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Know Who to Ask the Right Questions

Smartphones have made so many things easier in life. I don’t think I want to or can live without one. Besides all the benefits related to work, I am not sure I could go very long with a quick round on Candy Crush. At the same time we are letting smartphones stop us from doing the one thing that good analysis requires: connecting with others. What made me think of this was a trip on a shuttle from the airport to a conference. I was really excited because I knew we had at least a 30-minute ride. I entered the van with seven new people to meet and ready to start to get to know my fellow riders. Unfortunately, everyone but me had their head in their phone checking email, surfing the Internet or playing Candy Crush. Many of the riders were going to the same conference so it was a place I could start building relationships so we could stay in touch, share ideas and experiences — seven more people I could add to my list of meeting everyone in the world. Not so much.

This scene is not uncommon. Go to a lunch spot and you’ll see everyone on the phone. People no longer connect like they used to. And if connecting with others is not your strength, you have fewer opportunities to work on improving this skill. I recently gave a talk at an IIBA chapter called “Ask the Right Questions.” One of my points was, it does not matter if you have the right questions if you don’t know who has the right answers. As a BA professional, you need to connect with large audiences so you know who your go-to people are when you need them. This means you can’t wait until you need them to find them. There just is not enough time in the day when you are assigned to a project and have to find the right people to talk to. You have to have these relationships already so you can utilize them at the right time.

So how do you connect with others? First, take your headphones off and stop playing Candy Crush. Go have conversations with those you don’t know well and that may be needed in some form or fashion on a future initiative. When I teach my Improving Collaboration and Communication through Improvisation class, I have the class get to know each other. We do this because I want others to feel comfortable with each other so they can feel open to play the improv exercises I ask of them. To do this we play a game called Three Things in Common. Everyone pairs up and in two minutes they have to find three things they have in common. Now, if you think it is easy, it is until I add one more rule. The things in common can’t be things like, we are both men, we both have brown hair, we both wear glasses, we both work at company x, and, my favorite, we are both in this improv class. You have to get deeper than that. Find out what drives them, what their interests are, what gets them excited. Then you will start finding things in common that you both love, like the same author or movies, or you find out that you both have kids that play in the same sports league, or perhaps you share some of the same hobbies.

Why is this important? People love being around others who have things in common with them. So if you do, you’ll be more successful at getting the time with these team members in the future when you need something. Who do you pick up the phone for? Someone you know or someone you don’t? Come on, I know you see a number coming across your phone and if you don’t recognize it you let it go to voicemail!

Now, I want you to take it a step further. Find out the things they love about their job, why they work there, what skills and expertise they bring to the table, who they work with most and have good relationships with. Dig deeper into work-related knowledge and enthusiasm.

The more people you do this with, the more relationships you have with others. The more relationships you have, the more people you know when to reach out to when you are on an initiative. Set a goal to get to know at least two people a week. People excel more for knowing how to find an answer than knowing the answer to everything. Feel free to start with me. I am available for lunch most days!

All the best,

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