When you are ‘dropped in’ as a consultant into a company that you have never worked for or even when you are starting a new business analyst job or a project with new stakeholders, the most important first step is to begin to build the relationships with your stakeholders. Not only do you want them to trust you, you want to them to know that you can follow through on any deliverable and that you have their best interests at heart. You also want to be able to build the trust so that you can influence and impact the project.
I have found that there are several key ways to approach this. First of all, the introduction – I always present my honest and sunny face to them. Shake hands. Show interest in them. This is natural for me, as I truly do care about these people and the company that I contract out to. As I become more invested in the project and the company, the stakeholders begin to see that. The way I talk about the project – positive, thinking about ways around roadblocks, wins for the stakeholder — all of this impacts how I am perceived by my stakeholders.
When I talk with the stakeholders on each successive meeting, I interject some personal questions in – How long have you been with the company? Do you have a family? My energy is always high so they pick up on that and mostly tend to leave the meeting with a smile.
As I start to deliver for them, they begin to see what I can do and that I always follow through, and most especially that I deliver on time or early. If I cannot deliver on time, then I am speaking with them face to face to explain and have a new delivery date to negotiate. They begin to see how I relate to other people in the project and begin to trust that I have their best interests in my focus and the best interests of the project and the company.
When roadblocks occur, this is a critical test to increase the confidence and trust that the stakeholder has in you. How do you deal with it?
- Are you negative or do you look for a creative way around it?
- Do you support them and find a positive outcome?
- Are they satisfied with the outcome?
All this continues to build the trust they have in you.
Finally, just be honest with your stakeholders. Don’t settle for telling them what they want to hear, tell them the honest truth and the trust they have in you will ensure that they and you are successful in the project.
One of the best experiences I have had with my current company is building a relationship with one of the senior managers in the company. She is amazing and has moved up quite quickly in the company – because she is bright and ambitious and deserves it. A lot of people are intimidated by her – they were unsure of approaching her and felt that she did not ‘like’ them.
I watched, listened and learned.
She is not quick to trust and you must prove yourself to her. I happen to feel that I should prove myself. I worked hard at engaging her, offering to help, learning her business and the way she liked to work. Today – she trusts me, includes me in her decisions and was key in getting my contract renewed. Applying these principles not only helped me build a strong relationship and a more successful project, but also helped me extend my engagement!