#098: Successfully Managing the Analyst

September 25, 2018

As the axiom goes: people don’t leave companies; they leave their managers. And, good analysts are constantly being approached with new opportunities. So, what’s the secret formula for hanging on to analytics talent? Assuming simply chaining them to their desks isn’t an option, then the trick is keeping them happy and motivated. On this episode, the gang discusses their experiences and perspectives on the topic. Tim tried to quit the show just before recording, but he then discovered that Michael had chained him to his desk.

Miscellany Referenced in the Show

Show Transcript

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00:04 Announcer: Welcome to the Digital Analytics Power Hour. Tim, Michael, Moe, and the occasional guest discussing digital analytics issues of the day. Find them on Facebook at facebook.com/analyticshour. And their website, analyticshour.io. And now, the Digital Analytics Power Hour.

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00:28 Michael Helbling: Hi everyone, welcome to the Digital Analytics Power Hour. This is episode 98. There is this saying that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers. So, on the advice of a listener who may or may not be related to one of our co-hosts, Michelle Kiss, that’s the listener, not the co-host, not sure which of us she’s related to, but anyways, thanks Michelle for the idea. We decided to talk about this, because when an analyst is at a company they invariably have a manager. And this episode is for you, that person, who is the manager of an analyst. And sometimes you’re also an analyst, but sometimes you aren’t. And this is the one and only primary you need to connect with and manage your analyst effectively. L-O-L. Just kidding. But, we’re here, we’re recording, let’s go host hunting. First, Tim Wilson, he’s so passionate about this topic, he refuses to manage anyone. Welcome Tim.

01:38 Tim Wilson: Hey boss, how’s it going?

01:40 MH: Yeah, there you go.

[laughter]

01:47 MH: I can’t…

01:47 TW: Gets you every time.

01:48 MH: I know. Okay, next up. Moe Kiss, who manages all the best people in the Australian analytics community. Hi, Priscilla. And, hi Moe.

01:58 Moe Kiss: Hi, how you going?

02:00 MH: I’m going great. And lastly, I am Michael Helbling. I’m basically sort of this guy with some theories that may or may not work depending on which analytics people you ask. Okay, let’s get it going. How do you manage an analyst?

02:18 MK: Okay, but let’s get to the crux of Michelle’s whole question, which was particularly about this point, and actually me and her have been chatting a lot about this, ’cause it seems to be a topic that a lot of people are grappling with at the moment, is how do you actually manage people when you don’t have the skills that they have? So for example, you’re more business side and you have two data scientists and say, like, an implementation person in your team and your skill set isn’t any of those things, how do you actually help them and mentor them if you can’t do their job or you never… You don’t have experience in their role?

02:56 TW: Is it fair to split that question in two. There are cases where the analyst reports to a marketer, they’re just part of the marketers team, and so it’s a non-data role as a manager, which I think those managers struggle a lot more, if they’re not open to learning and trusting their analysts. And then I think, I think, you could say that there’s a separate role which is the manager has some sort of data or analytics background, and now they’re managing people that really know… I mean, back when I did manage people, I had… We didn’t call her a data scientist, but she was a data scientist. And I had certainly people who knew datasets inside and out that I did not know, but at least I had the credibility of… Or it’s not just a credibility thing, but at least I had kind of some degree of analytic thinking. So I think those are two different scenarios, and I guess most of our listeners are likely, if they’re managing people, they are people within analytics background.

04:01 MH: Probably has an analyst, but not necessarily, and I love that question, because it really brings, I think into focus a couple of really cool things. First off, my take is, you definitely always need to, or want to, show respect for what they can do. As the manager, really value what they’re great at. So, they bring a set of skills to the table, they bring hopefully a really great skill set, and so, respecting that value that they bring and not trying to make them be what they’re not, let them be who they are and value that skills that they bring that’s different. I mean, this episode’s gonna be weird for me, because I really feel like all of the advice is just gonna be the same basic Management 101 stuff that you could tell anybody. I don’t know, if it’s gonna… Maybe it’ll be, I don’t know.

05:00 MK: Yeah, but Helbs, not everyone knows that stuff. Like, not everyone knows Management 101.

05:03 MH: Well, I don’t even know that stuff. Yeah, like me, for instance, I have no idea. But that’s the one thing, and then the other thing I want to… So this is sort of getting to the point and I don’t know how to make it a short description. I wanna tell you a story about a manager I had who really impacted me as an analyst in a positive way, in that they had no experience as an analyst, they didn’t function like that, they came from another part of the business to manage our team. Big shout out to Kirby Wenger in Wisconsin, if you’re listening. But she sat down with us and our team, and she said, “Listen, I don’t pretend to know how or what it is you guys do well. What my job is is to help you be effective within our organization. How do I do that for you? How do I get you guys from here to where you’re trying to go?”

06:01 MH: And as a manager, it was world changing. And so I just have so much respect for somebody who is able to sort of see that sort of like, “Here am I. I see where this all has to go. I’m in charge of delivering what our team is responsible to deliver to the business.” Which she was, and basically saying, “Now, I want to free you up to do what you do as analysts. I’m not gonna try to micromanage analysis. You’re gonna tell me how we’re gonna work. And if you do your part, I’ll do my part, which is get everything out of your way so you guys can do the work that you are set up to do.” And honestly, I just learned so much from her as like I wanted to be that kind of manager from then on, I was like, “I wanna learn how to do what she just did.”

06:54 TW: Was she your manager when you left, was that Lands End?

06:57 MH: She wasn’t. She got promoted away from us.

07:01 TW: I just wanted to make sure. Your opener, people don’t leave, make sure you didn’t leave her.

07:04 MH: No, I probably would not have left when I did if she was still my manager, to be just brutally honest.

07:12 MK: Okay, but so what about when you have someone in your team, like I’ve just realized all I’m gonna do is ask you guys questions, and try and learn from all of your mistakes.

07:21 MH: You’re a manager.

07:23 MK: What happens when you have someone in your team who’s stuck technically? So they have an issue, they come to you. There’s something technical in Python, in R, SQL. I don’t know, insert some technical example, and you don’t have that language skills so you can’t help them.

07:39 TW: But that’s not, you’re not… You’re not their Python teacher who, or the teaching assistant to be… I’ve got someone I know who I think is phenomenally talented, and she lacks self confidence. And she has somebody working for her who is a phenomenally talented person working in R, and she kinda grapples with this like, “How do I help him when he comes to me with questions?” It’s like, “Well you help them figure out where to go look.” If it’s a case where the person is like, “I’m trying to show you that I know something you don’t know, and you can’t help me, and therefore I’m going to dismiss you as a manager,” like that’s… I actually can’t think of examples where I’ve really seen that happen. I kind of have heard people grousing like, “Why are they manager?” That’s one issue, but I don’t think, I think it’s just, it’s not your job to say,” Oh, I’m the parent and I need to help you solve your homework.” If it’s, “Do we need a membership to another… ” Like, “What can I do? Do we need a subscription to some service? Do we need to figure out how an outside consultant can be on retainer that you can call and ask for questions?”

08:53 TW: Like helping them, say, “Look, I’m not the one who can solve that, but I don’t want you to be struggling and sitting on an island.” And there’s a reason that you are their manager. You are elevated, and I’m saying you generically, not necessarily you, Moe. For a reason… So I feel for the example that as we were kind of prepping for this episode, it kept running through my mind, and I’ve had many discussions with this particular person, because she’s kind of struggling with it and I feel like I’m a broken record saying, “Look, that employee’s not really expecting… You’re expecting that of yourself.” That’s more being driven by the manager saying, “I need to be able to answer their Python or R or data science questions.” I haven’t run into a lot of cases where the actual employee is saying, “You’re in an ineffective manager because of that.”

09:46 MK: I totally, I don’t disagree with you. I think that view is correct, but it doesn’t make you feel less shit, it doesn’t make you feel less shit that you don’t know it, and make you push to wanna know it. But then is that something that you just have to accept, that as you become, kind of go up and manage more and more people, you just have to accept that you’re gonna be able to learn less and less, and be able to answer those technical questions less and less. Like is that a tradeoff that you just have to suck it up?

10:14 MH: I think as a manager your job is not to know or do the job of the people on your team, necessarily, your job is to make the people on your team effective. And so to Tim’s point… Or successful, actually, I would change it to successful. I view my job to create success for the people on my team. I do not know how Tim does what he does. He’s the quintessential analyst. Like nobody can touch that. Oh, ’cause you didn’t hit me at the top of the show, so it’s gonna come, Tim. I mean, fight fire with fire I always say. But that’s the thing, and actually there’s even better examples because there’s other disciplines that are less, that I know even less about then what Tim does. Tim does so much stuff. Again I could go on and on, but the point is is that it’s not… I don’t feel bad that I don’t know. What I wanna know is… And sit down and talk to and understand, what do they need to be successful? And if they’re struggling with a piece of specifics around their specific thing, what tools do they have? I mean, heck I could open up the Measure Slack and go ask those kinds of questions, or I am very powerful at Googling things successfully. And so I can learn about almost anything, but that’s not core. What’s core is, am I enabling them to be successful.

11:50 TW: And on the technical front, I think there is a point where if somebody’s struggling saying, “Look… ” And that is kinda very specific on if it’s a Python or SQL or R question. And I have told people, I’m like, “I don’t know the answer to that, but good Lord, hop over into the Measure Slack,” which I sometimes think, especially with more junior analysts, they’re not yet comfortable like publicly saying, “I need help.” Whereas the way at least that whole aspect of the community has evolved, or of the industry has evolved, is that’s kind of… You gotta do that, you know, I mean, when you’ve got to be a little bit, “Hey, let me ask a pool of people who are willing to help.” That goes back 15 years when it comes to discussion boards. People were asking questions and answering. And I think sometimes there is the role of the manager saying, “Yeah. If you’ve Googled and can’t find it, ask a question.” But I will say it, the macro view, there are times… I have this weird thing that happens occasionally when there’s some 35-year-old CEO, and I’ve never fully understood what the track is where somebody winds up as the executive of a very large company where they clearly progressed very rapidly, which meant they weren’t really in the trenches getting deep on anything for very long.

13:24 TW: I came to terms 20 years ago, I knew that I didn’t wanna be a CEO, but that is… There’s a reason that they sort of progressed. And there aren’t a lot of people sitting around saying, “I know how to send this email blast, and our CEO doesn’t know how to send that email blast. I don’t respect him for that.”

13:47 MK: But I think that’s the difference. Once you get to a certain level, people accept from a business perspective that you’ve got that bigger picture view. But I think particularly younger companies, and young leadership teams, when it comes to lower and mid-level management, they still expect them to be doers, and not people managers. And that can be particularly tough in data and analytics because they expect you sometimes to still be able to do everything that the data scientist in your team, or…

14:23 TW: I don’t know they do… I think they expect you to be able to do individual contributor work. And I feel like we had this debate when we were talking to Simon that, you know, I feel like being like, “No, I’m not, just because I’m managing a Data Scientist, doesn’t mean I’m equipped to do that, but I’m there to partner with them.” Because, hey, that data scientist can’t communicate his way out of a paper bag, and I can actually communicate effectively. We’re a very powerful team. And for this project we are partners, and yes, I have some seniority. And again it goes back to the employee. If the employee is like, “Well, what the hell, my partner on the… My manager was just like communicating effectively, what the hell?” You know, that’s a little bit on the employee if they’re not recognizing where the value is.

15:11 MH: Yeah, and I would also say that it goes, it depends level-wise in terms of what level of expertise is an expectation as a manager versus just straight people leadership and management experience. Because every organization is gonna be a little different. I would say typically you’re not wrong, Moe, that there is an expectation of some kind of skill set around that up until you get probably fairly senior in most companies. That being said that’s…

15:43 TW: Is it basically how many martinis you’re having a lunch is kind of like, once you’re having two martinis at lunch…

15:49 MH: That’s right.

15:49 TW: You don’t need to have any real skill? Okay.

15:51 MH: That’s the kind of perspective we need to… That’s exactly what happens. Welcome to my world.

15:56 MK: And you’ve reached that point, Helbs?

15:58 MH: Oh no, four.

16:00 MK: The two martinis at lunch.

16:00 MH: Four. I’m an over…

16:03 TW: He is hammered. Do not schedule a meeting with him after after 1:30.

16:07 MH: I usually don’t come back to the office after lunch anyway so it’s… I’m just kidding. No, that is something we have to work out. I think the more crucial thing is that not everyone who is an expert and awesome is someone who should be managing people and so that’s a little bit of a reverse, which is, that’s more important for the company to figure out and identify, is creating a valuable and valued and impactful careers for people who shouldn’t probably have people management responsibilities, or who don’t even really want that. And a lot, I’ve seen both sides of this. So, I’ve seen people who are analysts, who are phenomenal at what they do, and they can’t sleep well at night because they don’t manage someone, and they feel that that is the most important thing for their career’s advancement, and they aren’t happy until they find a job, which in some cases they seek that job out and then instantly are miserable because they didn’t realize that was the worst thing they could go do. They should just keep getting better at what they’re great at, and what they actually are passionate about.

17:26 MH: But so there’s so many voices that enter this conversation and we kind of do it to ourselves, too, around this, where we kind of compare ourselves to others. And I know I did it, and I struggle to not do it now, which is you look out across people who are in your same, I don’t know, number of years of experience or same age as you. You kinda met him at a conference one time, and you see they’ve got this cool new title on LinkedIn and it seems like they’re making all this progress in their careers and you’re like, “I’m just sitting her stuck being a senior analyst. Like, “Oh no, what’s gonna happen to me?” I remember feeling that way a lot, and I was like, “I’m not getting moved along fast enough in my career. Is that gonna limit me later, and shut down opportunities for me?”

18:21 MH: It’s like there’s a lot of questions, and actually if you’re a manager of an analyst, I think having those kinds of conversations with your people is actually super important to talk about specifically what is gonna happen for them as they progress through that. I wanna say it was Jack Welch, and he did… I mean talk about management people, let’s go to straight to Jack Welch. Something he said that really always stuck with me, and this is a general principle, but it applies here too, is people need to know when you’re doing things and making decisions as a company, as a manager, as a boss-type person, people will need to know a couple of things. They need to know why it’s important, but they also need to know what’s in it for them.

19:11 MH: What’s the value that they’re gonna get by being part of this? And so when you’re asking a lot of people or you’re asking people to get behind this mission, or, “We’ve got to do this for the company,” or whatever, what does it mean to them to be part of that? And I think when you can try to enunciate that, it can be extremely powerful. Because people wanna be part of something important, and they want to do meaningful work, and that’s where I think millennials frankly get a bad rap because I think they’re seeking that kind of meaning, and people are unwilling to be express in their way of communicating it. And we want people to kind of just put your head down and grind. And I think millennials are very focused on making a difference in the world, in some capacities.

20:02 MK: Well, I think it’s also about understanding company values, and the company goals, and how you’re contributing to that. I know lots of people in my industry who the salary is not that important, it’s all kind of within a bandwidth… They’re pretty happy, as long as… And I’m one of those people, as long as I’m working for a company where I agree to their values, I feel like what I do getting out of bed in the morning and going to work every day makes a difference somehow to what the company is striving towards. And I think where that failure of communicating those things falls down is where people… Well, for some people, they find they’re not as motivated or interested or whatever it might be.

20:44 TW: Which I think kind of extrapolating a little bit from what you’re both saying, and thinking about, it is very challenging for the people that we want to attract as analysts to say, “We will assign you the tasks. And do the tasks and get your paycheck” is lethal. Like that is not long-term. So there are a few different kind of strategies, and they’re not mutually exclusive. The one, which you guys were both I think sort of speaking to, is okay, make sure that part of what you’re doing, there’s a mechanism for communicating the larger context. If somebody feels like they need to grow, and that is kind of Management 101, what are the opportunities you’re giving them to grow, where they can fail and fail safely, but you don’t have to be a manager to oversee an intern on a project. You don’t have to be managing people to spearhead a project and get the opportunity to lead without managing. I think there’s another piece that we haven’t talked about that I did sort of consciously use. And maybe this was ’cause I was still so insecure, was a level of collaborative direction setting. So back when I did manage a BI team that was 15-20 people, we had a mechanism where we were, as a group, often discussing where do we want to be?

22:11 TW: And it wasn’t so much top-down of me or just myself and my direct report saying, “This is what we’re gonna do.” Now that you gotta walk the balancing act. If they said, “We wanna be the world’s best water polo team,” and we were selling hardware and software, that’s not useful. But that was kind of another sort of strategy was, “Hey, we’ve got a weekly one hour meeting and part of that periodically is gonna be us talking about where are we heading. Let’s collaboratively set goals, let’s figure out where that adds value to the company overall, let’s get some buy-in. And then to the extent that we can, portion out to people who’s gonna own which aspects of it.” And there are gonna be some duds on the team who aren’t gonna raise their hand, and that’s okay ’cause they’re not really going anywhere, anyway, but then you find the ways for people to get to push themselves safely, have been part of the decision of, “Yeah, we wanna have data visualization best practices.” It’s like, “Okay you know what, you run with that.”

23:15 TW: And I think that sometimes is easier to do in-house than agency, agency or consultancy side, because you tend to have a little more flex with your time, but not that hard to sort of figure out what are the strengths of these people. And you know what, the person who has no interest in that, they don’t sign up for that. They may still collaborate, see the value, see that other people are working on it, they’ve now seen that they can say, “Hey I think we need to grow this data science capability.” “Okay, what can we do? How can you lead that?” So to me, in hindsight, and I’m completely sure I am like revisionist historying the shit out of this, was that this was trying to figure out what could people feel like they had ownership of? And that they had a stake in defining what that was, but then also, holding them to it, like how’s that going? And I think back to Moe, your initial question, like you don’t wanna say, “Wow, you know R better than I do. So what I need to do is not have you learn R even more.” You need to say, “Hey how can we bring that to the rest of the team?” Not necessarily teach them R, but let’s champion what you’re doing, figure out where you fit, figure out how we can support it, and ultimately make you contribute to the whole organization.

24:35 MH: So I heard you say something Tim, and I wanna just really quickly go back to it. You said something about really focusing on people’s strengths, and what book would you recommend?

[laughter]

24:46 TW: The only management book I have ever recommended, “First, Break All the Rules”. Oh my God I love that book.

24:52 MH: Okay. No, I was just kidding ’cause you’re like…

24:56 TW: Actually, thank you.

24:57 MH: Such a fan of strength finders I know.

25:00 TW: I do not recommend reading “Now, Discover Your Strengths”. First one, loved it. But that’s actually a good point, just to plug that the “First, Break All the Rules” really does say figure out where people thrive. And then, I guess, in theory, “Now, Discover Your Strengths” says you’re gonna recognize what your strengths are, and focus on those. And you want to have people who have complementary… What definitionally means there will be people who are better at stuff than you are and the more you can take that view of we’re trying to make the pieces of the puzzle fit together and be effective. And that means even I as a manager, means I have some weaknesses that I’m not gonna try to fix, like I’m not gonna become the optimistic cheerleader.

[chuckle]

25:49 TW: Okay, maybe I need to work on that a little bit.

25:51 MK: But… Okay, so everything that we’re talking about talks about trying to pair people with complementary skill sets and this person’s good at this and you can work on that together. I had a conversation a few weeks ago with some peers in the industry, and I was really surprised by this, actually, because this person and I have worked together on multiple big projects that have worked really well. And they basically said, “Well if I’m struggling with someone, I don’t wanna work with anyone. I’m a person who prefers to self solve, I like being a team of one, I like fixing my own issues, I don’t like having a team or a network around me. I will go off in a corner and figure out the solution, and I’ll let you know when I’m done.” And I was really gobsmacked by this because like I said I’d worked with this person on multiple big projects and we worked great together. So I was really interested to hear that that was actually their preferred method. Now, obviously I’m the type of person who likes to work with someone on something. And this person wasn’t. But when it comes to managing, how do you manage a person like that? When everything we’ve been talking about is like, “You pair this person with that person, these people work together.” Do you let this person just run on their own or do you try and bring them in the fold? How do you…

27:06 MH: I just say, “Hey Tim, do whatever you want.”

[laughter]

27:12 MH: Actually, that’s a really good question Moe, and I don’t know that I’ve got any kind of definitive answer. Because I think, actually, I’m actually that way. I prefer to take problems away, and go over at a corner and try to solve them and then come back and tell you what I’ve figured out. I do think that there is sort of, you could create a cadence where people can go off and work in their best style, and then bring it back to the team. And so, actually, again, so many wonderful things I learned from my manager at Lands End, Kirby Wenger. That’s kind of what we would do, we’d go off and work, we’d do analysis, we’d do some collaborating within the week, but then we’d come back as a team and sort of present to each other, “Here’s what I’m thinking, here’s what I’m coming up with. Here’s what I’ve figured out.” And we’d kind of use that time to complement each other’s skills, and kinda poke holes in it, and strengthen it so that we were more ready, each of us, to showcase our analysis to the whole business. And so it’s about kind of managing that flow of time for you, as time with the team, time reviewing, time presenting, all those kinds of things. Stacking that effectively, I think is a really important skill.

28:32 TW: You’re so nice, which is funny, ’cause you kind of kick me in the ass, on this particular topic occasionally, rightfully so. It depends that… I will cut that out.

[laughter]

28:48 MK: So he encourages you to develop on this particular topic rather than kicks in the ass.

28:54 TW: Well, because it does depend. I think it is really rare for a team to be successful and effective and efficient with everybody working completely in isolation. So even if somebody says, “Well I don’t really want to collaborate a lot.” There’s a point where you have to assess, Well are you being effective for the organization? And if it’s somebody who may be they’re amazing, but they literally you give them a problem they disappear for a week or two weeks, and they come back with the solution. There are times where you say, Great. How did we as an organization learn about how you went tackling that?” They may still be fine to do that, but Michael as you were speaking about a little bit, say, “Well no, you still have to share your process.” There’s no way any person who’s working in isolation is completely fully-rounded and amazing. Like they’re gonna be weak at some things. So I think there is a role.

29:59 TW: It doesn’t necessarily mean you guys need to go sit in a room and collaborate eight hours a day. But I think where Michael you were kind of heading to, just not maybe not putting it as bluntly as I see it, is that it’s rarely, unless you wanna go hang up your shingle and be an independent consultant and have clients who only want to give you the problem and see the solution, otherwise if you’re in an organization, and I think that is part of the role of the manager to say, “How do we get them engaged?” It’s possible I have another example in mind that I’m thinking of, where somebody said, “You know, I work best alone, I want to move my office. I wanna go sit on the other side of the building, so I’m not sitting right with the team. I’ll be more effective.” That’s a problem. Like, that’s not gonna help the team, and that person may be happy in the short term, but how are they gonna grow, how are they gonna grow without being exposed to anyone else? So I recognize the need… The desire but also, you’ve got to… It’s not a team otherwise.

31:05 MH: Yeah, every Tversky needs their Kahneman, right? And or the other way around. That was one of the more cool things about that book was that they were better together than they were by themselves.

31:20 TW: Really need to read that book.

31:22 MK: You really do.

31:23 MH: It’s a really good book.

31:24 TW: Yeah. I know.

31:24 MH: Yeah. Moe made it a last call. I don’t know if you’re aware of that.

31:28 MK: So for those not following, we’re just talking about The Undoing Project. Again.

31:34 TW: Have either of you gone from where you got elevated within a team, and therefore somebody who was your peer became somebody who was working for you? I haven’t had it happen to me. I watched it happen, I saw the effects of that happening, and it not playing out well but…

31:52 MK: It’s happened to you exactly now. Your boss is your friend, was your friend.

31:57 MH: Still is his friend. Still.

32:00 TW: I’m gonna paint both of us as being sufficiently snowflakes that we don’t count, we do not generalize, we are a model that does not generalize to the population.

32:11 MH: We give each other a wide birth.

[laughter]

32:13 MK: Yeah, but that’s… That’s happened to me recently. And I guess we both knew that it was gonna happen, so we had a very frank conversation before it did, about how we wanted our professional relationship to be, and our friendship to be. But I think the only thing… I think the reason it’s worked really well in our case is because we’re both incredibly honest with each other and that definitely hasn’t changed. The only thing that I would say is, as the person who becomes a manager, you do have to be more careful about what you say. Because as a people manager, part of your job now is to protect your team. So you can’t just be like, “Oh, I had a really shit day, all of these things happened.” If that’s going to impact now someone in your teams view of their work, the company, the goals. You have to protect them. And so the way that we’ve talked about this, and we’ve actually had a frank conversation about this. I’m like, “As a manager now, my job is to listen to you when it comes to like if you’ve had a bad day, it’s not your job to listen to me.” And that’s kind of, I don’t know, I don’t know if I’m getting it right, I’ll let you know.

33:28 TW: So I feel like you, I feel like you like pivoted from… I was literally looking for from a coworker to a manager, coworker, that weren’t necessarily… But that’s actually, this one’s actually raises that bigger question of what’s your guy’s feeling on… There’s the, I call it sort of the old school like, “Oh, managers need to keep some distance from their employees.” And having had a pretty close and great relationship with most of my past managers who I would say are friends, I’ve never… That has never felt right to me. I think it’s a pretty easy thing. There’s information Michael is privy to that I don’t ask about, and he doesn’t share, and that’s totally fine, but when it comes to the discussions around struggles that are blurring between it’s emotional, psychological, work, professional all blurring together that seems pretty easy and it’s just a… Yeah, no favoritism and no… And it’ll be a problem… That’s gonna be interesting, if I become a performance problem, what happens there? Or maybe I already am and we need to have that discussion after this, after we’re done recording.

34:51 MH: Well I’m glad you brought it up, Tim.

34:53 MK: I’m really struggling with your point there Tim. What are you saying about the blurring?

34:57 TW: Well, I don’t know that it takes brutal honesty to say, “We’re going to… We are friends and we are therefore gonna put these boundaries… ” Like it’s kind of obvious, it’s… To me it’s… I don’t I know there are people who have said, and I don’t know that either of you would fall, that, “Oh, managers and their employees shouldn’t be friends.” That gets kind of touted out as some people say, “Nope, I’m a manager, so we need to back off.” I think that’s a bunch of crap.

35:30 MH: I think that you’re absolutely right, Tim, that people do this very awkwardly and really create tension and problems where there doesn’t have to be any. I would say any leadership position that you find yourself in, you will… And actually, leadership as a concept of something you don’t really need a specific title to have… You could be a leader in any way, but even if you are helping organize an event for your local analytics community, and you’re struggling with getting boxed lunches and the T-shirt orders and all those things, guess what all the people attending the event don’t care about? All of your struggles with that. And that’s to your point, Moe. That’s the job of a leader, a leader takes that on… And so all of us express leadership in different ways and that’s what that is, it’s not that, “Hey we can’t be friends, we have to be arms length.” It’s about, “I carry for everyone else’s benefit some of the weight, and I don’t expose you to that. My job is to block for you, so you can succeed.”

36:41 MK: It’s funny, actually. So the company I work at… We do have lots of fairly young managers, first time they’ve really managed people. And there’s been quite a few examples where people kind of new to people management are like, “Oh, I’m never coming to Friday drinks.” They don’t really ever socialize with their team, unless it’s a specific team function.

37:05 MH: That’s pretentious as F.

37:07 MK: But I think… I’m obviously not, I’m obviously not one of these people.

[chuckle]

37:13 TW: You’re like, “Drinks? What? Oh hell yes.”

37:15 MK: I’m like, “Drinks? Sure, I’ll be there.” And I do think what becomes… And I think the people that are doing that are making a mistake, because building up personal relationships with your team is also one of the things you need for a high-performing team is a really strong level of trust which you get from those, those moments. But it seems to be a mistake that people that are new to management, do of like, “I need this hard line.” And I think what Michael and I are both saying and agree on is like you need that hard line to be about protecting your team. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have a great personal relationship with them and have a friendship with them which extends beyond work, but it means that you still protect them, like you’re meant to. And that because you’ve had a wine it doesn’t all, all the things that you’re not meant to talk about.

[—-]

38:02 TW: Right. It’s a maturity, right? If you were elevated to that manager, there is an expectation that you’re not gonna gossip, you’re certainly not gonna share anything that was shared with you in confidence in a separate manager/employee relationship. You still have to stay objective about their performance, there if it’s… There cannot be any romance. So Michael, get your hand off my knee. But to me those are all fairly unambiguous things, and I agree, Moe, that I think that there sometimes can be a tendency to say, “Oh.” Especially to that, this is the first time I’m a manager. Oh wait, we used to hang out and bitch about our manager, or bitch about the company. It’s like, “Well, yeah that’s gonna change a little bit, but absolutely healthy to discuss the company’s challenges or things that are frustrating you.” And maybe you are in a gray area at that point. Where, “Are we discussing this as coworkers who are friends or are we… Or am I bitching to you as a manager and I expect you to fix it?” Because the manager isn’t necessarily gonna fix it.

39:13 MH: Yeah, and I would say a lot of times when people get twisted on this, is because they think that the title somehow confers something to them. But it confers nothing. You’re a leader, and you’re working to become a better leader, or you’re not. And what your job title is really almost has zilch to do with that. I would say I’ve made a ton of mistakes, and I think that’s one of the other things somebody mentioned about, you can’t say as much as you know a lot of times. And I think that’s one of those things that… I’ll see the numbers and be like, “Well, we’re having a rough month.” I might say that, two people away down the line are like, “Oh no, we’re about to do layoffs.” And suddenly I’m having to be like, “I’m not doing layoffs. We’ve never done that, it’s not gonna happen. Not in a million years. How could you ever think that?” And that’s what you have to learn is that people take what you say if you’re in a leadership position, and you’ve got to say, it carefully and correctly and think about your communication.

40:20 TW: Oh that’s my, that is my favorite when like, “Well the VP said this.” And I’m like, “Yeah, but you’re three levels removed.” So if the VP knew that literally the entire department has remobilized to fulfill one of her idol questions, where she was just curious, she would be furious. So yeah.

40:39 MH: Suggestions become orders. Right, that’s the thing happens, and you just have to…

40:45 MK: So how do you… So, as a leader, you just watch what you say? Sometimes those questions… So for example, you’re a part of some leadership meeting, someone asks a question, legit this happened last week, “Do regional customers spend more or less than our metro customers?” And it trickles the whole way down. So what, as a leader, you just stop hypothesizing externally? Or how do you…

41:15 TW: I mean to me that’s… If you’re down on the team where it’s trickling down to, and somebody’s like going berserk… One that could get back to the person who asked, was asking and doesn’t know the level of effort, you may not know the level of effort. If a person who’s working for you says, “I’m gonna need to spend the next week on this.” That’s exactly where a lower in the organization manager can say, “Wait a minute, what I’m gonna take on is I’m gonna go back to that person and say, “Hey I know it was a quick question, the link of the question has nothing to do with the length of a level effort to answer it. How important is it to you to answer? Help me understand.”” And if you’re the higher you up you are, yeah, I do think that you need to be careful about who you’re saying things to. And the nature of the managers, your direct reports who are hearing it ’cause they’re definitely the managers who will run with that, and they will shift their entire team to work on something, because they don’t have that judgement.

42:11 MH: The VP ones question, the people beneath them’s job is to figure out, “Is that a priority for us are not given everything else? Let me go clarify.” Not just to be like, “Oh, they said something. Let’s, okay, everybody, new priority. Go do this now.” And everybody… You will have whole teams of people running around like five-year-olds, playing soccer, right? Everybody’s…

[laughter]

42:37 MH: And it’s no way to live right, and, and that’s where a good manager is stabilizing, is a stabilizing influence in that context. They’re not letting the team get swept around by maybe changing opinions or conversations happening at that level, they’re prioritizing effectively. And that’s what I mean by being a blocker, is you’re blocking that out and creating calm for people to be able to work and do their jobs. Okay, I wanna.

43:08 TW: So I wanna ask one more before you try to run.

43:11 MH: No, no, I had one more.

43:11 TW: Because… You know, what I’ll say what my last one is. You say what your last one is. Moe as our manager can decide which one.

43:20 MH: Which one is the tie-breaker? Okay. I like it.

[chuckle]

43:22 TW: So probably the thing that most drove me out of managing was the non-passion. Either low performers, or just unmotivated, or wrong fit. Somebody who liked the idea of analytics more than they actually had an aptitude for doing analytics. That was soul-sucking for me, and it really depended on how supportive the HR department was. So I would love to hear if you guys have thoughts on what about the team members who just aren’t in the right position.

43:54 MH: Great question, Tim, but slightly better than that is my question, which is this. How as a manager of an analyst do you position and let your analyst fail to help them grow, and not hide from them the results and things to let them sort of see like, they tried this, they’re really passionate about it, and then it kinda came crashing down, and you come in and use that to help grow, and let them learn and that kind of stuff. So, where do you…

44:22 TW: I see those as separate questions, Moe, which question would you like to explore further?

44:26 MK: Those are very separate questions. Although Michael’s question is quite similar to one that I had about basically how do you let people fail, but also protect the business, because when an analyst fails and gets numbers wrong, it can actually really impact decisions. And especially where you’re not the SME, so you can’t check their work. How do you manage that failure?

44:49 TW: You take the bullet for them, that’s an easy… To me, you let them fail, and then you overtake responsibility for it so that they are comfortable. And you take it on you and take the brunt of it as much as you possibly can.

45:05 MK: See, quick answer. Now we can move on to your question, which I actually thought was super interesting. But to be fair, I am incredibly lucky because my entire team, we all love our jobs, we’re all super passionate. We all have this great vibe, and I’ve actually given a lot of thought before about the fact that one of the things I struggle with in my little team is like we’re not that diverse, in that we’re four women, we all think very similarly. We all value a high level of honesty which trickles down to data integrity in our work. But I’m really lucky because I don’t have anyone in my team who is not into it, not motivated.

45:48 TW: But at past roles, have you not… Maybe you haven’t managed them, but have you… Surely you’ve come across those people, I…

45:54 MH: Well, that’s all the time we have. So…

[laughter]

46:00 MK: But I guess, I also don’t begrudge those people. So it’s something that we were chatting about not long ago with one of the product managers who was asking us all about how much we tinker after work. And he was like, “How much do you tinker in your trade? Whether you’re an engineer or an analyst or whatever, how much are you playing around with things after work, doing work-related stuff to keep ahead in your industry?” And it kind of, everyone had different answers. And one of the guys was like, he’s an engineer, and he’s like, “I leave work at five, and that is my family time. And Saturday and Sunday’s my family time. I have no interest in doing anything related to work when I step out of that door. I don’t wanna be at conferences, I don’t wanna be reading stuff. I learned during my time at my job. And when I leave, I leave.” And I also have respect for that. Their work is not the sole part of their life. They do it to get money. And I think that’s okay.

46:55 TW: Again… You’re putting a, there’s a false equivalency here. I think you can absolutely… Some people can, I can’t, have that work-life balance, but that still, there is still, “Okay, on the job, are you really engaged? Really looking to grow?” Because yes, you can have people, and I have actually managed these people, who were like, “Nope, I pretty much want my job three years from now to be the job that I have today.” Which is actually lethal in an analytics context, and those are people that I want to figure out how to get into another role where maybe they can be successful, but I don’t think there is long-term team supporting for that.

47:44 MK: Sorry, when you say three years though, and I guess maybe this is where I’m misunderstanding, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being like, “I’m a senior analyst I still want to be a Senior Analyst in three years.” Where it comes down to is, do they want to be doing literally the exact same.

48:00 TW: Right. That’s what I’m saying.

48:02 MK: And they don’t wanna learn what’s our process.

48:03 TW: What’s our process…

48:03 MK: So if that’s the person you’ve got to get rid of them.

48:05 TW: Exactly right. So I think you can be very… I wanna be doing, I want to have grown, I want the organization to be doing cooler, bigger, richer stuff, and you know what? I’m also very good at leaving at five o’clock and being checked out. I think that’s, it’s not me, but I’m totally, those people I’m fine with. The one’s who’ve said, when I ask someone, “Why are you not managing to go take that statistics class that is offered during work time from a college? And you transferred into the customer insights and analytics group?” And the response is, “Well I’m not really that into data.” I’m like, literally we were trying to let you grow while being paid and doing your homework on company time, and you’re not interested. I’m like, again, it doesn’t mean that she’s not a valuable employee of the company, but I do think that’s really sad when people say, “It’s a job. I’m gonna do it for 40 to 45 hours a week and I don’t find the work engaging enough to be wanting to push it forward.” That’s a problem. If it’s…

49:12 MK: There’s a fine line.

49:13 TW: It’s not a fine line, it’s very, very clear.

49:16 MK: It’s a fine line. If they’re good at their job.

49:18 MH: It’s motivation, right? It’s about motivation.

49:20 TW: I don’t think there’s a fine line when it comes to analytics. I think if you’re in a process, if you’re assembling widgets on a production line or doing or doing a non-manual labor tasks equivalent, yes, they’re absolutely… There’s value in people who you want to say, you’re gonna be an amazing executive assistant, and you’ll still maybe continue to grow. That’s fantastic, ’cause you want somebody who is gonna be long, tenured in one role. I have not, I have not found an analytics team context where that level of repetition is… ‘Cause those are the people… You know what, they’re the ones who will say, “I spend four hours a week producing this report and I’m gonna have zero motivation to figure out how to automate it.” That is not, not productive.

50:15 MK: But okay, that’s where the difference is. If that person is like, “Okay, I’m building dashboards every single day, and all I do is turn out dashboards.” And they’re never trying to make the process more efficient, or better. That’s where, for me the line is.

50:33 TW: Right… It’s not a grey. It’s not a fine line. It’s black and white… Sorry, interrupting you. Carry on Moe.

50:40 MK: No, no, no, but I don’t feel like it is black and white because there are people who do their nine to five, that wanna get their paycheck, that are not that interested in their work, that’s their thing. That’s okay, that doesn’t mean they’re a bad employee.

50:55 TW: Not in analytics. Nope. Nope.

[laughter]

51:00 MH: Interesting.

51:00 MK: Tim, you just need to work on their growth mindset. If only you could help them have a growth mindset, then they would be okay.

51:07 TW: I don’t think you can be in analytics and have that mindset and be effective in analytics, but yeah.

51:16 MH: This is actually… I love this because A, I think you guys actually disagree.

[laughter]

51:24 MH: And you don’t have… And we have so not any more time to talk about this. But actually your… I’m intrigued by this, so we might have to come back to this. Okay, we will need to do last calls. And so, let’s start with you, Moe.

51:43 MK: So I’m back in the old books again. And I’ve been playing around following some of the examples from a book called Practical Guide To Cluster Analysis In R. I’m not gonna attempt the first name.

51:56 MH: Oh, that sounds like a page turner.

51:57 MK: The surnames Kassambara, which we can share online. But I don’t know, I’m just finding sometimes I get in rabbit holes when you’re trying to do something online and you go to a blog, you go to another page, you go to another, and they all conflict with each other. And sometimes if you find a really solid book that takes you from where to go. I actually am finding that sometimes is a little bit easier. Which is the same reason I really like Eli Faith’s book as well because you kinda work through something rather than getting stuck going through the 50 different tabs you now have open.

52:34 TW: I like it.

52:34 MH: Very nice.

52:36 TW: Are you, I hope you’re reading that during work hours and your manager is like paying you to read it.

[laughter]

52:43 TW: Mine is… I think, Moe and I have both recommended different sort of palette selection-type sites and stuff, but FlowingData had picular.co. So it’s P-I-C-U-L-A-R dot C-O, and it’s like Google for palettes. And it’s like you can put in a website, you can put in a color, you can put in kind of whatever you want and it will generate a palette. And there are various sites that do this sort of thing, but this one actually is a pretty clean interface, and kind of cool, and I’m always a fan of things that will not make me choose colors but will choose colors for me.

53:24 MH: Very nice.

53:26 TW: Michael, what you got?

53:26 MH: Well, not much ’cause I’m on the road. And I forgot to think of the last call, but last show, I talked about the Digital Analytics Hub, which is coming up. So if you can, go to that, but more importantly, if you are in the three or four states near Atlanta, Georgia at the end of October, we’re having a symposium and there’s some very excellent speakers. And I really wanna encourage people to come if you’re around, or even if you’re far, far away, in Croatia. You know who you are, come on over to the US, you can stay at my house and we’ll, we’ll have a good time. And anyways, so yeah, the DAA Symposium in Atlanta at the end of October. I have to say that, ’cause now I’m on the board at the DAA.

[laughter]

54:20 MH: Just trying to be transparent about promotional things. Anyways…

54:25 MK: You should be protecting the team, Helbs.

54:26 MH: Protecting, I can’t say nearly as much. Yeah, actually I do need to think about that in the context… Nevermind.

[laughter]

54:35 MH: My role as a board member, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to or not supposed to share. Anyways, listen, if you’ve been listening, I hope you’re still listening at this point, we would love to hear from you. How have you successfully managed an analyst? What are some key takeaways you could help others gain from your experiences? We’d love to hear about it. Best ways to reach us Measure Slack, our Facebook page, or on Twitter, or our website analyticshour.io. Remember, if you are not a manager and you wanna be one, go talk to people who are and learn from their experiences and become a great manager some day, learn from the best. And like me, I learned from the best, which is my two co-hosts, Moe and Tim, and recommending to all of you that you keep analyzing.

[music]

55:35 Announcer: Thanks for listening, and don’t forget to join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or Measure Slack group. We welcome your comments and questions, visit us on the web at analyticshour.io, facebook.com/analyticshour or at Analytics Hour on twitter.

55:53 Charles Barkley: So smart guys want to fit in, so they’ve made up a term called analytics. Analytics don’t work.

56:04 MH: That’s right folks, if you’re listening at home, we basically talk about nothing else but the homework that Matt Gershoff has assigned us.

[laughter]

56:13 MK: Which remains undone.

56:16 MH: That a proper… Is that a response? Or what do people say when they say…

56:19 MK: Yeah, you just answer it normally like, “How are you?”

56:25 TW: But if you say “How are you?”, I say “I’m fine”. If you say, “How are you going?”, do you say I’m…

56:31 MK: How’s it going. You could say, “I’m fine.” It’s the same, yeah.

56:33 TW: “How is it going?” is different from “how are you going?”

56:35 MK: You are the “it” Tim, you are the “it”

56:37 TW: We will take it up with your manager.

[laughter]

56:44 MH: Right off the top, guys, I think one of the key things is to really not explain what you mean when you ask them to do something. That’s a key…

[laughter]

56:57 TW: I have a question, how do you manage a particularly passive aggressive analyst?

[laughter]

57:02 MH: I don’t know how you manage it, I do basically a bad job.

[laughter]

57:09 MK: I figured out the answer to your question. How do you motivate that employment… Employer… Employee who’s not motivated.

57:17 TW: What is it?

57:18 MK: You help them understand that if they automate stuff, and do it faster, they get a longer lunch break.

57:27 TW: Rock flag and management.

[music]

 

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One comment on “#098: Successfully Managing the Analyst

  1. Johanna Hurtado Oct 3, 2018

    Hi there,

    My name is Johanna Hurtado and I am one of the 3 people Moe is managing at THE ICONIC and I would like to leave some feedback for Moe.

    I think Moe has been doing an amazing job as a leader and I wish she had shared more about what she has been doing with us in the episode.

    For example, when she was promoted to being our manager, our first objective was to identify our values as a team and that’s something we have in our mind in any project we work in.

    Another thing that I love from Moe is her ongoing support in all my projects and in my career.

    And last but not least something that all managers should have (that Moe has) is that she has enabled us to grow and develop our skills as much as we want, even if it means that we will move to another team.

    Thank you Moe for being a great leader!

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