Recognizing Opportunities to Improve Your Team

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Recently an issue occurred at work and I thought it would be a good topic to write about regarding how we can use issues to improve our team’s growth.

This article assumes your team has an established work culture already (ie, your team is not brand new) and you’re a manager seeking ways to professionally grow your team.

What this article seeks to do is to present a story on how I used a negative experience to improve my team’s skills.

What Happened

A data scientist in my team was in charge of an analysis for Field Marketing on how their fundraising campaign drove incremental revenue. On my team, we give our data scientists autonomy in analyzing the data and managing the communications with the clientele.

After reviewing the deck with the data scientist, everything was good to go for the final presentation to Field Marketing. During the final presentation, Field Marketing brought up major points of the analysis with new information that I nor the data scientist did not know about.

This new information literally changed the entire analysis and we should have caught this during the discovery process with Field Marketing. We told Field Marketing we had to redo the analysis and get back to them. This lack of communication took the data scientist an additional week of work to finish.

My Response

I later asked the data scientist how we missed this crucial information and found out that they did not think about asking Field Marketing certain questions related to the analysis.

In my mind, I thought “okay, this person needs more experience in consulting with the clientele, but I’m going to make this person become part of the process on how to prevent this issue from happening again. Let’s recognize this moment as an opportunity to teach and grow this person.”

We focused the conversation on how this issued occurred and ways to prevent the issue in the future. During my talk with the data scientist, I made sure to stay level-headed, and not make that person feel worse than they already did. Believe me, they already felt bad and were disappointed in themselves after the meeting with Field Marketing.

There is no point in making the person feel worse - it’s just counterproductive.

I made sure to walk through my thought process and their thought process, making an effort at understanding how they saw things on their end.

Once we both shared our perspectives, we had enough information to figure out how to prevent this situation from occurring again.

Make Them Part of the Solution

I came up with the idea of creating a checklist for all analysts and data scientists to use in the future during the data discovery period with a client. The checklist would guide the team to:

  • Ask the most crucial questions with the clientele
  • Check-in with other team members in order to get feedback on the current analysis
  • Maintain constant communication and share updates with the clientele to avoid any future surprises

I shared the idea with the data scientist and we both agreed the checklist would be a great tool for the entire team to use. I then asked the data scientist to be in charge of creating this checklist. In addition, they would now be in charge of training future team members in clientele engagements.

By asking them to be in charge of the checklist process, I allowed the data scientist to become part of the solution, empowering them to create positive change for them and their team. Instead of being told what to do, they are now given more responsibility to contribute to the team, giving them ownership and a sense of responsibility.


We must be brave and sincere in addressing our issues at work, however, always look for the opportunities when issues arise. Give your direct reports and team members the ability to own these issues and improve them.

Yes, there will be times where you need to step in and directly tell them what to do; this works more for people who are still new to their career and are figuring out the technical areas of their job.

But for more experienced people, support them by coaching or mentoring them; guide them to the areas where they need to grow and allow them to own their growth. This method creates a growth mindset, giving them career empowerment and ownership.

Written on June 13, 2021