Look at just about any job description for just about any job and you’ll see the requirement: interpersonal skills. One has to think that almost goes without saying, right? I mean, how can you have a job and not be able to personally interact with other people?
Well, the concept of interpersonal skills really goes triple for Instructional Designers.
It’s not enough that you have to be able to effectively deal with teammates that are working with you to complete a project. Those would be the graphic artists, the media developers, fellow instructional designers, technical writers, IT, your boss…you know, the folks you deal with every day. It’s kind of a no-brainer that you need to have good interpersonal skills with them.
But there are at least a couple of other groups of people that you need to be able to positively interact with and for which you need really good interpersonal skills. The first group would be your subject matter experts, or SMEs. You know, the people who know everything about the subject you are developing your e-learning for and who want to make sure that you include every little morsel of information that they have in your module(s). They are the ones that will drop the 3-foot stack of white papers and research papers and product manuals and technical briefs and marketing features on your desk and say, “You need to get all this information in there because it’s ALL really important.”
You need the skills to be able to make them happy with what you do put in the training when you don’t put it all in. Cathy Moore’s action mapping is an excellent place to start with how to be effective at that.
The trifecta of the need for interpesonal skills is with your reviewers. You want them, you need them. You can’t live without them. Let them know those simple things and you will go a long way to having the correct interpersonal skills you need to deal with the folks who will be giving you the feedback, input, and criticism, and suggestions that will make not only your e-learning more successful but, well, you too.
Interacting effectively and succesfully with SMEs and Reviewers takes practice and the ability to be an influencer, a negotiator, and a patient person. It’s where you have to tap into the other skills that an Instructional Designer must have (see my post on So, You Want To Be An Instructional Designer). You need to have a backbone, but you need to be pliable, too. You need to accept criticism and occassionally eat humble pie, but you can’t be a doormat.
It’s not hard, but it’s not easy, either. It just takes practice and an understanding of what’s needed. And, it’s all definitely worth it.
Until next time…