I wanted to share an interesting passage from an article I came across the other day. Dr. Rick Johnson, in the article, Leadership is NOT a Cake Walk, writes (emphasis mine):

Listening should dominate your interaction with your employees. Distractions need to be removed. Trust must be developed. You must have a sincere desire to understand. You must be aware of individual needs. Be attentive and don’t assume anything. Ask for explanations. Don’t interrupt because you want to talk. Try to keep an open mind. Be compassionate and don’t react too quickly. Avoid talking about yourself. These are the basic rules of communication. Remember: You and the person you are communicating with are trying to create a shared meaning.

Meaning is not in the words or symbols you speak. Meaning is in your head. The symbols represent your thoughts. Your goal is to get your meaning that’s in your head into their head, and hopefully, you will create that shared meaning. If you are not being understood, then you are probably not using very good symbols/words to represent your thoughts. Try again until he/she understands your meaning. Communication is shared a responsibility.

There were a couple aspects of the article that caught my attention and made me think. And I like articles that make me think.

First, I agree with the breakdown of communication to the fundamental goal of creating a shared meaning through use of symbols.

As analysts, a considerable portion of our efforts to hone our craft revolve around becoming better communicators, or finding that set of symbols that is most conducive to reaching that critical shared understanding for a particular work effort. Use cases? Prototypes? Textual requirements? Pictures? Something different altogether? Which symbols are most effective at driving to shared meaning, and in which situations? Things really begin to click when we become adept at identifying the right models (symbols) to use in order to tailor a specific message to a specific audience.

Second, I found it interesting that, while the article is directed toward “leaders” of the management variety – as evidenced by the references to “your employees” – the same counsel applies for leadership of a different sort. As an analyst, I find myself replacing references to employees with business stakeholders, project team members, users, etc., and finding that the exact same message of communication and leadership applies squarely to BA’s.

I’ve long considered BA’s to be leaders in organizations precisely because they specialize in bringing together diverse groups of stakeholders with different responsibilities, perspectives and experiences and leading them through a process of discovery, negotiation and collaboration that eventually results in a shared understanding of what is needed. If you want to break down the BA’s job to it’s simplest, that’s what we do. We facilitate shared understanding among project stakeholders. We are communication experts.

I’m not citing any expert sources here, but in my opinion, the ability to unite individuals toward a common purpose is a key aspect of leadership. The common purpose for which the analyst strives is that of achieving a shared understanding of what success for a given product or work effort entails. Once the team has that shared vision of success, that vision has a much better chance at becoming reality.

So while a BA may not typically have direct reports, the leadership advice shared for managers in this article applies every bit as much for the analyst.