In the analytics industry, it is common to progress through the ‘ranks’ from analyst to managing a team. Unfortunately, many companies do not provide much in the way of support or management training, to help these new managers learn how to effectively work with their team.
Improving your people management skills is no small task. It takes years, and you are never “done.” Here are just a few small tips, picked up over the years from some of my own managers:
1. Be a leader, not a boss. If you didn’t have the official title, would your team still come to your for assistance or guidance? Focus your efforts on being considered a leader, rather than just someone’s “supervisor” on an org chart.
2. Words matter. Using words like “subordinates” or descriptions like “Jane works for me” endears no one. The best managers don’t need to speak of team members as if they are below them. People look up to good leaders because there’s something to see, not because they’ve been pushed down.
3. We, not I. Many analytics managers are still in dual player-coach roles, meaning they still actively work on projects while managing a team. But when you discuss the team’s work and achievements, a little “we” can go a long way. Think about the difference in perception when you say: “We have been working on something really exciting” or “The team has been hard at work” versus “I have been working on X.” Even if the work you’re referencing is entirely your own project, give the team credit. A team attitude is contagious, and your example will help team members follow suit.
4. Use your experience to your team’s advantage. Analytics can be a complex field. While it is often resource constraints that keep managers active in day-to-day analytics tasks, most analysts enjoy the work and don’t want to be fully removed, as a pure people-manager. Use this to your team’s advantage! Keeping your hands dirty helps you understand the challenges your team faces, and keeps you realistic about what is reasonable, when negotiating with stakeholders.
5. Share the credit, take the blame. With leadership comes an obligation to share praise to your team, and take the rap when things go wrong. If you’re not willing to do this, don’t take on a leadership role. It’s that simple. Were there mistakes made in an analysis? Data integrity issues, or data loss? Being responsible for a team means having ultimate oversight, and being responsible when that fails.
To overcome a mistake without throwing your team under the bus, explain to affected parties:
- That an error occurred, and (generally) what it was
- The consequences for the information shared previously (for example, should they throw out all previous findings?)
- Where the breakdown in process was
- How you’ve already addressed the process failure, it to ensure it doesn’t happen again
(None of this requires mentioning specific individuals!)
Treat it as a learning opportunity, and encourage your team to do the same. Work with team members privately to enhance necessary skills and put in place process to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
BONUS! Aim to be rendered obsolete. Good leaders train and guide their team until they’re not even needed anymore. This is great news for your own career: it frees you up to take on a new challenge!