As someone working in a technical role at your organization, it can sometimes feel like you are a foreigner in your own country. With all the different languages, processes, and acronyms, it can quickly get confusing to someone not familiar with your world.
At Tackle, we get it. We speak “tech” every day to people who don’t live and breathe this stuff like we do. In fact, many times organizations hire us to help with this specific issue and to help bridge the gap between the tech staff and the non-tech staff.
So we put together a few tips we’ve learned along the way that we hope you find useful when navigating how to better work with non-tech staff and make it a pleasant experience for everyone.
Avoid the trap of assuming that everyone has a base-level understanding of what you’re talking about. It pays to set the stage, even adding an extra few words of explanation. Also, giving room for people to ask questions, by slowing down and pausing or just asking for confirmation that people are following.
Avoid acronyms and jargon. Try to always say the full term. It can also be helpful at the start of a meeting, to spend a few minutes defining terms/systems so everyone is on the same page.
Be patient. I know sometimes it seems like someone should understand what you are saying, but maybe they just need you to say it a different way. Try again, and don’t get frustrated.
Never be condescending. This tip kind of goes hand-in-hand with #3, but it’s always good to do a self check. You are the expert here, so even though something seems very familiar to you it can be uncharted territory for someone else. So that means trust is extremely important. And making someone feel bad isn’t going to make them want to trust you.
Communicate often. Gonna miss a deadline? Communicate. Can’t get to someone’s request right now? Communicate. Going to deliver something early? Set expectations and communicate. It’s okay to make mistakes, miss deadlines (sometimes) and not be able to help someone immediately. But you need to communicate often.
Use these tips and you’ll better navigate the challenges when working with those outside your field. You and your organization will definitely benefit if everyone can work together well.
Ryan is one of the founders of Tackle. Working on-staff and as a consultant over the years has given him unique perspectives on what nonprofits need. At Tackle, he uses his experience and skills to help nonprofits do things right.