Earlier this week, I returned from a 2 week trip to New Zealand and Australia. The trip was initially spurred by the invitation for our New Zealand partner, Blair Loveday, and I to speak at the BBC Sydney. However, with such an opportunity, I quickly turned the event into a mini-tour of down under. Starting in New Zealand, I met with Blair’s company, Redvespa. Blair and I taught four workshops on exciting new topics – Design Thinking and Critical Thinking (here is a hint, but stay tuned for much more on that front). From there, we traveled to Sydney to present at the BBC, then I was off to Adelaide and Melbourne for the opportunity to present to their IIBA chapters, and I ended the trip spending time with kangaroos.
The trip was in one word, incredible. (As is the jet lag…I am up penning this blog at 3am.) Since returning home, I have been reflecting on my trip and am feeling grateful that I had the opportunity to visit places like this and work with extraordinary people around the world. There are also several experiences that keep coming to mind as lessons learned. These are lessons that will help you be a better business analysis professional and a better professional in general, regardless of distance or culture.
The overwhelming majority of people I met are very humble. In my interactions, many took a very modest view of their skills. Many wanted to know how we did things in America; is it that different from their practices, is it more innovative in the US? This is one thing that I love about working with people in our profession, there is a level of humbleness and willingness to learn, not an arrogant cockiness.
On the down side, you can get taken advantage of or be viewed as not adding value if you appear too humble. There is a balance of humbleness and confidence that you need to portray. You need to know what you know and move forward with conviction. On the other hand, you need to know that you don’t know everything and be open to other ideas and always be open to learn. I was able to witness this balance of traits in the workshops that I taught there. It was very refreshing.
Bringing It Home: When engaging with stakeholders they need to feel comfortable that you know what you are doing. If you are facilitating a meeting you need to make everyone aware of why you plan on using a technique and how it will help the team reach the outcome intended for the meeting. You can’t go into the session with a lack of confidence or you’ll get eaten alive. This does not mean you stick to your plan if it is not working. Showing confidence is recognizing that the plan is not working and that switching gears is the best option. See our Quick Tip for more techniques on how to improve your stakeholder engagement.
Great Coffee and Craft Beer
I knew they had great coffee as I had been to New Zealand before, but I was pleasantly surprised that their craft beer was equally as delicious. What does this have to do with anything? Well, it has everything to do with everything you should care about. Coffee and craft beer were my way of connecting with people while I was there. At the Adelaide IIBA meeting, I loved that they served drinks and food after my talk. It was a very active group during the session and just as active over cocktails and food. Maybe the IIBA needs to enact a law that all chapter meetings should conclude with drinks and food. Who’s with me?!
Bringing It Home: Connect with others. This trip solidified my belief that you don’t get paid for what you know, it is who you know. We work in the age of collaboration. Does everyone collaborate well? No, but one thing that helps teams collaborate well is having trusting relationships. Trusting relationships start with people feeling comfortable with each other.
How do you get comfortable with each other? Get to know them at a deeper level. Find out what they like to do, what excites them and what they don’t like to do. Getting to know more about the people you work with will likely unveil that you have a lot of things in common. This common ground will improve your relationship, which improves collaboration. When does a lot of this happen? It happens over coffee, over a drink. It happens less when you get put on a project or assigned to a team. Once that happens, the gun goes off and everyone is off to the races. It’s harder to slow down and have these types of conversations. Now, should you, yes…it’s just harder. Make time outside of your project to get to know others you work with or may work with.
My goal in life is to meet everyone in the world. Some say this goal is a stretch; I say it is one worth trying to attain. Why everyone in the world? It reminds me to not filter who I connect with. I don’t just connect with people at a certain company or with a certain title. I connect with everyone. Down the road, that connection can come into play. As of now, I have no idea how, and that’s OK. (A special thank you to everyone I was able to meet…slowly inching me closer to my goal!)
In Australia and New Zealand the main language is English, just like in the US. But, at times, I was confused. I spent a lot of time with my mate, Blair Loveday. You see, already it gets confusing. As my mate, some in the US may think Blair is my husband (which, of course, my wife might not appreciate). One day I asked Blair if he wanted to grab dinner and he replied “sweet as”. I turned and said, “excuse me?!”, thinking he added an extra s to as. However, “sweet as” = “cool”, as in “Yes, cool. Dinner sounds great”. This is a perfect example of using the same words in different context with a different accent. Another saying is “Good on ya”. This is used like we may use “good job” in the States. The first time I heard it, I tried to figure out how I got good on me, and what is good anyway? Is it some kind of cheese?
Bringing It Home: Many of us work harder to ensure we have a common understanding of a subject if we are speaking different languages. We realize there could be an issue so we work to eliminate the issue. But when you are dealing with someone with the same first language you still need to try hard. You need to validate others comments even if you speak the same language. Don’t assume you have a common understanding. Know that this is not being rude or offensive, it is being thorough.
The problem with the written and spoken word is many interpretations can be made. Use visuals, examples and scenarios to help ensure everyone is on the same page. The worst thing you can do is show someone some text and then ask if he has any questions. Most likely you won’t get any questions. Either no one wants to look stupid or they have some interpretation based on their experience. Ask others to explain their interpretation of the requirement or whatever you are discussing. Ask then to share examples of how it applies. Have them explain in what scenarios that requirement would be true.
If you get a chance, please visit New Zealand and Australia. The countries are beautiful and so are the people. And, when you return, please share your reflections on how your trip can help our business analysis community.
As they say in that part of the world….Cheers,