One of my favorite aspects about working in the business intelligence industry is the people that I get to work with. I enjoy the technical challenges as much as I enjoy working with the intricacies that are involved when dealing with people. Emotional intelligence practices may come easier for those of us who are known as a “people person” but there are several basic techniques that can be learned and applied that will greatly increase the quality of your client relationships.
1. Understanding What Your Client Values: Put yourself in your client’s shoes. An individual who has learned to tap into his or her emotional intelligence becomes skilled at removing attachment from individual experiences and imagining what it’s like to be someone else. This is an extremely important skill when you are seeking to add value to your client’s business. Your goal is to understand what your client values and to let go of your personal values to try and understand what type of deliverable would truly match the values of your client.
It’s easy for many business people to assume that everyone values a high financial return on investment (ROI), but beware the danger in making the assumption that this is all that matters because that is far from true. Values span far from dollar signs, even in the corporate environment. People may value simplicity, freedom, relationships, image, or practicality. Remember, you are doing business with individual people, not a corporation. Once you understand what your client values you will be able to provide a higher ROI that spans beyond money.
The easiest way to get insight into what your client values is to simply ask. Most people will be able to easily answer this question. It would be wise to ask follow-up questions to clarify the drivers for what your client values. You might ask “What things in life provide you that value?”, or “What actions or experiences don’t give you that value?”. From these two questions you would learn countless things about your client’s personality and how they have organized their life to nourish the things that they value. A good business intelligence analyst will be able to take this information and apply those characteristics to help strengthen the business relationship and to deliver data in a way that matches the client’s values. If the client values simplicity then a clean data presentation based on charts and graphs is more appropriate than a page cluttered with numbers and raw data.
2. Gathering Feedback and Refining Requirements: When you present a report to your users/clients you are most likely relying on verbal feedback to gauge the accuracy of what you have produced. This type of feedback may range from concerns about data accuracy to specific requests about the color scheme or layout. Some users will be better verbal communicators than others and it is your job to bridge the communication gap so that satisfied clients become thrilled clients.
So how can you understand more about a client than they can verbally tell you? Pay attention to body language and facial expressions. Are their eyes narrowed? Are there lips pursed? Do they appear confused when they view their data? Avoid assuming that you know what all of these little details mean and use these clues to ask more questions in a non-threatening way.
For example, asking “Is the report organized in an easy to understand format?” is probably more effective than saying “You look confused”. The first style of communication will encourage more feedback and the second statement could easily put your client in a defensive stance which will hinder further communication.
3. Facilitate Meetings by Managing Emotions: A productive meeting always begins with a goal in mind. As attendee sizes increase so does the potential for topic derailment. This could render the meeting pointless if the goal of the meeting is missed all together. As the meeting facilitator and the business intelligence expert it is your job to manage the emotions of yourself and others in a way that aligns the productivity of the meeting with your goal.
Your goal might be to define a set of business rules that will be used for a report design. State your goal at the beginning of the meeting so that everyone is clear on your intentions. Often people will show up to a meeting with a need to vocalize their grievances. This may seem unproductive to you, but it is important that you first allow others to speak their minds while gently re-aligning the tone of the meeting with the meeting goal. On a psychological level people are not receptive to your ideas or opinions until they feel they have been heard and listened to. You can’t fake this! Control your own emotions of potential frustration and pay attention to the speaker 100%.
Most often it is appropriate to take note of the speaker’s concerns or view points and set a date and time to address them if action is required. Show respect to your clients by following through with the plan to address the concerns. This builds trust and respect and ultimately accomplishes the goal of managing the emotions of others. When you consistently take this approach you will find that follow up meeting run more smoothly due to the trust and respect that has accumulated between you and the client.
I hope this has been helpful. Thanks for reading, have a great day!