We cannot change how other people perceive us, but we can change how we behave, and that is the secret to gaining the respect of our colleagues.
A reoccurring complaint I hear from digital professionals is that their colleagues do not appreciate their expertise. Things are improving, but many digital teams still feel like they are seen as implementors, rather than leaders.
Although I sympathise with this feeling, I have also encountered a number of teams who have overcompensated as a result and ended up alienating colleagues.
We Have Come a Long Way
As digital professionals, we have come a long way over the last 25 years. We have moved from the wild west of web design to a mature industry with many specialisms and a deep understanding of how human and technology interact online.
Today’s digital professionals have become experts in technology, psychology, design, marketing, sociology, copywriting and many other areas.
But it is important to remember that to deliver effective digital services we have to work with other stakeholders, and they have their expertise as well.
We Are Not the Only Experts in The Room
They are experts in the business, products and yes, often even the very audience we are trying to reach. They often have years of experience on us, experience, which despite what we may think, is deeply relevant to today’s business reality.
Too often in our desire to be taken seriously, we end up doing so by trivialising the contribution of others. We dismiss stakeholders as people who need managing or educating. We paint them as out of date, or ignorant about the changes digital has introduced.
Show Your Stakeholders Respect
Ultimately, if we want to be respected by colleagues for our expertise, we need to show them respect for their expertise in return. We need to be willing to be flexible in our working practices to accommodate what they bring to the table.
We need to go into every project intending to learn first and teach second. If we don’t, we may still succeed in creating a great user experience, but we will fail utterly in meeting business needs or building something that is sustainable over the long term.
That is because, even if we had all the answers, which we don’t, we would alienate colleagues and in all likelihood, they will undermine anything we achieve.
Learn from The Mistakes of Others
A good case in point is the Government Digital Service here in the UK. Heralded as a poster child for a great user experience and digital transformation it is a beloved case study among digital professionals.
However, even they made mistakes. To achieve what they did within the UK Government, they had to push hard. In doing so, they alienated some other parts of government and have had to work hard to repair this damage. They may have a great reputation in the wider community, but that is not always reflected as well internally.
Don’t make their mistake. Put stakeholder relationships and internal communication at the top of your agenda. Spend as much time listening as speaking. Work collaboratively even if that means working slightly slower. In the long term, it will save time and ensure the sustainability of your digital services.
Stock Photos from ViDi Studio/Shutterstock