Learning from MVPs - Soft Skills to be successful

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Recently we in MVP India community did a bit of virtual brainstorming to figure out what it takes to become an MVP. We all knew the basics such as Excellence in Technology (his/her specialization area), Participation in Community and Willingness to Give Back. But do we need to have any soft skills as well to be a successful community leader/an MVP/an Influencer?

Absolutely!! Irrespective of whatever the name we call them, we are talking about the few leaders among us with different technical expertise and for sure there are few Soft Skills which made them successful. Let’s see if we can list down a few of them here and figure out how that particular skill help our influencers day in day out:

Skills Comments
Committed or Accountable MVPs are always committed to derive and define technical excellence in their community area
Passion for Customer (Users), Technology MVPs are Technology Enthusiast. They always think from Users point of view on how the technology or solution could help
Open for feedback, Listening MVPs do seek feedback and also provide feedback in a respectful manner in appropriate forums
Learn and Share Knowledge MVPs follow a continuous self-learning approach to keep themselves up-to-date with what’s happening in his/her technical area
Do these points not sound like typical MS Core Values? Mostly I have seen people who are part of Microsoft (also known as MSFTE) live most of these values but in this case also it’s not much different. Though, MVPs are not directly associated with Microsoft, but I personally feel our MVPs are living these values. They take responsibility of driving Forums, User Groups, Local Events, Publishing Quality Blogs, Articles and Books etc. and manage all these together year after year without fail. They fight with Microsoft for product capabilities on behalf of end users. They listen to each and every feedback what is coming from end users through Forums, Blogs or in-person events. And most importantly they continuously update their knowledge and share what they learnt with others in community
Out of Box Thinking MVPs often come up with new ideas, suggestions and thoughts which might sound unrealistic at first level but if you dig deeper, you can see the impact in a longer run.    
Thinking out of box makes you exceptional. Working on a defined process is very simple but how many times one attempted to define a new process and work on it? That shows how much you are ready to take big challenges and how far can you think. I feel this is an essential skill of a leader.
Collaboration MVPs do collaborate with different resources internally within Microsoft as well as outside Microsoft. MVPs are supposed to be counted as extremely collaborative
This is a very critical area. Collaboration is not simple due to issues like distance, language, attitude, culture etc. but as an MVP, its must. A person willing to become an MVP, should work towards this area
Time management I met a few MVPs who are participating in multiple User Groups, Writing Research Papers, Answering Forums and lot more. With their existing professional commitments, maintaining all these are really exceptional and unless one know how to manage their time, I think it’s impossible
Everyone should learn how to work smart with multiple responsibilities and still be successful without impacting other commitments. Again must for current world to be successful
Easy going approach This is another interesting capability what I see in most of our MVPs. They can easily gel with others, understand their issues, suggest possible solutions and end up with a positive experience
Consistency Consistency is critical for everyone’s success. We have seen most of veteran MVPs are very consistent in terms of their contribution and commitments towards community
Good Communication (Writing and Speaking) MVPs do influence adoption of technology. This can only happen if the person can express himself/herself properly in any forum irrespective of audience type
Influencing We are talking about influencers and for sure they influence the key decisions like adoption, deployment and supportability. For sure MVPs are great influencers
These are common success mantra apply to everyone. Earlier you learn, successful you are and more you follow, better you are. Some of these are either inter related or complementing other skills. Easy going approach is required in anyone who deals with different set of people day in day out. And there good communication and influencing capabilities also help. Consistency works with almost all the skills what we discussed till now and is required for success
Problem Solving Few of our MVPs are Problem Solvers and they tend to go deeper to address the issue from the root
Good skill to make sure we understand the issue and the address from the root
Focused Approach Few of our MVPs follow a focused approach i.e. one at a time behavior
It gives the possibilities of improving what we do. Can be a good skill to have

We just learnt the top Soft Skills which our India MVP community thinks are important. We really value all the time what our MVPs spent in listing down all these points. I do think there are few other skills as well which may be beneficial. Attaching an Excel file which is listing some of them for broader community.

Attachment: Soft Skills.xlsx
  • Very nicely written.

    Thank you for documenting the complete details step by step.

  • Let me add 4 additional skills...

    1. User Focus: Everything in technology is useless unless it is appropriately utilized. Often we create great technical stuff which is simply not usable ... we think of ourselves and our passion about technology. But the final rendering is not for satisfying our technological urge... We must ensure that someone else benefits from it. We are not the end point. We are middlemen or catalysts between technology and user benefit. All technical folks should understand that our salary / revenue comes from end users finally. So providing tangible benefits to them in the simplest possible way should be our primary aim...

    2. Ability to map technical features to business context: Even the most arcane tech feature has a business impact. But it may not be obvious. The skill all technical people should develop is to de-jargonize the technology and apply its technical benefit to a business context. All features start with a use case. But when the feature is deployed, the original use case is never a part of the help or books or e-learning. Therefore, all features which are created to add some value or to solve some problem are underutilized. The only way to solve this problem is to proactively map each feature to all relevant business contexts.

    In today's IT world, this seems to be a "no man's land" (no person's land - to be gender neutral)

    3. Zoom: Windows + zooms the screen (you can also use Zoom-it - which provides annotation capabilities) Probably you already know this. But do you use it?

    As technology evangelists it is our job to promote and demonstrate the value of technology - whether the audience is technical or end user does not matter.

    Therefore, most of us cannot just use presentations. We must demonstrate the actual product. That means we need to explain the UI. UI as well as code font is very small. In a large (or even medium sized audience) most people beyond first few rows simply cannot see what you are showing...This defeats the purpose of your demo. Therefore, it is very critical to learn how to use Zoom effectively during live demos / webcasts / e-learning content creation.

    3. Humor: I think this is the most important skill. In my career, this has been the single most consistent feedback from attendees and customers. Technology can quickly become boring or drab. Converting it to humorous, witty, sarcastic and tongue in cheek conversation actually increases the impact many-fold...Try it yourself.

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