How Do You Talk To Your Data?
Data is worthless if you don’t know how to communicate the findings to the right audience. Period!
Too many times as a manager or executive we get caught up in our mounds of impressive data to the point where it paralyzes us. Most managers have been there at some point. Particularly when you finally break into a decision-making role for the first time.
You are given access to all of this…stuff, and not quite sure what you are looking at. Sometimes you are fortunate enough to have a mentor or peer show you the ropes on what you need. From personal experience, though, be careful. Some managers are too data driven. They can show all of the numbers and still have an under-performing team.
My first corporate team that is exactly what happened to me. The manager I was taking over for was, fortunately, very gracious even in the face of being replaced by the new guy. The team was underperforming for months. When we sat down, they could tell me everything from the time employees scanned their key cards to enter the building, to the time they clocked out for the day.
After two days of looking at spreadsheets and flowcharts, I was done! Out of two days of data, I recognized two reports that I wanted immediately, the rest, junk it. I figured the team had already had this data pushed on them enough, and I was there for a reason. It was not to repeat a failed process but to try and get the best out of the group that was going to remain.
To be fair, did I need some of the additional data for my superiors? Of course, I did, but what did my team need to know that for? It made very little impact on their day-to-day activities. That additional stuff was my burden, not theirs.
My decision was only to show the team data that affected them on a broad level in team meetings, then break that down to individual sizes for one-in-ones. Sounds simple, but again, having seen it play out in other companies over the years, it appears not to be that simple for some.
What Should I Do?
Figure out first what story you want to tell. For example, with our company we focus on the data during the lead generation phase through the end of the sale or appointment setting process; however, at the end of the day, who cares if you are unable to communicate your findings effectively. A framework that we follow and that we suggest in the early stages of a project are as follows:
- What am I trying to solve
- What outcome am I looking for
- How well do I understand the issue (Marketing ROI, Sales Process, etc.)
- What data can my systems provide
- What are the solution and implementation plans
Now, we can figure out what story we need to tell either up the chain-of-command or down to our teams. These stories may have similar qualities, but they will rarely sound identical.
The simplest way I can explain this is that your team will need to know what’s in it for them and their current role while up the chain may need to know what decisions they can make based on what you are presenting. Those can be hiring decisions, RIF’s (reductions in force), expanding marketing budgets, etc.
Whether it’s your job to crunch the numbers or not, you must be able to tell a coherent story based on the numbers and what it means for your team’s productivity and health of your company.
About the author:
Noah Carmichael is an Executive Coach and Director of Inside Executive. Noah works with business owners, executives, and their teams on a one-on-one or group basis in areas ranging from personal and professional development to operational strategy and sales accountability training.
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