Listening is one of the most powerful skills every BA should strive to develop. I once mentored a BA who had a serious listening problem. It wasn’t that he couldn’t pay attention at all. He could but it required a lot of effort. In many instances during the course of a conversation, his mind would stray. This no doubt, affected his work as he often had to resort to other people’s understanding of what had been said. This caused him embarrassment on quite a number of occasions.
It certainly pays to invest time and attention when interacting with stakeholders. This is the only way to prove that you genuinely understand their pains and can arrive at an informed understanding of what the business truly needs.
Here are three key tips on improving your listening skills. These tips have also helped me over the course of my career:
1) Be Active - Take Notes
Not everyone is great at retaining all the details of a conversation. When you take notes, you are forced to follow the discussion and those notes will also serve as references you can fall back on after the discussion to aid further analysis.
2) Do Some Groundwork
Having some background knowledge of what is being discussed certainly aids your ability to follow the discussion. Not a lot of professionals will be able to follow an in-depth discussion on metaphysics. Every new domain comes with buzzwords and background knowledge that stakeholders may erroneously, take as given. Doing some background research can help you gain sufficient understanding of key areas, ask insightful questions and in the process, gather the information needed to proffer effective solutions to the business.
This is a powerful and indispensable skill to becoming successful, no matter your background: The ability to focus on only one thing at a time.
Put some effort into staying in the moment, without worrying too much about how to respond to what is being said. Compartmentalising can help reduce stress, thereby increasing your ability to concentrate. Read more on compartmentalising here.
What other listening skills have worked for you?