present facts. One reason Cronkite was so honored as a newsman was he presented the story without embellishment or opinion. He was pure objectivity. When presenting your data and analysis, don't tilt the results. You can interpret the data fairly for the listener, but let the facts speak for themselves.

6.  Value accuracy.  Cronkite never had to make retractions or apologies for information that was not accurate. Think like a reporter: double and triple check your facts and sources and you'll never have to apologize for incomplete, inaccurate or outdated information.

7. Don't act superior. You never saw Walter Cronkite come off as someone who thought he was smarter than the rest of us. He was just somebody who did his homework. You know you "get" the technology, but acting as if you were Al Gore, inventing it, is not the best calling card. A better tactic might be to act as the interpreter of all that IT knowledge, sharing it in a way that makes people feel comfortable approaching you for insights and information.

Would you like to be known as the "most trusted man or woman in IT" in your organization? Not an easy task, but following Cronkite's timeless guiding principles is a great first step.

More Stories By Loraine Antrim

Loraine Antrim is co-founder of Core Ideas Communication, a communications consulting agency focused on presentation development and media training for C-suite executives. Core Ideas enables executives to package and communicate relevant and compelling messages in their presentations and interviews. Loraine's expertise is killing butterflies. You know, butterflies: the feeling in your stomach before you have to present or speak in public. Loraine works with executives to create a powerful story, memorable messages and an authentic delivery style. Confidence kicks in, and butterflies scatter. Nice work killing butterflies! You can contact Loraine at: manager at coreideas.com