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Learning to Flex Your Collaboration Muscle

Posted March 14, 2018

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

Posted January 31, 2018

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!

 

Being Stuck Isn't Forever

Posted June 7, 2014

Being stuck isn’t fun. Immobile. Fastened. Motionless. Unable to move. Staying in one place without progress.

We get to those points in our lives and careers where we feel stuck. It’s normal. It happens. I’ve lived it.

A couple years ago I started honestly evaluating where I was in my career. I liked what I did (although not as much as I once did), and I liked the people I was working with. But, I wasn’t genuinely happy. I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep doing this for the next 5/10/20 years. I had a great title, salary, and position, but I came to realize I was stuck.

Thinking about change wouldn’t make it happen. Failure to take action would result in more-of-the-same whether I stayed at the company or looked elsewhere. I needed forces from both inside and outside to make things happen.

As a coach working with professionals in similar situations, I use the metaphor of seeing yourself happily climbing a mountain, eyeing the top of the next ridge, and then realizing you’ve stepped into a bog and you can’t move. You’re stuck. You need two things to get out. The first is the internal motivation to know you want to get to that ridge because there are all sorts of opportunities on the other side. The second is the help you need from someone else. You can’t will yourself out of the bog. You need that person who gives you a branch – or a hand – to help pull you out and continue on to where you know you want to be.

To get out of my bog, I actively sought out colleagues, family and friends who I asked to honestly assess what, in their opinion, I “brought to the table”. So often we can’t see it in ourselves. I read books on how people rediscover passion. I worked with a coach to help me look back as well as forward to uncover my strengths and values and prepare a confident plan to move forward. I invested time and money for the training to prepare me for a new career.

At the same time I had to overcome the internal fears and obstacles (real, but mostly imagined), which were telling me I “can’t” or “shouldn’t” make a change. I had to figure out what it would be like to not have an office, title or a predictable income. I had to figure out how to communicate with my wife about my fears while also remaining confident. I had to figure out how to deal with waking at 4am and thinking “what the #@&% am I doing?!”

It wasn’t about reinventing myself. It was about being honest about my passion, gifts and strengths and using that clarity and confidence to take those next steps.
Going through this process doesn’t necessarily lead to a radical career shift. It might be realigning your current role or situation to be better aligned with your core values.

Being stuck isn’t forever, and wherever you are in your career, getting unstuck requires intentional efforts from the inside and out. And it’s worth it. You owe it to yourself and everyone around you.

Timothy J. Ressmeyer, Ph.D., CPC
Stony Brook, M.A., ‘83
Founding Partner
Ressmeyer Partners – Professional Executive and Leadership Coaching
tim@ressmeyerpartners.com

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This blog was originally published by the Stony Brook University Alumni Association.

http://stonybrookalum.blogspot.com/2014/03/v-behaviorurldefaultvmlo.html