Welcome to our four-part guide on how to become a great UX research leader, where we’ll teach you how to deepen your understanding of users and data, and promote the value of user research throughout your organization.

This week: remember that your audience isn’t just made up of your users, but your stakeholders as well – and knowing their business needs will help improve your products and boost your career.

Gaining the trust and support of executives is one of the best things that great UX research leaders can do for their products and their careers.

Great UX research leaders know their target users, but do they know their stakeholders as well? Stakeholders, after all, are also part of a product’s audience. While it’s crucial to know user behaviors, attitudes, goals and feedback, not many UX research leaders invest the time and efforts to know their stakeholders.

Business goals are clearly communicated companywide on a yearly basis. For personal gain, as long as you identify your most important goal you’ll figure out a way to achieve it. The hard part is identifying the key stakeholders that have the greatest impact on your success and understanding their personal gains. How to do that? As with so much else in UX research, the answer is: with good data.

Step 1: Identify the stakeholders in mid- and high-level C-suite positions who are critical for you to connect with.

Step 2: Divide them into two categories; primary and secondary. Primary stakeholders have authority to increase budgets, grant promotions, etc. In the secondary category, list stakeholders who manage products with the highest impact on the company ROI. The trick is ensure you that you can help the stakeholders in the secondary category achieve their business goals through UX research.

Step 3: Do your research. Learn about your stakeholders’ prior achievements, interests, priorities, colleagues, friends, the words they use, etc. With social media, this is easier than ever, but of course personal interactions in the office are also valuable.

I know it’s much harder to connect with C-suite executives than with product owners. However, there are ways to do it, like participating in a mentoring program or company-sponsored charity events, where stakeholders are involved.

Sometimes, reaching out directly to them is as effective. Make sure you have a legitimate reason and describe it well:

“Hi Mike, hope you’re well. I’m looking for a mentor to help me be a more effective manager. I heard your town hall presentation and I was intrigued with your impressive journey in managing people. I’m currently participating in the leadership learning program and I’m mentoring two employees. Would you be my mentor this year? Alternatively, perhaps you could select a mentor for me. I would really appreciate it.”

Once you make the connections, follow the Three Ps:

  • Be precise. Think before you speak. Review what to say, how to say it, to whom, and when.
  • Be positive. Project a can-do attitude.
  • Be passionate. The best words won’t be enough. You need to follow through with action.

What do these activities have to do with becoming a great UX research leader? Well, let’s take a quick step back.

Great UX research leaders enhance their careers when they strategically gain executives’ trust and support, right? So, in order to achieve measurable results–such as a promotion, approval to hire more researchers, or a budget increase–you need to make yourself known to the decision makers and their influencers. You’ve got to show your willingness to learn and make them feel that their time in mentoring you is well worth it.

Now, many of us aren’t comfortable tooting our own horns. I get it. But we can’t rely on our managers to be our only advocates. Great as our managers may be, they’re busy people. So you have to speak up about your achievements to executives (who certainly didn’t get to their positions by staying mum about their own accomplishments). Practice what you’ll say beforehand to build your courage.

And about your managers: Be sure to let them know about your interactions with executives. It’s a basic courtesy, and it will ensure that you’re aligned with them.

What to expect:

Perseverance will become your best friend.

During this journey, you’ll learn that managing your career is not different than managing a user research project. So, set your top three personal goals, the strategy to accomplish these goals and the metrics to measure results.

Next steps:

  • Identify the stakeholders in C-suite positions who are critical for you to connect with.
  • Categorize them into two primary and secondary categories.
  • Do your research to learn about your stakeholders and connect with each of them effectively.

Also check the other parts of this series:

Part 1) Know your own data using scorecards

Part 2) Measure experiences consistently and quantitatively

Part 4) Influence and create drastic movement in your organization

Main image by Oleg Laptev