Working with Your UX Champions

Moderated by Jillian Hudson, UXC; UXr Guild Board of Directors
This is an abridgment; view the full video presentation here.
Session 3 – December 8, 2022

Jillian Hudson shared in her first session that UX Strategy is the user plus the business. As the researcher, you combine users’ needs with business goals and create projects that help both sides. 

In her second session, Jillian shared some tips on identifying and creating UX champions, those stakeholders who can help you bring your UXr expertise to the table.

So, now that you have those stakeholders, what do you do with them? That was the focus of Jillian Hudson’s third session in her Leveling Up with UX Strategy series.

Collaborating with UX Champions

UX champions can be at multiple levels in a company. What you can accomplish may depend on where they sit within the organization.

With a product owner, for example, work with them on a project that you know has value to both the user and the business. Then, when you make the project a success, you both win. In this way, you can talk to and influence these stakeholders. Unfortunately, this isn’t a magic formula that is 100% successful. But you can work with the ones that will work with you. This will result in viable projects and a win/win situation.

It is then important to make others aware of the work that you’re doing together and how amazing it is that they are working with you. Take advantage of opportunities to provide kudos and praise within the company to be seen as a generous contributor.

If it is a VP of Sales that you need to collaborate with, showing them the ROI of fixing some of the user’s pain points can help them meet some of their goals. You can then help them see that they will sell more by removing inefficiencies. Find ways to make it easier for them which will help address the pain points and solve the problem.

Persuasion Tips with Stakeholders

Robert Cialdini and Steve Martin wrote a book in 1984 called “The Science of Persuasion.” In this work, they outline six suggestions on how to work with, and persuade people to your side. But these ideas must be used authentically and ethically to bring about the desired results.

Here are their six shortcuts and how they might apply in your interactions with stakeholders.

  1. Reciprocity: Obligation to give when you receive. Key: Be the first to give and make it personalized and unexpected
  2. Scarcity: People want more of the things they can have less of. Key: Focus on the unique benefits and what they stand to lose
  3. Authority: People follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts. Key: Signal to others what makes you an expert before you attempt to influence 
  4. Consistency: People like to be consistent with previous behaviors & actions. Key: Ask for small commitments to new behaviors before requesting larger ones
  5. Liking: We respond best to people who complement and cooperate with us. Key: Seek ”common ground.” Share genuine compliments.
  6. Consensus: People will look to the actions of others to determine their own. Key: Highlight what many “similar” others are already doing

Understanding Stakeholder Expectations

When working with a new group or product team, try to meet with them one-on-one. Ask: “What are you working on? What are your pain points? How can I help you?” Go in assuming that whoever you’re going to meet with wants to work with you to be successful until they prove otherwise. 

If they’re not going to be cooperative, help them as best as they will allow, and then spend your energy with the people who want to work with you.  

To understand expectations, you must understand your communication style and that of the stakeholders you’re working with. This is more than just speaking the language of business to business stakeholders. Knowing this will make your client more comfortable and receptive to what you share. It’s all about what Jillian refers to as “turning the UX lens inside.” It’s not about the users so much as it is about the user experience of working together on a product team.

Building Authority

Since we are all fallible, how can you effectively build authority amid mistakes and encourage others to share their thoughts with you? This is indeed a process requiring confidence on your part and trust on the part of the stakeholders. 

If ever the adage “Honesty is the best policy” applies, it is here. Owning your mistakes may seem like a step backward, but in reality, it helps your stakeholders know that you are taking responsibility and want to make things right. This in no way lessens your authority; it makes you human. And if you admit your mistake before anybody else notices, you’re coming from a place of power.

There’s no need to beat yourself up over errors or apologize profusely. Admit your mistake, clearly communicate how you will resolve the error, and then do it. You will be seen as honest, ethical, and trustworthy which will strengthen any relationship. And you want to be a trusted resource, a sounding board, and a brainstorming partner when your stakeholders are thinking through a business problem. 

Create a Long-term map

Jared Spool speaks on “envisionment” or looking down the road to where you want to be. You can do this as a researcher by bringing together key stakeholders and asking them where they want to be in five to eight years. They will likely state what they can accomplish with current resources. But to get them to envision a different future, you need to help them to focus on where they want to be, regardless of current circumstances. It be a challenge for many stakeholders. But it is the only way to create effective and lasting change. Once they have this in mind, do some reverse engineering to identify what needs to be done to reach that future objective. 

It will take time and effort and will be a new approach for many clients. But the benefits, both in the short-term and the long-term, will outweigh any discomfort. 

Using Strategic Discovery in UX Research

What is Strategic Discovery? It is continuous research: focusing not on a single project in a research study but on a user persona. For example, if you’re working with a sales team, you have a sales manager, a sales rep, and a sales system; that’s three personas. Strategic discovery emphasizes the need to look at all three personas to learn how they’re doing on the tasks that you’re making changes on and then identify their pain points. Ask yourself: “How can I help improve things for these users?” That will get the stakeholders that they want.

Presenting the results of a Strategic Discovery study is more complex and requires much more analysis as you’ll cover many disparate initiatives in the same session. But once again, the benefits will be worth the effort.

By incorporating these principles into your stakeholder relationships, your UX champions, you can be the person who sees the whole picture and can then guide them toward success.  

Jillian Hudson is NN/g UX certified in Research and Management. She worked as a UX Product Designer/Usability Expert for American Airlines and as a UX Strategist and Researcher for Bank of America, and Wells Fargo Bank. She is currently the Principal UX Research Strategist at XPO Logistics. Contact Jillian through the UXr Guild Slack channel.

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