Match your Employees to their Skill Set

It’s amazing how productive a person can be when they are performing tasks that they are naturally skilled at. I’m a big fan of the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book by Tom Roth. I’ve used this to help identify my own skill set as well as those who work with me.

The benefits have been amazing. When we match employees with their natural talents we save time and resources and get equally happy employees.

As an example, some organizations are big advocates of Sales training, even going as far as spending thousands of dollars training technical introverts on sales presentation methods.  Sure, these efforts may improve a persons ability to sell, but they will never become as effective as someone who already has natural talents in the sales area.

Would we ever expect a Sales person to be able to code and output a statistical algorithm for predictive analytics? For some reason this one seems more obvious to companies, no, Sales people don’t code, and that’s OK.

So let’s respect our employees strengths and limitations, but first let’s spend some time finding out what they are.

Happy Coding…and Managing…

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Using Leadership Training to Solidify Your Company Culture

When growing your organization you seek greatness, not mediocrity. You hope to recruit ingenuity, not bland worker bees. You desire to empower inspirational leaders, not just autocratic managers.

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In growing companies the natural leaders are often appointed as managers without any official introduction to leadership styles, motivation techniques, or communication methods. This works great when a company is still in its infancy stage, but how do you maintain the culture at your company as growth increases and the need for qualified managers becomes exponential?

As you are probably aware, the attitude of a team is generally a reflection of the attitude of its leaders. Some people naturally gravitate towards fostering optimistic and trusting relationships, but other people, who may be brilliant in a business sense, simply aren’t aware of the concrete benefits of slight personality tweaks. You want these people in management positions due to their in depth knowledge, but you also want to protect the culture at your company, which is invariably a reflection of your attitude and beliefs.

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My recommendation is to tackle this scenario in two ways: 1. Formal leadership training conducted by a third party. 2. Internal leadership training designed by current leaders that have a solid understanding of the company culture that you wish to encourage.

Formal leadership training covers the topics that might be acquired in a college level leadership class. This will help your leaders determine their personal leadership style and will aid them in determining the different communication styles that are helpful when managing a varied group of employees.

There are also tried and tested techniques for inspiring and motivating employees, encouraging teamwork, and how to provide feedback in a constructive way. For these areas there is really no need to attempt to reinvent the wheel when experts have been studying these topics for decades.

The second level of training provides the opportunity for you to personalize the employee experience at your company. If there are any “hard lines” that you would not accept as behavior then it should be covered in this personalized training. As an example, I believe that yelling or expressing temper in a work environment is never productive, so I might emphasize that there is never a scenario where this is accepted at my company. There is generally a lot of focus on the customer experience within an organization, but I believe that clearly defining the employee experience holds just as much weight.

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It is important to remember that the attitude of your managers reflects your attitude. The attitude of teams reflects their leaders and managers. And the customer experience often reflects the attitude of your employees collectively. The end result is the result of the path taken so there really aren’t any major shortcuts if you wish to protect and foster your company culture.

Thank you for reading and please let me know if you have other ideas that will protect the company culture as it grows.

3 Ways to Use Your Emotional Intelligence in Business Intelligence Settings

One of my favorite aspects about working in the business intelligence industry is the people that I get to work with. I enjoy the technical challenges as much as I enjoy working with the intricacies that are involved when dealing with people. Emotional intelligence practices may come easier for those of us who are known as a “people person” but there are several basic techniques that can be learned and applied that will greatly increase the quality of your client relationships.  

1. Understanding What Your Client Values: Put yourself in your client’s shoes. An individual who has learned to tap into his or her emotional intelligence becomes skilled at removing attachment from individual experiences and imagining what it’s like to be someone else. This is an extremely important skill when you are seeking to add value to your client’s business. Your goal is to understand what your client values and to let go of your personal values to try and understand what type of deliverable would truly match the values of your client.

It’s easy for many business people to assume that everyone values a high financial return on investment (ROI), but beware the danger in making the assumption that this is all that matters because that is far from true. Values span far from dollar signs, even in the corporate environment. People may value simplicity, freedom, relationships, image, or practicality. Remember, you are doing business with individual people, not a corporation. Once you understand what your client values you will be able to provide a higher ROI that spans beyond money.

The easiest way to get insight into what your client values is to simply ask. Most people will be able to easily answer this question. It would be wise to ask follow-up questions to clarify the drivers for what your client values. You might ask “What things in life provide you that value?”, or “What actions or experiences don’t give you that value?”.  From these two questions you would learn countless things about your client’s personality and how they have organized their life to nourish the things that they value. A good business intelligence analyst will be able to take this information and apply those characteristics to help strengthen the business relationship and to deliver data in a way that matches the client’s values. If the client values simplicity then a clean data presentation based on charts and graphs is more appropriate than a page cluttered with numbers and raw data.

2. Gathering Feedback and Refining Requirements: When you present a report to your users/clients you are most likely relying on verbal feedback to gauge the accuracy of what you have produced. This type of feedback may range from concerns about data accuracy to specific requests about the color scheme or layout. Some users will be better verbal communicators than others and it is your job to bridge the communication gap so that satisfied clients become thrilled clients.

So how can you understand more about a client than they can verbally tell you? Pay attention to body language and facial expressions. Are their eyes narrowed? Are there lips pursed? Do they appear confused when they view their data? Avoid assuming that you know what all of these little details mean and use these clues to ask more questions in a non-threatening way.

For example, asking “Is the report organized in an easy to understand format?” is probably more effective than saying “You look confused”. The first style of communication will encourage more feedback and the second statement could easily put your client in a defensive stance which will hinder further communication.

3. Facilitate Meetings by Managing Emotions: A productive meeting always begins with a goal in mind. As attendee sizes increase so does the potential for topic derailment. This could render the meeting pointless if the goal of the meeting is missed all together. As the meeting facilitator and the business intelligence expert it is your job to manage the emotions of yourself and others in a way that aligns the productivity of the meeting with your goal.

Your goal might be to define a set of business rules that will be used for a report design. State your goal at the beginning of the meeting so that everyone is clear on your intentions. Often people will show up to a meeting with a need to vocalize their grievances. This may seem unproductive to you, but it is important that you first allow others to speak their minds while gently re-aligning the tone of the meeting with the meeting goal. On a psychological level people are not receptive to your ideas or opinions until they feel they have been heard and listened to. You can’t fake this! Control your own emotions of potential frustration and pay attention to the speaker 100%.

Most often it is appropriate to take note of the speaker’s concerns or view points and set a date and time to address them if action is required. Show respect to your clients by following through with the plan to address the concerns. This builds trust and respect and ultimately accomplishes the goal of managing the emotions of others. When you consistently take this approach you will find that follow up meeting run more smoothly due to the trust and respect that has accumulated between you and the client.

I hope this has been helpful. Thanks for reading, have a great day!