Pittsburgh IIBA Meetup: Do You Think You Are a Good Listener? Let Us Surprise You!

This evening’s talk at the Pittsburgh IIBA Meetup was about communication skills. Although there was some discussion about conveying messages the emphasis was on how to receive them. Both are important to business analysts. BAs must provide context for what they’re trying to elicit so they get what they want, but they must be patient enough to receive the information effectively as it’s offered.

There have been times when I’ve done this really well in my career (and in my life), and times when I’ve done this less well. Some reflection on my own has made me aware of my worst behaviors so I won’t ever repeat them but, as in many things, if I want to keep getting better in an area it helps to be thinking about it. In order to get better at something one has to be continuously (and purposefully) engaged with the material, so this talk was good for that engagement.

I’ll post a link to the presentation materials if and when they’re made available. In the meantime I’ll share a link to an online listening skills evaluation that was included in the slides.

The speakers shared a lot of insights into things to do and not to do, many of which I’d seen before and a couple I hadn’t. I’ve gotten to know one of the speakers a little bit and told her about something I learned in a leadership school in the Army, though it’s a common concept. When I saw it it was called, simply, a “communication model.” That’s not super descriptive, but the idea is easy enough to grasp:

  1. What the sender thinks was sent
  2. What the sender actually sent
  3. What the receiver actually received
  4. What the receiver thinks was received

It seemed to me that many of the concepts described in the talk reflected different aspects of this communication model. How to send clearly, how to prevent and resolve misunderstandings, how to maintain strong engagement so all parties are incentivized to keep working until mutual understanding is achieved, how to ensure that you understand what the speaker is saying and not confirming what you want to hear, carefully setting ground rules and defining terms, overcoming certain barriers, and more were all discussed. The speakers and audience members shared numerous personal stories and observations relating to these ideas, and I found the entire session to be productive.

There are many technical aspects of discovery and data collection processes but they can’t be executed effectively in many cases if they aren’t conducted in an environment with good communication and strong, supportive engagement.

Finally, the speakers mentioned the classic Dale Carnegie book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, which I’ve linked before and highly recommend. To that I’ll list a handful of other books I’ve read on related subjects. This may seem a bit longhaired but interpersonal skills are as important for technicians and analysts as they are for anyone, and perhaps more so.

Feeling Good Together by David D. Burns.
The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.
Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Ph.D.
Conversation Confidence by Leil Lowndes.

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