Network like you mean it
No matter what role you have, chances are you have some kind of stakeholder. They could be in the form of clients, bosses, teammates, or if you’re building a product, then users. In short, stakeholders are whose opinion matters for the product you’re currently building, whether from a business perspective, UX perspective, and so on.
Building a strong relationship with various parties goes a long way to successfully reach your goals. It forms trust, which in turn will make your work more valuable to them instead of just a one-and-done. Here’s how you can do it:
👂 Listen + Observe
Oftentimes, projects are more than what’s written on the brief/PRD (Product Requirement Document). How you could be clued in on the missing pieces are by simply listening. Hear what the clients are saying because ultimately, they know a lot more about the historical process and users of their own product.
Stakeholders might hint at certain preferences that you wouldn't guess from any project documents. This will let you avoid doing unnecessary revisions and ended up saving time.
The idea also goes with usability testings, where your job is to essentially observe users. Your insights will then be used to create a much more valuable product with an optimized user experience.
🙋 Ask Questions
Listening and asking questions always come hand in hand. It indicates that you understand the topic enough to know what to ask, and it also shows to the stakeholder that you’re engaged. Doing this allows you to dig deeper. Therefore, you’ll be more assured that your work outcome will be as close to their satisfaction as possible.
Like the rest of the tips I’m telling you, the questions you ask should adapt to the situation. In a meeting, a question should naturally build off from what you listened to. But once in a while, small talks are also encouraged to avoid burnout from back-to-back video calls.
📝 Gather Feedback
This is where it gets a little bit tricky. Feedbacks are good and okay mostly until it’s nearing the deadline where you want to avoid it like the plague so there are no more revisions. Been there, done that. Though it doesn't strip the fact that feedback is always useful. Gather feedback as much as you can get because it opens the line of communication with stakeholders — so empathy and trust can be built.
💡 Collaborate Early, and Continuously
Involving stakeholders as early as you can help your work to become more efficient. In order to avoid pitfalls, it’s critical that all parties be involved from the start and stay engaged throughout the development. It starts off the relationship strong. Staying informed during the process is super helpful to overcome potential conflicts. And of course, it’s a great way to align stakeholder’s expectations towards the end result.
Networking is a skill, you need to practice it as early as you can and adapt as needed. Right now, when remote working is at its peak, the potential to grow and strengthen your relationship with stakeholders is also high. As an introvert myself, remote working has enabled me to speak up more than I used to.
It doesn't have to be all about being seen on cam, that’s just one of the many tools you can use, as long as it takes you from point A to B. Good Luck!