For decades, Stephen Covey's book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, has inspired many to be better leaders and managers by changing the way they work to abide by simple (yet profound) principles. With more than 20 million copies sold in 38 languages, Covey's book has been used as a transformational tool for personal development in and out of the corporate world.
As a tribute to Mr. Covey, who passed away this month, I’d like to explain how successful data analysts may be following his advice without even knowing it.
Covey believed that proactive leaders take responsibility for their actions and focus efforts on their circle of influence. Being proactive is particularly important for analysts supporting decision makers who make strategic and operational decisions for the company, since the analyst is often their most trusted advisor. Analysts need to be aggressive in extracting crucial business information and unearthing insight beyond what is immediately obvious in the data. Their job is focused on culling trends and patterns from data, then using that information to make recommendations to those who have the authority to enact changes and solve problems. While they're often mired in data from the past, their focus is on proactively predicting future outcomes.
Begin with the end in mind.
This habit urges us to envision our desired goal before starting the hard work of making it a reality. Analysts do not simply deliver reports to decision makers – they answer business questions with data and provide recommendations on how to proceed based on what-if scenarios and statistical analysis. If the quandary they're presented with is how to maximize sales efforts at their company, they would investigate the data, perhaps finding that the company doesn't have enough opportunities at the top of the sales funnel; therefore, there will never be enough opportunities at the bottom of the funnel, i.e. closed deals. Starting with the end in mind – a revenue goal – they would drill into the data to cull insights, then work with their team to recommend a plan of action.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
This piece of advice encourages us first to listen intently and understand the point of view of the other individual before getting our point across. For analysts, this means they must truly understand their business or they will lose credibility. Correlations in data only make sense to analysts who have a deep understanding of the business, its processes, issues, and future goals. Successful analysts also make themselves understood – they're good communicators and are able to persuade others to trust them and the insights they generate.
Analysts are critical to businesses that want to improve, whether that means improving day-to-day processes or the bottom line. In the end, we would all do well to follow these (and the rest) of Mr. Covey’s habits, which are aimed at improving the performance of people like us in the business world.
arcplan's on-demand webinar, How To Be An Analyst, takes a look at the art and craft of being analytical and shows you how to apply basic and more advanced methods of analysis to real-world business intelligence scenarios.