Two analytic translators working on a plan.

Five Stealth Skills of Analytic Translators: The Important Things You DON’T See

Oct 31, 2022

What is it that Analytic Translators do to make analytic projects more successful? How does this role make a difference? 

Actually, what translators do is largely invisible to others.

Teams may not notice these skills while they are happening; they simply realize that projects are more successful when translators are involved. 

Let’s highlight these unseen skills that make such a difference.

  1. Prepare for meetings
  2. Create space
  3. Gather information
  4. Deliver information
  5. Build allegiance

 

1. How analytic translators prepare for meetings.

A typical meeting has an agenda, content, goals, and items for which we need consensus. An analytic translator prepares some additional components. 

  1. A deliberate Intention.
    Translators know that the intention we set for a meeting will determine how it goes. It helps to set a deliberate intention for what sentiment we want attendees to feel. Do we want them to feel heard? Do we want to make sure everyone has a clear understanding? Spending even 30 seconds before a meeting can help set the tone.
  2. Context.
    In addition to essential content, translators remind themselves of the context of the project. Who are the key players? What makes this project important? How does it fit into the larger picture? By reminding themselves, they are also prepared to highlight that context to meeting attendees to make it more meaningful.
  3. Concerns.
    Acknowledging concerns builds trust. Ignoring concerns erodes trust. Translators don’t dwell on problems but do recognize and verbalize them so that team members feel understood. 
  4. Appreciation.
    Analytic teams and business teams often operate in silos. They often have limited understanding of what the other team faces. By mentioning the activities and effort brought by the other team, translators educate teams in ways that reinforce their value. Such acknowledgements may simply mention small things that accumulate over time. 

In these ways, analytic translators come prepared not only to conduct effective meetings, but also create an environment where collaboration grows.

 

 

2. How analytic translators create space.

Today’s business environment consists of a series of fast-paced, over-scheduled, multitasked interactions.

Because meetings, and topics, occur back-to-back without breaks, the pace is not conducive to deep, thoughtful consideration of any one topic.

While this is the typical, accepted way of doing things, it does lessen our ability to refine ideas.

And it leads to a higher likelihood of rework because we don’t get things right the first time. 

Analytic translators know that when projects get off track, it happens most often at the beginning.

So, they create space in a conversation to allow ideas to crystalize.

To do this, translators know how to slow down, pause, and prompt a person to elaborate and consider what is really needed.

Translators understand that the first thing someone says is rarely the full picture, and that people often need three or four additional responses before their brains have had a chance to get clear. 

Using their listening skills, analytic translators open enough space to guide the conversation toward a well-defined project. 

3. How analytic translators gather information.

One of the most important skills that talented analytic translators learn is how to ask questions that produce high-quality answers.

Translators know that sudden questions that catch people by surprise will produce defensive, complete answers and that “leading” questions may result in a specific response, but not a completely truthful one.

Because most people haven’t been taught how to ask effective questions, they may not notice the tools that translators use.

These include such things as:

  1. Frames.
    Preparing the other person’s brain by letting them know a question is coming, lessening defensiveness, and guiding them to the type of response.
  2. Asking open questions instead of closed.
    Inviting new thinking and honest opinions rather than limiting the type of response.
  3. Avoiding “why” and using “how.”
    Why” questions provoke suspicion. 
  4. Encouraging multiple answers.
    Because the first answer is almost always incomplete.

 

4. How analytic translators deliver information.

Data scientists are trained in research and scientific methods.

In that training, students learn a specific format for project reports.

It starts with a review of past research, followed by a detailed review of data collection and methods, a technical description of the statistical results in the form of coefficients and p-values, a list of limitations, and—finally—the conclusions expressed in as objective language as possible.

Analytic translators realize that this format is not only ill-suited for a business audience, it creates discomfort for those unfamiliar with math and statistics.

The goal should be to deliver content in a language and format that makes its implications obvious.

To do this, analytic translators deliver information in three components:

  1. What matters about the topic.
    When an analysis is complete, time has elapsed—days, weeks or even months—since the business team has thought about the project. Translators will remind the team about how this project came about and what we wanted to learn.
  2. Narrative.
    People understand and remember stories better than facts. Talented translators will create a story that describes the project, its purpose, and its results in a way that pulls it together. 
  3. Business implications.
    After the story, the findings are converted into a clear “so what” for the business team to understand what it means in clear, relevant terms.

By delivering content in this way, not only does it make the results more useful, it reinforces the value of analytic insights for the business.

5. How analytic translators build allegiance.

It is not uncommon for business and analytic teams to operate in silos, or for their interactions to be characterized by miscommunication and tension.

Building trust and alliance takes time.

Translators understand that the divide between these teams is largely due to their inherent differences (language, training, personality), and a lack of understanding about each other’s challenges. 

Along with the skills above—which help to minimize miscommunication and improve results—translators take deliberate steps to educate each team about the other and mention the value of their roles.

It can be simple comments expressing appreciation for extra effort or acknowledging their challenges.

Mentioning that the data team spent weeks restructuring a database, or that the business team closed a new contract that will bring additional data assets, helps to build awareness and appreciation.

All together.

Someone unfamiliar with the role of analytic translator might not notice any of these skills.

The dialog, pauses, questions and comments would seem like normal, everyday interactions.

However, when talented translators put these skills together, it produces several outcomes of value:

  • Reduced miscommunication
  • Reduced rework
  • Improved teamwork
  • Improved productivity
  • Improved job satisfaction
  • Improved retention

Quite impressive for something invisible, isn’t it? 

Learn how analytic translators can help your business.

Wendy D. Lynch's headshot photo.

Wendy D. Lynch, PhD

Wendy Lynch is an experienced sense-maker and data scientist with over 35 years of research experience, primarily in business settings. She has played the role of Analytic Translator for hundreds of companies, from start-ups to Fortune 100 corporations. Her expertise is both in data analytics and effective communication, combining the two into a framework for optimizing the value of analytics in a business setting.  Connect with her through LinkedIn or email.

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