03 Oct Business Partnering – How to Develop your Credibility

Does your role involve you helping senior managers make effective business decisions?

Have you moved from being a specialist 'expert’ to working alongside managers in a more consultative way?

Is there an expectation that you need to be operating as a Business Partner with your internal or external clients?

All of these scenarios require you to rely on skills which are in addition to your specific area of expertise but still require you to demonstrate credibility and gain trust.

So how can you develop your credibility? In this blog we’ll offer you three simple techniques that will develop and enhance your Business Partnering skills.

Your credibility will be built up over time and will depend on your ability to help clients get better results through analysis of needs and development of appropriate solutions. If you win their trust from the start, it will make your partnering job all the easier. There are three simple things you can do at the outset of a new project or business relationship to demonstrate your credibility:

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1. Demonstrate your understanding

So often we nod and say we understand, but what is really impressive is if we are able to demonstrate our understanding by encapsulating, or summarising, the situation as we hear it.

This will give you a head start on getting to grips with what may be a complex scenario and, by demonstrating your ability to interpret and understand the complexity of the situation, your client will think you have a good head on your shoulders!

Achieve this by asking open questions, paraphrasing as you progress through the conversation and summarising at the end.

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2. Control the process

Controlling the process is all about managing the conversation effectively. Sounds simple but how often do we fall into the trap of jumping from topic to topic because it is not clear where we were meant to be heading in the first place?

By controlling the process of the conversation, you are taking an early opportunity to demonstrate you’re a safe pair of hands. If you can elegantly organise the conversation to ensure it is effective, then your client gets a preview of what you could provide as an on-going partner and will be impressed and reassured! Don’t assume that your client will have an organised agenda or has thought about how to structure the conversation and don’t let yourself be intimidated into deference by the person’s seniority! 8 times out of 10, they won’t have had time to think about this and you get an ‘easy win’ in terms of your credibility.

One of the things I always do when I first sit down with clients is use a simple PEA introduction to set the overall purpose of the conversation, the endpoint that each of us wants, and the agenda we’ll need to cover to achieve that. (Take a look at our meetings blog for more info on using PEA http://www.lcnetwork.co.uk/news/?p=35)

Additional elegance comes in your ability to signpost your way through the meeting. At each stage, neatly summarise where you’ve been and point the way to the next part of the agenda. This will enable both of you to stay on track and ensure you don’t walk away with only half the information you need.

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3. Challenge the client’s perception

An early chance to demonstrate that you can be a ‘critical friend’ will demonstrate good value. The trick here is to be ‘curious’ rather than ‘challenging’ and use a light touch.

“I notice that you want to implement the new process in the next month and you have also talked about anticipating some teething troubles. I have a few questions about your timescale; perhaps we can come back to this later?”

By tactfully picking up on ambiguities, discrepancies, assumptions and limited perspectives, you signal to the client that your contribution will be substantive and your focus will be broad and strategic.

So how do you spot these? Look out for changes in body language that could indicate uncertainty or avoidance and listen out for aspects that are glossed over. Often, a question to check whether you have correctly understood this aspect will be enough to challenge their perception.

What are your tips for developing credibility? What are your experiences of becoming a business partner? If you’ve got any additional tips that you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you – just add them into the comments box below.

Also, if you try any of the tips above, let us know how you get on as we’d love to hear from you.

Look out for next month’s blog on Chairing Meetings.

Posted by Shona Ward

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