When I deliver Business Analysis Career Coaching, one of the first questions that I ask my target audience, is to identify challenges that affect their ability to deliver requirement services and deliverables. On a consistent basis, I hear the phrase “Difficult Stakeholders” from the audience. When you seek clarification 'question the status quo', it is evident that there is a common mind-set that life as a Business Analyst would be so much easier if project stakeholders and project management cooperated as requested.
There is also an underlying implication that as Business Analysts, we do not have the authority or ability to compel needed contributions. To get to the finish line, we resort to prodding and nagging people. When that fails, we escalate to individuals who have the organizational power to get the results we want. (I will talk to your boss!)
I have a different perspective. I take the approach that as Business Analysts, we need to adopt a mind-set that we are leaders. We are not going to get authority based on positional power, nor RACI chart.
We will need to empower ourselves! We need to lead with influence !!!
What is Leading with Influence?
It is about the ability to affect the actions, decisions, and thinking of others to accomplish key goals or tasks that you consider to be important. Simply put, leading with influence is about getting people to willingly follow the direction that you provide when you lack organizational authority. It is about leading when you are not in charge. As a Business Analyst, I want delivery partners on a project to follow the guidance I provide without having to demand their compliance.
How do YOU Lead with Influence as a Business Analyst?
There are several ways to lead with influence as a Business Analyst. The following practices are items that I have found to be effective in my experience.
1. Connecting with Emotion
The ability of a Business Analyst to influence behaviour is tied to having meaningful relationships with and recognizing individuals as individuals on a project. It is about having a rapport that transcends immediate tasks. Likeability matters. Connecting with emotion involves paying attention to a person’s interests and helping them out even though the action may not seem to directly relate to a project task.
On a recent project, I was working with a Solution Architect who felt a level of discomfort in using a newly introduced requirements management tool. I took the time to demonstrate and illustrate how to use the tool and earned his gratitude. In a subsequent meeting when I needed assistance in the interpretation of mapping requirements to the solution, he stepped up and made my job immeasurably easier.
2. Relating with Professionalism
Illustrate the behaviour that you seek from others by your conduct. Be a role model and exemplify professionalism in everything you do. Do not grumble and complain about tasks that you do not enjoy; others will notice the attitude and may replicate it. Illustrate integrity and ethics in all that you do. Demonstrate selflessness. Adopt an approach to having others succeed in their given tasks even when a RACI chart indicates you have no correspondent responsibility. Demonstrate a viewpoint that the project succeeds when we all succeed in our given tasks. Relating with professionalism is about building meaningful relationships not for networking but for giving to others.
I have had the good fortune to work on projects that succeeded despite overwhelming odds. I have also had the experience of working on projects that failed where success should have been given. Teams that adopt a professional attitude always succeed.
3. Leading with Trust
Individuals cooperate primarily based on trust. Often when we try to persuade people to follow our direction, it comes to people wondering, “Can I trust this person’s viewpoint and direction?” Build trust by doing things the “right way” without consideration to politics. Build trust by saying what you mean and meaning what you say. As a Business Analyst, your actions and deliverables directly reflect your integrity. Strengthen trust by practicing transparency. Do not treat information as something to be shared on a “need to know basis.”
Do not complain or look for someone to blame when things do not go according to plan.
4. Directing with Clarity
As Business Analysts, we all know about the importance of clarity in how we write requirements. We do not necessarily apply that same concept when it comes to giving direction to others, on tasks where they need our assistance/guidance. Quite often, we rely on an implicit definition of roles and responsibilities provided by the SDLC or the project initiation document 'project plan'.
We assume that all individuals share the same understanding of expected behaviour. Directing with clarity means a Business Analyst has to provide project stakeholders with a precise description of the contribution that you are seeking from them, and get their confirmation that they understand the expectations.
When I am assigned as a Lead Business Analyst on any project, I always make plan for a Stakeholder Engagement Approach that communicates the stakeholders expectations. I provide clarity on the time commitment that I seek from them 'stakeholders'.
As a Business Analyst, I direct with clarity at the end of the requirements process when I seek approval of requirements. I do not just ask for approval. I indicate the purpose of approval and what approval means in their context.
Leading with Influence can be a remedy to alleviate frustration from Difficult Stakeholders who are committed to misunderstand YOU
Credit: Michael Roy, Wildfiresparks.co.uk
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