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Do You Work Too Hard?

Do you get in early? Stay late? Eat lunch at your desk? Check email from bed? Do you take a lunch only when you’re drowning and just need to get out of the office? Is a burger, fries and a shake a reward for a grueling morning? Have you ever said, “I don’t want to live like this. This isn’t me."

Do you have more than you can reasonably fit on your plate? Do you basically handle whatever falls off? But only if it explodes? If you have ever asked,

“How do I deal with one thing after another blowing up in my face?

I need . . . something . . . because I am drowning. Wave after wave of work is knocking me down and the tide is coming in.”

I’ve been there too.

Over a quarter of a professional’s working day is spent emailing, 28%.

28% is spent emailing and email is open the rest of the day in case something potentially explosive comes through:

  • A short reply from the boss, asking about that deliverable
  • An unhappy client
  • Last week’s fire rearing its head, creating this week’s emergency

A study of employees at Cisco revealed that failing to respond to an email can lead to a swift breakdown in trust. Are you sitting on an unexploded time bomb?

The research: Major source of work related stress is the pull for timely response to emails.

Is email killing you? That might read like hyperbole; read on and decide for yourself. A study of British civil servants found that the rank and file employees were at greater health risk than higher ranking administrators. Chronic stress was the culprit. These employees were accountable for outcomes where they had little authority, influence or control. Negative outcomes appeared, as if at random, outside of their control and influence. The result, chronic stress.

Often the sources of stress are small and varied, but chronic stress is linked to six of the leading causes of death, a slow death by a thousand papercuts. It’s not a huge leap to see that many of those small and varied stressors are coming from your inbox.

How does our work culture respond to this threat? Researchers have coined the term telepressure to describe the urge to respond immediately to email. I guess you can’t cure it ‘til you name it first. This urge includes thinking about emails that need to be written. As a result, says Larissa K. Barber, an assistant professor of psychology at Northern Illinois University, “You have trouble cognitively letting it go.”

I've been there. The research is helpful. But it only confirms I'm not the only one that struggles with email, but that is not a solution. Managing email is a significant part of work. For my own sanity I went looking for a process to get my inbox under control because there had to be an easier way.

Getting Things Done.

Have you heard of David Allen’s Getting Things Done? GTD for short. I’ve never read his book because my first exposure to his material was an MP3 download of the GTD LIVE Two Day Seminar. David Allen offers an introductory GTD course thru LinkedIn Learning. It’s an introduction to the theory and general practices. It’s not bad. But if you want to really master the skill, it will only get you started. You will need something else to get into the details and best practices. If $99 and two days is too much, an alternative is this Inbox Zero course from Udemy. I like it because it is highly specific, actionable, and it’s video instruction. This course wasn’t around when I was figuring this stuff out, but this is exactly what I did in my gmail.

The GTD LIVE Two Day Seminar is fantastic! Skip the book. I highly recommend this seminar. At $99 it is pricy but, I have listened to it again and again. As David Allen says, the process is iterative. It isn't all or nothing. You can apply parts of it. You can learn, apply, and grow. Then repeat.

The Two Minute Rule

One of the biggest takeaways from David Allen is the two minute rule. Do anything that takes less than two minutes right away the first time it is in your face. It’s surprising how many things you put off that can get done in two minutes or less. For example, wash your dishes immediately after you eat, toss the laundry in the washing machine, take out the garbage . . . invest in yourself . . . invest in your time.

Buy the seminar. You have two minutes.

Hume’s Turkey: A Tale of Thanksgiving.

Like most turkeys, Hume's turkey lives on a farm. From this turkey's perspective life is good. Of course, there are bad days: the weather might turn cold, the older turkeys might box him out from the best seed and grass, a fox might get into the coupe. Life is good because of the farmer. The farmer loves his turkeys.

The farmer keeps the coup, which protects the turkey from the weather. The farmer defends the turkey from the fox. The farmer makes sure the turkey gets enough to eat. The turkey is happy because the farmer loves him.

The turkey lives his life, without concern for the future. The turkey has no way of knowing, based on experience, that he will soon be dinner.

We put ourselves at risk when looking to the past as a predictor of what will be. That is the problem with knowledge gained from induction, that is the turkey's dilemma. 

Bertrand Russell is credited with the idea of the turkey's dillema in highlighting the holes in David Humes arguments about knowledge gained by induction.

Adapted from The Black Swan, by Nassim Taleb.

How Great Leaders Inspire Action

Often I get a question that reveals a fundamental mistake we all make every day.

This is my answer.

It gets asked a lot. Maybe. Maybe it's just that to a hammer everything is a nail.

This is my hammer.

You might be leading a team, crafting the bullet points on your resume, making a recommendation on Facebook. What do you say to persuade others to take action?

What do you say?

Jamie Dimon puts it like this, "Leadership is relentless storytelling. We all forget. We all need to be reminded of our purpose." So,

What's your story?

​The Mistake That Is Costing You

​See if you catch yourself doing this the next time you have to write a performance evaluation. Do you focus on what you did? Take a look at your resume. What is the focus? Is it on what you did? Think of the last good movie you saw or book you read. In the comments below, write me a recommendation for why I should see / read it.

Are you tempted to give away the plot? You (and just about everyone else) is focused to much on the what.

You need to start with Why. Simon Sinek wrote a whole book on why. But you can get away with just watching the TED talk.

Anyone (and everyone) can tell you what they do.

Some can talk about how. This is 90% of what marketers will focus on: differentiating value proposition, proprietary process, secret sauce, or USP (unique selling proposition).

Very few people will talk about Why, Purpose, Cause, Belief. Why do you get out of bed in the morning? Why should anyone care? People don't buy what you do they buy why you do it. And the what serves as the proof of what you believe.

The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe. It is not making money; that is a result. Start with Why, then follow it up with How and What.

How to Start with Why​

​I bought Start With Why hoping to learn how to start with Why. It's a good read. I've read and re-read it. The book comes up short at the end where Sinek up sells a $100 course to help you find your why. I opted to figure it out on my own. It took a little over a year to nail down a repeatable process. But it was free! If you are interested in learning how I did it, keep reading.

Articulating your Why is difficult. It's innately fuzzy. Your goal is to bring it into sharp focus. That might take some time. Just keep coming back to it.

My first attempts were heavily influenced by the Strengths Finder 2.0 Assessment. I highly recommend this exercise. It's free when you purchase the book, Strengths Finder 2.0. This is a great tool if you are looking for an objective measure of your innate strengths. Here is the catch, even as I explored my strengths I knew that strengths are not the same as purpose. This answers the question How, not Why. And that is valuable. Your strengths set you apart from the crowd, they are your USP, your secret sauce. So the exercise is worth taking the time to do. It's just not the final destination.

It's ironic that the question Simon Sinek leaves unanswered in his TED talk is answered by another TED talk: How to know your life purpose in 5 minutes by Adam Leipzig.

I'm sure you have heard of the idea of an elevator pitch. Adam goes through a series of questions so you can articulate yours in under five minutes: your own elevator pitch that starts with why. You can check out mine on my LinkedIn Profile. Or my Instagram Bio. Even the intro of my Facebook page.

​But that is not going to be enough. It isn't going to weather the storm. And the storms will come. Believe that.

What's It All For?

What's it all for? Tour bus, studio, and the fans

What's it all for? Chicks and whips with twenty inch rims

What's it all for? To feed my family and my friends

What's it all for? To change your world the best I can

~ What's It All For​

Bazaar Royale

The final piece came after I read Mark Manson's The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck. I think he is a terrific writer. He utilizes a strong voice (and language, consider yourself warned).

I could not have come across his book at a better time, it was actually one of the most awful times in my life. I was suffering from shouldy values. One in particular, which I'll call "big house nice car." The house wasn't even that big, just bigger than mine. The car wasn't that nice, just nice to have. And somehow this justification made it less shallow. Have you ever heard someone say,

"When I'm done with school . . . "

"When I get that internship . . . "

"When I graduate . . . "

"When I get a job  . . . "

"When I get a better paying job that is actually in my field . . . "

"Once I make X per year . . .

. . . then I'll be happy / set / successful."

Have you ever heard those words? Was it you saying them? It was definitely me. These are dangerous words. They are a symptom of shouldy values.

The cure for shouldy values is to be mindful of great values. Your great values. Where I sit, people outsource this type of thinking to religion. Don't. For sure this is a great pool to draw from but, do your own homework. It's actually a fun exercise.

The Cure For Shouldy Values​

You are going to fill out bracket for your values. Think March Madness, but with values.

I've started you off with a pretty good list of values. Go through this list or feel free to google "list of values" yourself. Write down the ones that resonate with you on a post-it notes. One per note. Don't hold back, if a word catches your eye, write it on a post-it.​

​Don't skip this next step because if you do you will need to start over. You should have a pile of post-it notes now. Divide these post-its into categories: Personal Attributes, Activities, Relationships, Things, Skills. It's easiest to do this with Post-It notes. You might value certain categories more than others. It will become clear why this matters in the last step.

Finally you are going to fill a bracket hold a tournament (think March Madness) for each category. Each value is going to compete against another value. Consider a pair of Post-It notes. If you canonly have one, which do you choose to keep? The keeper advances to the next round. Do this until you have a clear winner for each category.

The categories are important because you might value one category over another. I found this was the case with me. Knowledge is one of my top values, but it is a thing and of all the categories I value things the least. Knowledge ended up getting killed by values in other categories. I saw it dropping down the ranks and knew something needed to change.

Which, brings me to the final step. The bracket is designed to spur your own intuition. It's not designed to be an objective measure. This isn't Highlander, there can be more than one. I actually created a top ten list for each category. You might even need different categories, if you do I'd like to know about it. Really. Tell me about it.

Tell Me Your Story.​

​Jamie Dimon once said, "Leadership is relentless storytelling. We all forget. We all need to be reminded of our purpose. So,

Tell me your story.

Now that you have done all of this work,

what story is yours to tell?

It's a story about you, your tribe, and what you do for them.

It starts with what you believe, what you value. But it can't just be about you. Your story is about what you do to help your tribe to reach their ideal, achieve their goals, or overcome their trials. You need to be really clear about who you are, what you believe and how you stand out. You need to be clear so you can clearly communicate to your tribe. How else will they know? If they share your values your Why will resonate with them. This is your contribution, what you do to serve them.​

Difference in Difference Estimation [Notes]

difference in difference estimation

Difference in Difference estimation is a linear regression methodology used to analyse the effect of some event in time (the treatment) by comparing results over time. The idea is to compare data before and after the treatment. If the treatment was effective then you will find material differences in the outcomes for the target variable, or Y.

Before and After. This is a basic comparison of means for the time periods before and after treatment. For this specification we assume the target (Y) in the post-treatment period is equal to the target (Y) in the pre-treatment period in the absence of treatment. Thus, any change is attributable to the treatment.

Difference in Difference estimation is the natural extension of the before and after analysis is to include a control group for comparison. The difference in difference specification allows us to do this. We can compare Y as we did for the before and after analysis. We can also compare Ys between treated and untreated groups. To complete a difference in difference specification we use two dummy variables that partition the sample into four groups. The first dummy variable, treatment, partitions the sample in two halves based on their treatment status. The second dummy variable, post, partitions the halves in quarters based on the time period. We then interact treatment and post (Post*Treatment); the coefficient on Post*Treatment estimates the statistical difference in Y.

​The Model:

Y = B0 + B1*Post + B2*Treatment + B3*Post*Treatment.

  • Y, is the target variable we are interested in estimating.
  • Post, is a binary dummy variable indicating whether an observation is in the post treatment period.
  • Treatment, is a binary dummy variable indicating whether an received treatment or not.
  • B3 is the estimator, the coefficient on Post*Treatment.

Four Aspects of Leadership You Need To Know About

It is easy to get overwhelmed or even lost because of the many niches within the leadership & business development genre. I read a lot in this space. The more I read the more I feel I need to read. It can be discouraging. It is easier for you to digest if you break it down into chunks. Here are four to start: building relationships, business acumen, self awareness, & organizational strategy.

Building Relationships. Do you want to be my friend? Sometimes that is all it takes. My kids do it all the time. Building leadership starts with positive and effective relationships. This is a core competency.

Business Acumen. You need to be able to do something, attain goals with minimum guidance. Otherwise you are just hanging out. This includes the competencies of teamwork, performance & motivation. Although it also encompasses technical skills, managing work, and industry knowledge.

Self Awareness. Self awareness is the bud that flowers into leadership. If you think of these as stages then this is where a top performer starts to become a leader. That is why a lot of training starts here. Self awareness includes the competences of vision & values, sustainability, resilience, and emotional intelligence.

Organizational strategy. The ability to set the vision and direction for the long term success of the organization. Its comprised of the following competencies: political acumen, awareness. change, culture.

12 Core Competencies of Leadership

  1. Building Relationships
  2. Teamwork
  3. Performance
  4. Motivation
  5. Vision & Values
  6. Sustainability
  7. Resilience
  8. Emotional intelligence
  9. Political Acumen
  10. Awareness
  11. Change
  12. Culture

It's impossible to tackle all of them at once. That is the point of chunking it down. Pick one. Make a four to six week plan to focus on a skill in your chosen competency. Work to actively change your behaviors and habits. Habits drive change. It takes 4 to 6 weeks groove the behavioral and neurological pathways of the new habit you want to create. In a year to a year and a half you can make meaningful progress in each of the 12 competencies.

Some additional tips for developing leadership.

Create a masterminds group with professional peers. Focus: What is working?What needs improvement? Share challenges and successes. Support each other with suggestions, encouragement, ideas for improvement. Network to create mutually beneficial opportunities.

Attend leadership development programs. Some ideas on where to look for programs: at work, local universities, non-profits, LinkedIn Learning, Coursera.

Form a leadership development group. Read a book or take a course and come together to discuss implementing the changes.

Data Driven Leadership

Why talk about leadership on a blog about data? We have not talked about data or decision making. I don't have a lot of time to write. I debated including leadership as a thread of this blog. I decided the topic merited inclusion.

These 12 competencies are inputs that go into decisions. For a data driven organization, a data savvy manager, to make the best use of data an understanding of leadership theory is needed. The theory informs a leader of the right questions to ask when mining data.