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Learning to Flex Your Collaboration Muscle

This blog was originally posted to the Burtch Works Executive Coaching website.  https://www.burtchworks.com/2018/03/12/how-to-improve-collaboration-leadership-skills/

 

“Collaboration” might seem like a fuzzy term to many leaders. Yet the costs of poor collaboration are concrete, and can be quite painful. Effective collaboration in research and analytical roles is a combination of structure and leadership. You cannot only blame the organization or the individual. Both need to be considered and supported to bring about the positive outcomes you desire.

From a structural standpoint, many organizations operate in silos and do not communicate effectively across spans of control. If a manager in one silo needs something from a manager in another silo, she needs to go all the way up her chain of command to her Vice President, who then reaches across the organization to another Vice President, who then goes down the chain of command to the manager, and so on.

This form of communication is extremely slow and subject to miscommunication, especially when deadlines and client deliverables are at risk. Add to this complexity the challenges of communicating with outside consultants and vendors who do not report directly within the firm’s reporting structure, but rather have their own companies. Within complex matrixed organizations, there are extra challenges where teams have conflicting goals and competing management structures.

10 signs that your company isn’t optimizing its collaboration capabilities

Many organizations lose productivity, quality, morale, and customer satisfaction due to poor collaboration among teams, units, and employees. To find out whether your organization might be suffering from the consequences of poor collaboration, take this simple assessment.

If any of the following statements that seem even a little bit true, you can benefit from flexing your collaboration muscle:

  1. There is a general sense that it is hard to get things done in your organization.
  2. Projects are frequently delayed by the friction of working across units or silos.
  3. Projects are frequently over budget due to the friction of working across units or silos.
  4. Projects frequently don’t achieve their desired level of quality due to the friction of working across units or silos.
  5. Products or services sometimes do not go out with the desired level of quality, and this may be due to the way that teams or different units work together (or don’t).
  6. Managers and employees seem to lack the skills required to collaborate effectively.
  7. When a project misses a milestone, people point the finger at other teams or units.
  8. There is resentment or a dysfunctional working relationship among two or more business units/teams in your organization.
  9. There is resentment or a dysfunctional working relationship among two or more high-level executives in your organization, and this dysfunction ripples through the organization.
  10. Employees spend too much of their time on unproductive activities related to coping with the stress and hassle of pushing things forward, instead of the productive activities of creating things, making things, selling things, and serving customers.

 

How are these challenges detrimental to you?

Leadership skills are essential, but can be problematic within research or analytical roles in highly technical organizations. Many skilled employees have spent years learning technical functions and skills, but may not have learned how to effectively collaborate on teams.

As a result, they are not as adept as they could be at relating to others, conveying their ideas with impact, and getting what they want while helping others achieve their goals, too. Therefore, teams do not perform as well as they could. Projects stall. Multiply this effect across the organization, especially when teams have to work cross-functionally, and the results can hurt an organization’s competitive position.

Some functions are especially vulnerable when they are seen a cost center rather than a revenue generating function. Learning effective collaboration skills with other teams in sales, finance, product development, etc. is critical to the success, impact, and growth of research and analytical functions.

As organizations become more complex, collaboration becomes a core skill that every leader, team, and business unit must be able to have. In some cases, this means structuring the organization to make collaboration easier. In other cases, it means equipping managers and employees with new attitudes and behaviors.

Viewing each employee as a leader and helping them develop the confidence and skills to collaborate can mitigate these risks, and helps those within and across their departments to be successful.

 

Fixing the problem

Many firms are not unique in their need to find ways to address ineffective collaboration, and there are 6 key steps leaders can take to enhance collaboration.

  1. Identify Perceptions and Behaviors that help or hinder collaboration.
  2. Be clear whether the collaboration needs are Internal or External.
  3. Assess the Opportunity through thoughtful, thorough, and honest discovery.
  4. Understand the Other Party and avoid the impulse to force things through your own way.
  5. Create the Rules of Engagement with the other party so that requests for information, communication, and feedback are baked into the process.
  6. Develop the plan that includes timelines and measures to track success along the way and in the end.

Your Analytics & Data Science New Year’s Resolutions

This blog was originally posted to the Burtch Works Executive Coaching website.  https://www.burtchworks.com/2018/01/29/analytics-data-science-new-years-resolutions/

 

 

This post is contributed by Tim Ressmeyer | Founding Partner of Ressmeyer Partners and Executive Leadership Coach | 20 years’ experience as an executive in analytics and marketing research roles

Want to learn more about how you can put these career resolutions into practice? Join Tim for his webinar on February 8th, where he’ll be sharing more of his career development insights!

 

Prediction: You have already given up on your New Year’s resolutions.

 

If you are like most of the population, you gave up a long time ago. Some studies show that 25% of people who make resolutions stop trying before the first week is out. Of those that do make resolutions, about 57% felt they either met their resolution or were sometimes successful. Interestingly, there is an age difference. While 38% of people in their twenties feel they achieve their resolution, that number drops to only 16% of people over 50.

You are part of the majority if you’re already not going the gym, or haven’t started reading those quality books you promised you would. For those of you still honoring your resolutions, good for you! (showoffs!)

The great thing is that January 1st is an arbitrary date. What’s wrong with February 1st or 15th being the kick off to your plans for what’s next?

We’ve already seen important predictions for what’s next in the world of Analytics & Data Science. The Burtch Works 2018 Predictions article highlights 10 huge opportunities for those of us working in and developing careers in this space. What’s really cool about this is that most of the opportunities build on skills you already have.

 

What resolutions can you make to build on something you already know how to do? Here are some ideas in light of the 2018 predictions:

 

Broaden Your Impact (Confidence)

As sophisticated analytics become more accessible, how can you use your skills to help an organization outside of a dedicated data analytics role?  Marketing, finance, product development, and virtually every aspect of an organization needs this expertise. Is there an area of interest you can investigate and engage in? Make the effort to know you can have an impact in ways beyond your current role. Avoid the desire to passively let others move on past you, and confidently look for ways to educate other about analytics throughout the organization.

 

Create Relevance (Connecting)

Staying hands-on is more important than ever.  Don’t just make it about you. Think of how staying in the trenches can help others. Step up and take on the tasks – even if they seem they’re beneath you – to keep skills sharp, mentor others, and show you’re a team player. Build relationships. When you connect with others in this manner they trust you to be a leader because you are looking out for them while at the same time advancing your relevance. Your mantra can be, “Be Relevant.”

 

Keep Learning (Competence)

Knowing Python is the new R means your passion for learning wants to kick in again. You’ve spent a lot of time learning skills to get where you are, and it’s again time to be sure you’re always looking ahead. Use your gift of curiosity and desire to do great things to motivate you to advance or develop additional areas of expertise. Reading books, listening to podcasts, talking to experts in adjacent fields, taking the time to listen to others are all steps you can take to resist stagnation and irrelevance.

 

Connect the Dots (Culture)

Since companies will evaluate their return on investment from analytics, be someone who is confidently articulating the value of your work. Make sure you are always linking the value of the work you do to the overall goals of the company. Learn what’s going on across the organization and not just your analytics team so you can look for ways analytics is or could have an event greater impact. Your ability to develop these relationships and articulate the value helps create a culture for the company of always moving forward and being optimistic. YOU are seen as a leader. Showing the ROI of analytics means keep doing what you’re doing, and make sure you’re stepping up and showing the value.

 

Are you moving forward, or sitting still?

 

Perhaps surprisingly, it’s helpful to think of the basic principles of physics in your career development. The Law of Motion and concept of Inertia both contribute to the idea that an object in motion will stay in motion – or stay stationary – unless acted upon by another force. They resist change.

People who have developed stellar careers, whether they know it or not, have been abiding by these basic laws of physics. They keep doing what they’re doing when it’s working, and keep moving forward. Playing to your strengths, following your passion, overcoming hurdles, getting out of your own way are all ways to remind yourself of the things in your toolbox already that can help you move forward.

It’s so much easier to build on what you’re already doing than doing something entirely new.

These laws also posit that objects at rest will not move unless impacted by an outside force. Hmm. Where in your career have you been sitting still? Maybe you’ve been blaming others for your lack of motivation. Perhaps you keep thinking, “If I only had a better boss things would be better.” It may just feel so hard to learn that new skill and you keep telling yourself you can get by without it.

Feeling like a victim in the workplace is not attractive and it doesn’t allow you to move forward.

It’s not too late to make a resolution. What can you now to set in the motion something new to move you forward? Ask yourself: what are you already doing that you can build on. If you have a skill that’s already working, albeit not as well as you would like, it’s wiser to put your focus on developing and improving that, rather than creating something brand new. It’s an object that’s already in motion! It wants to keep going

 

Want to put together your own analytics or data science career resolutions?

In the upcoming webinar on February 8th, we’ll build on each of these concepts and more. Using the 4 C’s of Leadership (Confidence, Connecting, Competence, and Culture) we’ll look at ways to leverage what you’re already doing to drive career success.  Impactful case studies of real life coaching clients in the Analytics and Data Science fields who have been have experienced these predictions will be included. You will learn from their stories what worked to advance their careers in light of industry challenges and opportunities.

 

Ressmeyer Partners, led by Founding Partner, Tim Ressmeyer, has teamed up with Burtch Works to provide executive and leadership coaching to our network of analytics and research professionals. For more information or to get in touch with Tim, please email us at info@burtchworks.com!

 

Thanksgiving Reflections from Tim

tjr-corner-headshotWe’re in the midst of the season when we reflect on what we are thankful for, look back on the year as it comes to an end, and set our sights on all that lies ahead. All three of these are top of mind for me. My father passed away at the beginning of October. He led a long life (93 years!) that was filled with passion and commitment to those things most important to him: his family, faith, and friends. I am thankful for all he taught me and the example he set for how to be a leader in all aspects of your life.

Looking back on the year past I see the continuing growth of a coaching practice that helps people and companies across the country, at all levels of leadership, and with a diverse set of needs. Whether I’ve worked with leaders at universities, entrepreneurs, small business owners, non-profits, or executives at major corporations, I see growth in their ability to achieve goals in their personal and professional lives. I am grateful for the opportunity to join in so many journeys, and together with the client, to have been able to make an impact.

My clients will probably say the word they hear the most from me is opportunity. I look ahead to the new year with excitement about the opportunities that lie ahead. The growth of Ressmeyer Partners and Happy Hour Coach® brings the addition of more resources (administrative and coaching) to help carry out our mission to help individuals and leadership teams be happier, fulfilled, and even more successful. In addition to one-on-one coaching, there are already projects on the calendar to deliver trainings, conference presentations, and team development. Knowing there are people willing to put in the effort to overcome the obstacles that hold them back – real and imagined – gets me excited to carry out my mission every single day.

Great things lie ahead! Contact me if you would like to have a chat and see how together we can make 2018 one of your best years yet.

Handling Tough Questions During the Holidays

“So…what are you doing with your life?”Handling tough questions during the holidays
“How’s work?”
“Are you still single?“

Are you dreading an inevitable question this holiday season? For many of us, this week kicked off a season filled with socials and family gatherings. These events can be great, often letting us catch up with those we don’t get to see as much as we’d like; they can also be a bit stressful. Perhaps you’re anticipating uncomfortable questions from curious relatives, or worried about how to talk about your difficulties at work. Maybe you’re meeting with old friends and you want to put on a good face.

At times, we all feel pressure to give the impression that we have it all or that we have it all together – but this is limiting. What does “having it all” even mean? No one has a perfect life, and if you spend your time worrying about measuring up to someone else’s standards or trying to attain the unattainable, you’ll miss the great opportunities in front of you.

So, how do you respond to questions you aren’t particularly excited to answer? How do you show up with confidence and authenticity? Here are three tips to help make the most of your interactions this holiday season.

1. Come from a place of positivity. If you’ve had a great year, this should be an easy one – but it’s easier said than done during a difficult period. Perhaps you’re having problems with your team, you are unhappy in your job, or you and your partner are in a rough patch – but try not to dwell in the negativity. Sure, vent and get it out of your system, but then look for the silver lining. Ask yourself: How can I grow from this? How can I turn this terrible job/dispute/relationship into a new opportunity? Then, when you’re asked those uncomfortable questions, you’re able to talk about how you plan to make your life’s challenges work for you. Remember: difficult situations can provide some of the best learning opportunities – and they’re often the events that propel us into action.

2. Channel your inner confidence. It’s easy to succumb to feelings of self-doubt when we aren’t happy with where we are in our lives. We might feel pressure to measure up to other people’s standards, but often, we’re the ones putting those burdens and requirements on ourselves. Remember that a lot of our self-doubt is self-inflicted – so don’t be so hard on yourself. Make a list of what you’re good at and write down the “wins” you had this year. Celebrate in those, and when you’re starting to feel doubt or negativity creeping in, go back to those highlights and remember that you can – and will – continue to have successes. Practice focusing on what’s right and not what’s wrong, and it will start to come naturally.

3. Go in with a plan. If you’re worried about questions you’ll get (“So, you STILL haven’t found a job?”), think through how you can answer in a way that is honest but doesn’t give in to negativity. If you don’t want to talk about something, prepare a sentence or two that helps you respond and change the conversation. But don’t forget to think about your longer-term plan – what steps are you going to take to change your situation so that a year from now, you’ll look forward to sharing details about your great new job or how you’ve turned things around at work? What will you do to create positive change in your life? This will help you answer tough questions, but it will also get you in the right mindset to start taking action to change the things that are holding you back.

The holidays provide invaluable opportunities to reconnect with people, and you have the power to shape these interactions. You can help create positive encounters, even if things aren’t “perfect,” by staying confident and authentic. Showing up in these situations with a positive attitude and a plan will go a long way in helping you enjoy this holiday season, as well as going into 2018 with purpose.

Business Partnerships Are Hard: I Do Not Want to Mess It Up

business partners

Being in business with a partner is that double-edged sword of an amazing opportunity balanced against the potential for disaster. It is an alliance whose genesis is often based on friendship and excitement and advances into getting in bed together in a high-stakes relationship.

A lack of intentionality to foster the alliance can lead to financial failure and broken relationships.

(The parallels with a personal or romantic relationship are obvious and well documented. Leadership coaching of this sort can be referred to as “couples counseling.” True, but get the tongue out-of-the-cheek and see how important this is.)

If you are going into business together, it is a startup. Whether you’re 25 or 50 something new is being created. Even if you’re taking over an established business, your relationship is a new one that needs special attention as it goes through the phases of creating something new. The stats are well documented for the percentage of new businesses that fail. What isn’t all that clear is how much of that is due to healthy relationships between the leaders, and how many personal relationships dissolve when things go south.

Kudos to mature businesses that are run by partners and have survived the test of time. We can learn from those and also look for ways to improve and embrace the ever-changing lifecycles they encounter.

These three strategies will help a business partnership thrive by hitting head on some of the biggest opportunities for success.

Every day is Different – Be Ready for Change
You have to be brutally aware that you, your partner, and the business are different every single day. Yes, you have your vision, mission, goals, business plan, etc. that you use as your north star that helps you navigate into the future, but things will change.

Your partner starts dating someone new. A sure-thing investor is continuing to delay a decision. Your parents are having health problems. You’ve moved to a new office. You feel like you’re carrying more of the load. That competitor seems to be doing really well. There are now more employees and your 1:1 partner relationship isn’t like it once was.

These are examples of things you really don’t have control over. Whether personal or professional, the things that happen to you impact all dimensions of your life. When uncertainty or unanticipated change happens, our instinct is to try to protect ourselves. We do this by avoiding, exhibiting self-doubt, or blaming others to help us feel more secure.

When you look at things through the lens of “protecting self” you are not in the best place to make important decisions. It leads to judgment of yourself or others that may or may not be fair or true. It isn’t constructive in trying to resolve and adapt to the inevitability of change in your business partnership.

You can control how you react to the things that are going on around you. Knowing change is inevitable helps you:
•    Manage your own interpretation of the events and not blame your partner. Things that occur don’t have to have to be judged as good or bad. They happened, and now it’s time to take action moving forward in ways that serve the business.
•    Point out to each other where you see change happening so you can address it together. You and your partner have blind spots and see things differently. You have the advantage of the partnership where you can – and have the responsibility – to help each other see things clearly.
•    Be confident that no matter what happens not only can the challenge be managed, but it can be leveraged for even better outcomes. These are all learning opportunities.

Trust Yourself, Your Partner, The Relationship
You are together for a reason. You know that you have vision, skills, and experience that have brought you to this point. You know your partner brings a set of strengths as well. They are not the same set of attributes for both of you. Some are more developed in one of you than the other. THANK GOD! If you were identically gifted, you would be redundant, and the partnership wouldn’t make sense.

Believing that each of you has something to offer allows trust to be manifest in the partnership.

Attention to detail. Client relationship management. Financial acumen. Honesty. Conflict resolution. Vision. Communication. Strategy implementation. Business development. Talent management. Creating teams. Sales. Integrity.

These are all talents and values necessary in a successful organization. Each of you will fall somewhere along that continuum of “not good” to “crushing it” for each of these. Trusting that your partner brings something to the table and is in alignment with the overarching goals and values is crucial.  Furthermore, trusting each other to step up and grow in areas where you’re not as strong sustains the long-term success.

Trusting yourself and trusting your partner leads to being able to trust the relationship. If you can be confident that you’re giving your best and your partner is as well, then you are able to focus on the relationship.

By not blaming yourself or your partner, you are able to see there is something bigger that transcends both of you. You believe your relationship (or business) is more important than each of you individually. That trust allows you to get over yourself and be able to see ways to achieve your goals alongside your partner.

Ask the Hard Questions
Hard questions have to be asked to keep things moving forward. Those questions have to be asked of you, about the other person, and about the business.

This is really hard to do because sometimes you don’t know what the answer will be. Alternatively, once the question is asked the proverbial cat-is-out-of-the-bag. Failing to ask those questions, however, does not change the answer. Nor does the problem (real or imagined) go away.

The hard questions have to be asked.

Is this business what we were hoping it would be? Am I enjoying what I am doing? Do I still want to be doing this? What is the value my partner brings to the company? What do I need to do to contribute more effectively? How do we want to solve problems moving forward? What can each of us do to help the other succeed?

These are incredibly hard questions to ask oneself, or to discuss with your partner. It takes trust, honesty, and confidence to have fruitful conversations around critical questions.

One of the biggest obstacles to being able to ask the hard questions is a real or perceived imbalance of power within the partnership. Inevitably, a partner assumes control overall, or one or the other might dominate in certain dimensions of the relationship. Playing to your strengths is essential, and that makes a partnership work. However, you are both there for a reason, and each of you should want and be able to ask the hard questions.

To help level the playing field, and to be sure to include the positive as well as the negative, here are Five Questions you can both use to help set the foundation for effective communication and to start asking he hard questions.

1. What contribution to the business have I made in the past few months that I am most proud of?
2. What contribution has my partner made most recently that I think is really great?
3. What can my partner do to help me be better at what I do?
4. What can my partner do to help the company be even better?
5. What do I want to do differently to help make even more of a difference in the company in the upcoming months?

Answer these questions for yourself and have your partner do likewise. Then discuss them together. You may want this to be facilitated until you get used to doing it!

Being in a partnership is hard work and also so rewarding. Through the acknowledgment that change is inevitable; by trusting yourself, your partner and the relationship; and by asking the hard questions you can help increase the likelihood of success.