Managing upwards – how to demonstrate your team’s value to the organisation
The value of data as an asset to business is now apparent to pretty much every senior executive. But perversely, the perceived value of analyst teams within many organisations is restricted to that of simple number crunchers. This seemingly contradictory view speaks volumes about the chasm in some companies between their transactional relationship with analysts and the insight these teams are capable of delivering.
As a manager, one aspect of your role is to challenge any lazy assumption that technical teams are awkward to work with or incapable of seeing the bigger picture. This stereotype does a real disservice to the insight that analysts can provide, so here are six tips to help demonstrate the value of your team to the wider organisation.
1. Speak the same language as stakeholders
You and your team are all about detail, but senior managers don’t have time for minutiae. If you’re discussing a proposal or project outcome, start with the big picture first. What impact does this have on the organisation, what are the major benefits and are there any relevant risks? Put your findings across in relatable business terms and be prepared to answer any requests for more detail that senior stakeholders may have.
Does your manager prefer a spreadsheet or graph? More importantly, can you explain whatever you put in front of them in simple, easy-to-understand terms with actionable insights? It’s also worth learning how your stakeholders prefer to receive the information – whether in an email, via presentation or a phone call. If you don’t feel comfortable asking them directly, speak to people who have worked with them before or ask their assistant for advice.
2. Manage the expectations of senior leaders/decision-makers
More often than not you will be serving more than one master, which can lead to conflicts of expectations from senior leaders. As manager, it’s your responsibility to highlight potential conflicts before they become an issue, working collectively to navigate a solution that satisfies all parties while managing expectations.
You will also find that what someone asks for is different to what they actually need, which in turn can be different to what is actually deliverable. Another part of managing expectations is asking the right questions to determine exactly what they’re hoping to use the information for and what the context might be. That way you can be certain that the issue is being addressed in the right way. It also doesn’t hurt to repeat back the request to make sure it’s completely clear before proceeding.
3. Be persistent and communicate clearly
You are more likely to build good relationships with senior managers if you can consistently prove your reliability, trustworthiness and leadership skills. Be open and honest when answering questions and remember that senior managers don’t know everything, especially if they’re relatively new to the role. Persistence and effective communication play a huge part here. Don’t be put off by seniority, role changes or new stakeholders coming into the organisation, simply offer advice and recommendations if you think it will help inform their business decisions and make sure you have the data to back it up.
4. Focus on delivering value through recommendations
In any previous role as an analyst, your focus was most likely on getting the data right. However, the value you deliver as a manager is not in the data itself, but the business outcomes, solutions or decisions that it informs. Only once you have identified the business outcomes that need to be achieved can your team focus on the correct data collection and analysis to deliver the required insight. By working backwards in this way, you stand a far greater chance of getting the results you need first time around, eliminating the need for reworks.
5. Make your analysts look good, and pass praise on to them
Without wanting to paint with too broad a brush, analysts tend to not be great at self-promotion. It can feel uncomfortable to sing the praises of your team, let alone yourself, but make sure any credit that you receive for a job well done is passed on to them. As a fellow introvert, you can probably appreciate how much this means to them, but it also reflects well on you as their manager and drives home the reality of what they are capable of achieving to senior leaders. You can further build your team’s brand by consistently demonstrating its impact in ways that your managers will understand, such as quantifying every project’s value in terms of return on investment.
6. Don’t be intimidated by senior leaders
To effectively manage your relationships with key stakeholders, you need to be able to understand people’s behaviours, attitudes and motivations. For managers with a technical background, this can be slightly bewildering. Demarq Academy’s Managing Stakeholders workshop can help you apply key elements of emotional intelligence and personality profiling to improve how you engage with decision-makers within your organisation. By taking the time to understand your own emotions and personality type, it becomes much easier to build beneficial relationships that last – both with your team and with senior stakeholders.