Being a badass isn’t about intimidation or trying to be something you simply are not. It’s about knowing who you are and using your strengths to drive forward. So let’s look at a few of the ways to be a badass in business:
1. Passion for Your Craft Is a Powerful and Infectious Energy
Showing passion for your work in always willing to learn more and explore new ideas in your profession shows you are a badass. A badass isn’t afraid to learn something new about their craft. Always be willing to step up to the plate and show what they are good at performing. Sitting back and doing just the expected is not the badass way. If you are amazing at drawing diagrams, then use them frequently in your work.
A few years ago I was managing several projects. Things were not going all that well on these projects, and I knew something needed to be done to get them on track. Holding up the schedule and pointing at it wasn’t solving the problems we were facing. I decided to explore different approaches and ideas by contacting others outside the company for their advice and doing a little reading up on handling scope problems in projects. I learned a lot of scope management techniques as a result of that exercise and was able to apply them to my project. My boss at the time noticed I went out of my way to figure out new approaches, and I was fearless in learning new techniques about my craft. By learning and stepping out to explore new ideas I was able to move the project forward and save the project from failure.
2. Keep Positive
Nobody likes a negative person constantly interrupting, jumping to conclusions and always complaining. Keep a “we can do this” mentality even in the toughest of times. The measure of a badass is in being able to be calm, think clearly and project positive possibilities. When the whole world is crashing down, don’t be the one saying “Well that figures.” Instead be the one saying “This isn’t the greatest situation, but we have some great opportunities here to make positive changes.” See the good in situations where others cannot. Be the person that says “I’ve got a few ideas that might help in this situation, and I would like to bounce a few of them off of you.”
One of the toughest projects I faced was working with remarkable requirements, but a development staff that either didn’t want to or just could not fulfill those requirements with the current system in place. The team quickly got very negative at all the challenges that we were having in development. Everyone’s attitude soured and nothing was getting accomplished. The project was on its way to failure. So I threw a pizza party. My entire team thought I lost my marbles, and it was time to call the men in white coats to pick me up. Pizza does wonders for putting a team in a better mood. I told the team I understood the situation was bad and acknowledged that the company wouldn't accomplish anything without their skill sets. I purposefully turned the conversation from a negative (What is going wrong?) and made it positive (What ideas do you have to make it better?).
This was no easy task. I had to work very hard to move everyone’s attitude toward the positive after months of being in the negative. I was direct in telling them “Nobody wants to work on a negative team – it sucks. What can we do right now to make this team more fun and productive?”. After that hurdle had been cleared, it got easier to involve everyone in making team changes and design changes to the project. I kept telling myself that no matter what happens I will remain positive. The team’s attitude evolved over time. Many team members and company leaders repeatedly said that they could always count on me for being positive and finding solutions to problems.
3. Know Your Craft and Tools
A badass doesn’t just stop learning the basics of their craft or tools. They are constantly expanding their toolset and keep current about their craft. It’s too easy to get comfortable and begin to feel there is nothing more to learn. A badass grabs any opportunity to learn new things.
In my past life, I was at a company where I was pigeon-holed. I did such a good job at data warehousing and reporting that no one wanted to let me try anything new or different. Damn, I was bored out of my mind because every day was the same thing over and over. Sure I was learning new things about data warehousing and reporting, but I never stepped out of that area into other areas. So I forced the issue a bit and shoehorned my way into a call center application. It made sense for me to pursue it because that new system would be feeding the data warehouse. I went a little further than just worrying about data and started moving into user interface design and workflow for the new call center application. It was a great experience to use the knowledge I had in data warehousing and reporting to build better user interfaces and business processes. After the project had been finished, I was seen as being useful in business process as well as data warehousing. The door opened, and I got the chance to work on a whole new set of projects. Don’t be afraid to step out of bounds – you just might be valued for it.
4. Make Life Better for Others
A badass knows that improving the lives of their team members by continuously being focused on improving the way things are done is important. Being innovative to solve problems the team is experiencing in the day to day operations is just as important as solving project problems. Process improvement is powerful. A badass understands it’s not about single glory but helping others to achieve great success.
You always hear “It’s not my job” especially in large companies with well-defined roles. A badass looks for ways to improve the working conditions and tasks their team performs. It can be a simple as creating a library of past project documents that can be reused or finding a new way to perform time reporting that is easier. Whatever it is, a badass is looking for ways to improve processes at every moment and isn’t afraid to suggest well thought out changes.
5. Know Thyself Well
Know thy strengths and know thy weaknesses. A badass is aware of their strengths, and they know their weaknesses and limits. In today’s corporate culture, we focus on weakness. By focusing entirely on weaknesses, performance appraisals have become more like firing squads. A badass knows to play to their strengths and to engage others to help them out with their weaknesses.
There are certain things I have discovered I’m genuinely bad at. Anything that involves molding clay into an object is bound for disaster. Both of my skiing trips ended in an uncomfortable tree hugging. In business I know I’m a driver – be quick, be bright and be gone. It wasn’t until half way through my career that I realized how that impacts others who are not drivers. By understanding how I lead and act, I was able to soften my approach and be more collaborative with others. My driver mentality is a strength that others recognize. I can snow plow through massive amounts of data to give clear direction. I communicate quickly and concisely on projects.
Play to your strengths at all times. If you know you are weak in an area, then go out and find someone who is strong in that area to balance you out. If you get the chance to put teams together, look at each others strengths and weakness to balance them all out. Forget about finding that perfect all around team member without weaknesses. They don’t exist.
6. Don’t Always Say What They Want to Hear
Being a butt kisser or yes man is not the path of a badass. If you are always saying what others want to hear from you, they will never fully trust you because they can’t tell if that’s what you honestly believe or if you are just being a parrot and repeating everything back to them. A badass understands that conflict is part of life, and sometimes you are going to have to say what doesn’t want to be heard.
The trick here is saying it without being annoying or a jerk. If there is an elephant in the room, then say there is an elephant in the room. A badass knows that hiding the obvious doesn’t make it go away but rather gives it greater power. Address it quickly and directly. Forcing the issue is a one-way ticket out the door. Follow the “Toot, Toot and Salute” rule. Bring it up once and if there is no response or disagreement then re-group your thoughts. Bring it up again and if there is still no response or disagreement, then accept it and move forward.
7. Ask Questions, Challenge and Dig Deep
No one likes to be challenged. It puts them on the defensive right away. A badass understands that challenging an idea is an art form and that challenging helps bring deeper understanding and meaning. A badass knows that without asking questions and digging deep, the entire problem cannot be understood fully.
Nobody likes to feel they are being interrogated. Be fearless but considerate in digging deep. Verify your thinking and dig deeper with “Help me understand” questions. Share what you have learned to validate it. Be appreciative of the different perspectives and gather them all up to see the greater picture more clearly. The most significant problems I created for myself was making assumptions and never validating those assumptions. You may not be able to validate or challenge at that specific moment. Write it down, reflect on it and determine if you need to challenge it. Challenge appropriately and thoughtfully. Step back and schedule a challenge at a later time.
8. Lead Even When Your Job Title Doesn’t Say Leader
A badass leads even when it isn’t in their title or role. They had the initiative and don’t shy away from leading in their craft. They don’t wait for someone else to schedule the requirements meetings, they step up to the plate and schedule them.
In the many times, I have played the role of the business analyst I’ve stepped outside my role a bit. I’m probably more comfortable with that then other business analysts in that I have been a project manager. My favorite is when I’m told how long it will take to gather requirements. You know those meetings were without being consulted the project manager has decided how long you as the business analyst will take to gather requirements and complete the design. When I’m in the business analyst role, I often will put together a requirements work plan outlining the steps that will be taken to elicit requirements and build the design. I review it with my stakeholders, project team and sponsors. This runs face first into the project managers desire to create and control the schedule. By gaining common agreement on tasks for the requirements and design process, the schedule can be more reasonably created which in turn helps the project keep to its timeline and budget. Is there a negotiation? Oh yeah – there will be lots of negotiation with the project manager, sponsors, and stakeholders on what will be done and what won’t be done. Step up to leading the task and schedule you will be expected to adhere to for the project.
For more good stuff on business analysis and leadership, check out the blog at Bob the BA.