How well do you connect? Learn about the importance of establishing rapport, building relationships, and having empathy for stakeholders you work with and who use the product.
When you meet with a stakeholder, are you able to pinpoint the emotion that they're carrying into a meeting? And how about after the meeting? During a requirements workshop? Can you scan the room and see who's excited, and nervous, and fearful? The ability to establish rapport and empathy with really anyone you work with is a key BA skill. Brady the BA is preparing to meet with a stakeholder, and he has some apprehensions because the last time they met, it was a bit rough.
This stakeholder is, well, let's just say "a difficult personality." So, Brady is working on trying to prepare for the meeting by thinking through how to build better rapport, and ensuring there's empathy to connect better. Brady realized that in previous meetings the focus was on the task to be completed, and needed more focus on connecting with the stakeholder. Brady had a feeling afterwards that the stakeholders weren't happy with the requirements process, and they're not trusting the process.
When rapport and empathy are positively happening, the results and outcomes are relationships that survive the many challenges teams face. When rapport and empathy are in place, your stakeholders are in a position to be receptive to new ideas, new ways of working, and to trust the process you lead them through. To build rapport and empathy with stakeholders, we need to truly understand what motivates them, and where their challenges are.
It means being in tune to what matters to each stakeholder. What's happening in their world, and what perceptions they have about the work you and the team do. On my projects, I need to work hard to establish, build, and maintain rapport and empathy with the team. It's not an easy endeavor. Two tips that I have for Brady and for you are, first, be a listener, and ask powerful questions in every encounter you have. Things like "Tell me about the pain-points "with with current solution", and "What does success look like "from your perspective?" These questions can be asked in just about any requirements or project meeting.
These are the types of questions that bring out a different perspective. I like to use these questions whenever I find myself in a situation where the focus of the dialogue is going in the wrong direction. Like, to much talk about the "how", when I want to discuss the "what" and the "why". Second, make sure that your interpretation of what's being discussed matches their intended message. It's easy to listen and interpret where we hear things based on our own experiences and miss the point the other's trying to make.
Try out statements like "So what I'm hearing is...", and "Am I hearing it correctly?" Also, look for the emotion in what's being said, and how can your reaction and dialogue acknowledge, respect, and respond showing empathy. For example, in a requirements workshop Brady was in, the difficult stakeholder was complaining about all the requirements meetings, and how hard it is to fit them into a schedule.
In this situation, Brady listened to the stakeholder vent and complain about the challenge. It's easy for Brady to take it personally, but before responding, Brady made sure to identify the emotion behind the words. Are they frustrated, confused, or feeling like they haven't been heard? Or maybe it's something else. It's important that Brady acknowledge their emotion, and confirm understanding of what they're intending to communicate.
It can be tempting to jump into facts and circumstances. Brady isn't fooled. This is likely to push away the stakeholder, and dissolve any rapport and empathy Brady's built. Building rapport and empathy is about being in tune with someone. It's about connecting with what matters to them, rather than our own agenda. Building great rapport and empathy is rewarding in many ways, and contributes to great requirements and results.
- Establishing rapport and empathy
- Managing conflict
- Facilitating the decision-making process
- Facilitating powerful dialogue and conversation
- Verbal, listening, visual, and written skills
- Business acumen skills
- Systems thinking and creative thinking
- Leveraging productivity tools
- Considering past, current, and future technology trends