Top Ten Ways to Guarantee Failure in Requirements Sessions
Use these bad listening habits to guarantee an unsuccessful meeting, after which you’ll walk away with little to no helpful information – not to mention the wasted time for everyone who attended the meeting.
1. Interrupt stakeholders
If what you have to say is so important that it just can’t wait, go ahead – interrupt the person who is speaking. For maximum failure, interrupt a stakeholder or a SME. You’ll succeed in showing your disrespect – to the person who is speaking as well as those who are trying to listen.
If you’re interrupting – then ask yourself ‘why?’ Is it because you’re so eager to get your point across that you just can’t control yourself long enough to wait for a pause in the conversation?
If so, work on managing your emotions. Take deep slow breaths and count to 10. This forces you to slow down.
If you’re worried that if you wait for an available pause, you’ll forget what you wanted to say, there is a solution for this: Write it down.
2. Do not make eye contact
Something you can do when aiming for a failed requirements session is to project an undeniable lack of connection. Avoid eye contact so that your audience can draw the following conclusions: You’re not listening, you’re unprepared, and on some level, you can’t be trusted with the information included in the discussion.
Are you easily intimidated when speaking with people? Are you painfully shy? If so, you may be in the wrong line of work. Otherwise, recognize that this behavior is simply a bad habit that you’ve fallen into and take the necessary steps to improve your communication skills.
3. Check your email or text messages
Be sure to do this on a rolling basis. You could be missing something very important. Perhaps the bank is letting you know they’ve forgiven your mortgage or car loan. Of course, this would be a big deal and can’t possibly miss such good news. You may have won a million dollars in a contest you never entered, or some unknown recruiter has sent you a random job posting for a position you’d be perfect for but oh, by the way, the location is in the North Pole – without the possibility of ‘remote’.
Let’s not forget that you should most certainly check to see if your lover is sending some sugar your way. This is all-important stuff and dealt with immediately – especially during the course of a business meeting. Right?
No. Get your priorities straight. One of the single most annoying behaviors stakeholders cite in meetings like a requirements session, is an attendee’s constant attention to their cell phone. This goes for laptops too. Unless you are specifically using it for the meeting in progress, keep it closed – better yet – leave it behind and rely on good old-fashioned pen and paper to take notes. Any work-related email that comes through will still be there when you get back to your desk.
I once attended a requirements session where a manager caught someone on his team shopping for cars. He blew up and chastised the employee, giving warning to the rest of his team in attendance by demanding they close their laptops and turn off their phones. Ouch. It was uncomfortable for the rest of us but downright embarrassing for his targets.
4. Jump In to make your point before they are finished making theirs
As mentioned before, one of the best behaviors you can engage in to ensure a failed requirements session is to interrupt people when they’re speaking – especially if it’s to make your point before they ever get to make theirs. This of course implies that you are of superior intelligence and that the point you need to make is of greater value than whatever the speaker has to say. It also translates into selfishness and discourtesy.
Are you cutting them off in order to prove that you already know what they’re going to say – because you thought of it first? Or, are you so self-absorbed that you’re afraid they’re about to take credit for your big idea?
Do this on a repetitive basis to successfully shut down a stakeholder and you can absolutely guarantee a failed requirements session. Look into practicing active listening and empathic listening. If you don’t know the meaning of either of these terms – commit yourself to incorporating some communication coursework or one on one coaching into your plan for continuing professional development.
5. Appear distracted or uninterested
Who are these people and why are they here? Be sure to convey this attitude of disregard for colleagues so that they’ll know without a doubt that you could care less about successfully completing the activity for which you’ve all gathered. By the way, it’s best to do this at the beginning, throughout and at the end of the meeting – so that you can be sure, they leave drained and feeling annoyed – asking themselves and one another, why in the world they had to take time out of a busy day – for nothing – for you.
Learn to appreciate that time is a precious commodity. Busy people aren’t fond of time bandits, who live in their own universe, completely oblivious to people and circumstances in their orbit. While one version of this behavior may involve incessant rambling, another is complete apathy. It is the equivalent of calling a meeting and not showing up.
Pay attention and be present. Check your body language and overall demeanor. Droopiness, indifference, boredom…these are all signals to your colleagues that you’d rather be somewhere else.
They can make that happen.
6. Show no expression
Similar to #5, to guarantee an outstanding failed requirements session – portray yourself as completely removed from the people and subject matter at hand. This means that you show no emotion, no reaction, no investment, and no interest.
Alternatively, being present and staying engaged is critical to a successful exchange of information. Productive discussions are not entirely comprised of words. Conversations include a constant back and forth of subtle indicators, like body language and facial expressions that signal understanding – or a lack thereof. When no indicators are present, humans tend to withdraw from the dialogue. No one appreciates ‘talking to a wall’.
7. Turn everything they say into something about you
Contribute to the conversation by inserting yourself into a stakeholder’s narrative. This takes self-absorption to a higher level. You may as well come right out and say, ‘enough about you – let’s talk about me’.
This might be a funny line with your friends but in a professional setting, you’ll come off as a jerk. Bringing a topic of conversation back to yourself, repeatedly or only occasionally, is an unsavory trait that leads stakeholders to conclude that you are a person with an extreme ego who doesn’t agree that there is no ‘I’ in T-E-A-M.
Instead of making it about you, try the effective communication technique of Reflection in order to ‘identify’ with a stakeholder. Reflection is a process of paraphrasing and restating both the feelings and words of the person you are in discussion with. This allows your partner in conversation, to ‘hear’ their own thoughts and to focus on what they say and feel. It demonstrates that you are trying to perceive the world as they see it and most importantly to encourage them to continue talking.
8. Look at your watch while they are speaking
If you don’t use your phone to tell time, you can accomplish the same degree of rudeness by glancing at your wrist while someone is speaking. This simple gesture can insinuate so many different assumptions, not the least of which is that you have somewhere else to be.
Even if the current meeting is running over the allotted time, and you really do need to be somewhere else in a matter of minutes, refrain from checking your watch (or your phone) while someone – especially if a stakeholder is speaking, and especially if they are speaking to you directly. Doing this gives the impression of impatience and complete boredom with the speaker.
9. Ask a question to which they have just given you an answer
Not paying attention is an outstanding way to annoy fellow meeting attendees and stakeholders in particular. Asking a stakeholder a question that they’ve already answered– not because you need clarification, but rather because you just plain missed it, demonstrates a lack of command and inability to stay focused.
There’s a difference between being unable to pay attention and an unwillingness to do so. Unless you’ve been diagnosed with Adult Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), your inability to concentrate could be the result of poor nutrition, lack of sleep, lazy thinking or an utter lack of interest in the subject matter. Figure it out or find another line of work that keeps you motivated or otherwise involved. Failing to do so will severely limit your opportunity to achieve success – in any profession.
10. Visually drift off, look, study or react to things around you instead of looking at the person who is speaking
This behavior is a culmination of all others related to a lack of presence. To achieve a failed requirements session – simply don’t show up. If you’re not there – you can’t possibly obtain the vital information needed in order to kick off a project.
Drifting off visually, looking around the room, tapping your fingers or playing with your pen, glancing at your watch, and of course doing anything with your phone, are all signs that you’re not functioning in the present moment. These actions, along with poor posture, such as slouching in your seat, give the visual appearance of boredom and send a clear signal to stakeholders that you have no interest or could care less about what they are saying – much less your job. Be very mindful of this behavior – it can cost you – respect, reputation, promotion and even your employment.
Avoid these top ten bad listening habits by applying common courtesy and solid work ethics to your daily work habits. Not only will doing this make all the difference between a failed requirements session and a successful one, it will also improve your probabilities of a successful career path.
Consider training to help improve communication skills. The Analyst coach offers a course on this topic for business analysts.