When taking on large business analysis projects, stakeholders are often tasked with double duty for their current daily job as well as this new project. For that reason, building rapport with stakeholders is crucial. Show them that they are appreciated and respected. Here are some ways to foster trust and respect among stakeholders:
Make the best use of people’s time. Don’t call them into meetings that they don’t need to attend. By understanding and respecting their involvement, you become a more trusted advisor.
Refrain from speaking negatively about team members. Even if you know inside information about a team member, keep it to yourself. And if someone wants to gossip with you about someone else, don’t engage.
Don’t break trust if information is given to you in confidence. This point is especially important if the knowledge in question is something you need to know but other people can’t, such as a consultant rolloff plan (the plan that’s in place to reduce the number of consultants as the project nears its end).
Don’t assign them timeframes in which to complete tasks; ask them for estimates. In this way, you don’t overcommit the stakeholders or the technical team. When assigning action items or tasks, ask the person who will actually be doing the task how long it will take.
By having him give you the estimate himself, you avoid overcommitting him. And having him give you a time makes him more likely to stick to that time than he would be if you assigned one.
To build rapport, find a common bond between both of you. What do they display on their walls — golf pictures? If you like golf, too, you have your “in.” You can also “feel their pain”: See whether you can sit beside them as they do their job (or even perform the task yourself) so you can experience the business “pain” firsthand.
The more you learn about each side (business and technical), the more you have a sense of whether an estimate by either side is way out of line. When that happens, you’re in a better position to speak from confidence and question it, and the stakeholders are less likely to be offended by your challenge because it’s based on your genuine understanding of their side.