Are you working with new stakeholders in a new company or project? As a business analyst, building rapport with critical stakeholders is one of the best ways to get a new project started effectively and set yourself up for success.
It’s a built-in insurance policy against future project mishaps and challenges.
In this short video, you’ll learn Laura’s top three tips for building rapport with critical stakeholders that you can begin implementing today.
In tip #2, Laura shares the importance of actively understanding the different perspective and communication styles of the stakeholders. In order to do that, you need to ask well-crafted questions and actively engage in the conversation.
Hi, I’m Laura Brandenburg with Bridging the Gap where we help you start, succeed, and excel in your business analyst career. With weekly videos on business analyst tips and techniques. So let’s dive right in here, though, for these three tips on building rapport.
Building Rapport Tip #1 – Introduce Yourself
First things first is to introduce yourself. Depending on the environment, this could be via email, over the phone, on a Zoom call or in an in-person meeting. Be warm and bring your best self. If in person, shake hands. If on Zoom, use your body language to say a true hello. And smile and make eye contact. Be really fully present with the other person.
You can start by asking a few general questions such as how long have they been with the company? Or if there’s an object in their office or their Zoom background, you could ask about that. Maybe there’s a picture or a trinket or a book that you could comment on.
You can also share something about yourself that feels both professional and relevant. This can be a conversation. It’s not just an interview. You want to open up to them as much as you’re asking them to open up to you. It can feel intimidating to be meeting new people, especially if they’re a critical stakeholder who may hold a higher level role within the company. I find it’s so helpful to remember that at the end of the day, we are all human beings in physical bodies living here on planet Earth. The more confident you feel in your business analysis skillset and your ability to bring unique value to the project, the easier it will be for you to shift out of this feeling of being intimidated and nervous and meet any stakeholder in your own power.
Remember, you don’t need to have all the answers, but you do need to be the one who’s asking the right questions and analyzing the information that you receive as a result.
Building Rapport Tip #2 – Actively Understand Their Perspective and Communication Style
That brings us to tip two, which is actively understanding their perspective. In reality, even the most critical, high level stakeholder that you can imagine have their own concerns. Again, they’re a human being. They may even have insecurities about their role about the project. They might not know what a business analyst does. They may have doubts about the team that’s in place and their ability to execute on the project or what that project is even supposed to do.
After an introduction, in that warm greeting, shift the conversation to the project. Share what information you have so far in a very brief and succinct way, and then ask a few questions about their perspectives. Questions could include what concerns do they have. What are they really, really hoping to accomplish? What would this project mean to their team, to them personally, to the goals for the team or the goals for the organization? Who else should you be getting involved and what roles would they want to play?
As you are listening, reflect back what you are hearing so that they can see and really experience that you’re understanding them and not just letting the information wash over you. And if it’s not clear, this is super important, ask questions. You do not build rapport by nodding your head or letting the information just sort of wash by you.
Bridging the Gap has many resources to support you in building rapport with stakeholders. In addition to the free requirements checklist that you can download to help you figure out what questions to ask, we also have a FREE GUIDE with 10 Tips to Improve Stakeholder Engagement.
As you get to know the stakeholder, you also want to ask questions about their preferred communication style and what they would like to know about. Do they want regular email updates, a weekly status call, or chat messages? Do your best, within reason, to accommodate their preferred communication style. It’ll go a long, long way.
Building Rapport Tip #3 -Do What You Say You Are Going To Do
This brings us to tip three, which is to do what you say you are going to do. Start with something small in your first meeting if you can, such as I’ll follow up and send notes, or I’d love to share an article that’s relevant to this discussion, and then do it. It almost doesn’t matter what it is, but make a conscious commitment to them in the meeting and then take that as a next step. Let them know when you’ll complete it by as well. And follow through. It starts to build that trust. This is the person who does what they say they are going to do. They start to believe that they can count on you.
As the project unfolds, obviously stay steadfastly true to your commitments when it comes to your requirements, your meetings, your deadlines, the issues that you’re taking ownership of. All of that really builds trust.
And, of course, there’s going to be circumstances when you run into unexpected roadblocks or you can’t follow through on something you committed to for some. What’s important in the context of building rapport is that you communicate this ahead of time. Where it’s appropriate actually involve them in making decisions about how those issues are handled.
Leverage Your Rapport
Now, this all might feel like an investment, but really these are tips that you can apply as you were going through the work that you’d be doing anyway as a business analyst. It’s not something that has to be above and beyond. These are tips you can sprinkle into the interactions that you’re probably already having. The important thing is the rapport that you build with stakeholders pays dividends all through the course of the project. When they know you and trust you, they will show up for you. They will help resolve roadblocks, and they will partner with you when you are going through challenges. They will share information more readily and your project will move more smoothly.
Again, if you want help getting started asking questions, we have that free requirements checklist that’s going to help you start to think about what you can ask them and how you can start to engage critical stakeholders on your project.
Also, I want you to check out this next video on asking good questions during requirements elicitation that you can learn exactly how to implement this checklist for your next project. I’ll see you over there.