Bonus Episode: Understanding leadership deeply – trust, relationship, and influence for statisticians – Interview with Gary Sullivan

In this second part of the interview with Gary (check here for part 1), we speak about the building blocks of leadership without authority from a statistician’s perspective. We cover questions like:

  • Is influence the same as power?
  • What is the role of trust, what are the different elements of trust and how can we improve trust being technical experts?
  • How can we build relationships at work, that help us to influence change?
  • Is influence through relationships only relevant “sideways” or also “upwards” and “downwards”?
  • How do we know, with whom we need to invest in building relationships?
  • Is there a way of assessing how good our relationships are?

We don’t stay general and speak about specific examples, including negotiations.

After listening to this episode, you will have a solid understanding of the levers of success, that is not associated with technical knowledge.

Share this with your friends and colleagues who might learn from it!


[00:00:00] Alexander: You’re listening to the Effective Statistician Podcast, so weekly podcast actually at the moment, that’s more frequently than weekly. But the podcast with Alexander Schacht and Benjamin Piske designed to help you reach your potential lead great science and serve patients without becoming overwhelmed by work. So today I have another bonus episode, and it’s again, one with Gary, where we talk about understanding leadership deeply, trust, relationship, and influence of statisticians for statisticians.

So stay tuned for this. If you are listening to this, we have already closed. See effective statistician leadership enrollment. If you wanna still get onto it, then at least get onto my newsletter or go to see free resources where we have lots about leadership. For free in sales says analysis, all kind of different things in there.

So check out the free library on our homepage. If you are a group of statisticians, at least 10 that want to get on this together, maybe within your company, maybe with your peers and colleagues, then just contact me and we can set up something specific. So now enjoy this episode.

I’m producing this podcast in association with PSI Community dedicated to leading and promoting the use of statistics since the healthcare industry. For benefit of patients, join PSI today. Further develop your statistical capabilities with access to the ever-growing video and demand content. Appre free registration to all PSI webinars and much mature. Head over to to learn more about PSI activities and become PSI but today.

Hello, another episode of The Effective Statistician and this time it’s another episode also with Gary Sullivan. Hi, how are you doing, Gary?

[00:02:14] Gary: Hi, Alexander. Doing great today.

[00:02:16] Alexander: Okay. We’ll talk about again about leadership. So what have you been up to in terms of leadership recently?

[00:02:25] Gary: Yeah I think I mentioned that I worked for Eli Lily company. I retired at the end of 2017 and have since started my own consulting business that’s focused specifically on leadership development. So I’m in the business of leadership development full-time now.

[00:02:44] Alexander: And as a leadership development consultant, what are your typical kind of clients? What is your ideal customer so to say?

[00:02:55] Gary: Oh, that, I don’t know that there’s an ideal customer. I think there’s lots of different ways that I can help people. So a few things that I’m doing is developing courses on leadership teaching courses and working with clients to help them develop their own leadership programs.

So it’s a multifaceted thing. In addition to that, Mentoring and coaching a handful of people specifically on helping them develop their leadership skills. So I don’t know that there’s any ideal client, but just a lot of variety of things to do in the area. . Okay.

[00:03:30] Alexander: Very nice. So leadership is really the day-to-day activities that you are now, know that you have retired from Lilly, but of course you have been very active within Lilly as well.

I still remember the leadership programs that. You were part of the team putting together, and I really, very much enjoyed that. And in this program I, I learned so much about what’s leadership is and what’s the definition of leadership is and these kind of things. And. If you listen to this episode and you haven’t listened to the other episode with Gary, I would strongly recommend you go back to this because we talked about what’s the foundation of leadership, what is actually the definition of leadership, why it’s important to develop leadership skills.

And what it means if you don’t develop them. So please go back. Just scroll back on your smartphone app and go back to the other episode with Gary about leadership. But connecting to that, maybe we can start shortly again with the definition of leadership. Set you so nicely, craft. Yes. .

[00:04:41] Gary: Yeah. So the way we define leadership, and there are different ways to define leadership.

It’s this is the definition that we’re currently using. It’s the ability to consistently deliver value to an organization or cause by inspiring people to take a specific direction when they have the freedom, when they truly have the freedom or choice to do other.

[00:05:04] Alexander: Okay. So it’s really about influencing others.

And in terms of influencing others, what’s the, there’s very often this connotation with how can you actually influence others, can we put that into something different concept? So is it, is influence power or is influence some something d. .

[00:05:27] Gary: Yeah. The word power is an interesting word cuz when you talk about leadership, people talk about having authority.

So in a role where you maybe control resources or control budget and you have that power, and whether that’s leadership, but the, going back to your question of how do we influence. In a sense it’s I think influence in itself with its bean means that you really don’t have power and somehow you need to acquire that power, or you need to convince people that have the power.

To basically take up your suggestions or your ideas or follow the path that you’re suggesting. So in terms of how do we influence, that’s a, that’s a multifaceted, that’s a multifaceted thing, and it’s something that we can certainly get into. ,

[00:06:17] Alexander: So it’s not about just, let’s say, typical role powers that you know, because you are the boss control the money, you control other resources.

So you have the power to influencing why is that? There’s one as other aspect about, power and, controlling things that’s about, knowledge. Of course as a statistician you also have specific know-how you have, knowledge in terms of your data and these kind of things.

Is that also something how. We can influence others by, just this bash knowledge that we have.

[00:06:55] Gary: Yes. I think that’s always part of it. So certainly our technical knowledge or our technical competence is important in influencing it’s important in, in, if in no other ways, just having the technical know.

To implement or execute a certain type of statistical method, to, if you’re trying to convince someone to use a beigian approach, having a technical understanding of beigian methods is required in, I think, in some ways to be able to influence them to do that. I think the trouble statisticians have sometimes is that they think that influence is all about making a technical argument.

And that’s, I think tho those are the places where we can get frustrated or get into trouble.

[00:07:40] Alexander: So can you give an example how such a conversation would, look like if someone, just. Relies on the technical arguments for, let’s say, using a patient approach.

[00:07:52] Gary: Yeah. And I might use an example maybe closer to home for me.

So when I worked as a technical statistician, I did a lot of work designing experiments in an industrial setting. Many times you were faced with operational constraints. So for example if I were designing an experi, In the biomedical or a bio research type situation. So an a fermentation plant or a purification setting, sometimes they could only run experiments.

Let’s suppose they only had five bioreactors and those reactors ran on a one week basis. And so this is a real simple example, but if I came in and said I wanna, I want to design and experiment. To optimize, two different factors and we’ll do it with 12 experiments. While someone could look at me and say that’s nice and it looks good on paper.

And technically I’m sure it’s sound, but we can’t execute such a thing. Or another example might be if they had a hard to change type of factor, for example, something like temperature that they had to ramp up over a period of time. Those are some of the types of things that you’ll need to know to appropriately influence.

So those sort of operational, structural type of variables. So in general it’s understanding some of those operational or structural type constraints. That are also valuable in influencing And some of the example I just gave is a pretty simple example, but you can get into more challenging type of operational or structural constraints with the bigger type of influence that you’re trying to make.

[00:09:29] Alexander: So how can you if you have these objections of, we can’t implement that here, there’s these constraints here from a technical perspective, from a, just a hosting are set up. There’s one thing of course to know about that, but there’s another thing. How can you actually learn about.

[00:09:48] Gary: Yeah. And those are, I think the, some of the building blocks I would say of leadership, and this is, these are even, I think, some building blocks just in, in being an effective statistician, is to understand as much as you can about the area the business, the science. that you’re supporting. So I think of it a lot of it just has to do with, o once you start collaborating with certain people understanding as much as you can about what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, the constraints that they face, their goals, their objectives, the challenges they face, what keeps them up at night, all those types of things.

Give you at least a basic understanding of some of the operational challenges and some of the constraints that, that they have to

[00:10:32] Alexander: deal with. I think you’re bringing up a very important point. It’s not about you, it’s about the other person. You need to understand what keeps him up at night, her up at night, what are their problems, not about what are your problems so I think.

if you want to influence someone, you need to see things from the Gisele perspective and so I think that is a first very important point because as long as you stick with all kind of your knowledge about statistics, your understanding of the situation. You can’t really move forward.

You need to, view the problem or the disease, the topics that you’re talking about from the other person’s perspective. .

[00:11:19] Gary: Yes. Maybe we can back up a little bit and I would say the first thing you need to do is to gain their trust. So one formula might be you need to deliver first, maybe what they’re asking for, to let them see your technical competence, but also to let them know that you’re trying to help them, ultimately you’re trying to help them.

So that’s one place to start is to just try to gain their. .

[00:11:45] Alexander: So how do I get that? How can I improve the trust with my colleagues, my cross-functional colleagues?

[00:11:51] Gary: Yeah, that’s a great, really good question. There’s, I’ve thought about this a lot. I’ve read about it quite a bit.

People will have different formulas for trust. And I think one simple one that, that I’ve adopted is it’s about the three Cs. One is competence, one is character, and one is caring. So in a sense, you need to demonstrate that you’re competent. Not that you know everything, but enough to be able to contribute to their project or their cause or their initiative.

Another is that you care and again, the example I gave by simply delivering, maybe first what they ask you to do, demonstrating that you’re a team player. Demonstrating that you want to help them achieve their goals, lets them know that you care. And then the third being character that’s a little bit harder to define, but I think there’s a, an ethical piece to it.

What are your values? What are your principles? Are you taking a legitimate approach? Are you authentic in who you are and how you’re doing things? And I think those three things, if you can demonstrate to people that you’re competent, that you have strong character, and that you care about what you’re doing, I think the trust will.

[00:13:04] Alexander: Okay let’s dive a little bit deeper into these three Cs of competence, character, and caring that I like actually, very much so in terms of competence. We are all hired by the organization to actually do the job. So aren’t we just by default competent. . I

[00:13:20] Gary: think there, yeah, there’s some assumption that you are, but I think in some ways that still has to be demonstrated and it may not just be technical competence, but it may be you’re competent enough to be able to interact with others, to understand the problem that the team is trying to.

That you understand, at least at some level, the challenges that they face. I think it’s not just our statistical competence, but I would say just a technical type of competence that we can understand enough about the problem, the challenge the initiative, the goals that people are convinced that we can be a valued contributor to

[00:14:03] Alexander: the.

Yeah. My experience in terms of this competence is, it’s very much okay, where do I get competence from, when I worked with with someone, how do I know whether that person’s competence? And of course there’s you, you look into, what do people.

Tele about this person. What do my colleagues tele about? That person, have say had a great, experience with me helping them. What is. Do you have a track record there? Is it, what is your supervisor talking about? How are you introduced? By whom are you introduced?

So all these kind of different things can actually help to. Show to the other persons that you’re actually competent is my perception.

[00:14:47] Gary: What do you think? Yeah, in some ways it’s a reputation or a brand. Certainly your past experiences, I think help define your competence. So it’s a really good point and that everything you do becomes part.

Of your reputation and establishes your credibility. And I think that’s a big part of this is do you have a demonstrated track record of being technically sound contributing to projects, those types of things.

[00:15:17] Alexander: So let’s go to the second part. The carings that we talked about.

You, you mentioned kind. Said it’s important to understand, say their goals and set you take care of that. So how do I actually find out about the goals of see as a person?

[00:15:36] Gary: Yeah, I think that’s the part of, when you’re working with whether it’s an individual or a team, to first understand the goals of the individual, the goals of the.

So I, I think actually there, there’s another C that can come into play here, which I think is important, may even lend itself to additional trust. And that’s curiosity. So showing a curiosity about, okay, what are the objectives of the team? What is it that you’re working on? How is this going to make a difference in the goals of the greater organization?

And then getting into specific details as. How does that work scientifically? What’s the process behind that? What’s the process from a business standpoint, showing interest in those things that they’re doing, how they’re doing them. I think all that lends itself to that understanding and that sort of initial demonstration of caring about.

What the goals of the individual or the team are. The flip side of that is if you come in to a team and don’t demonstrate that sort of level of curiosity or wanting to understand everything and want to initially or immediately impart your ideas of how to do something better. That’s, I would say the opposite of caring.

That’s more wanting to maybe place your own interests or goals above the team. So you can think of it that way too as what not to do.

[00:17:02] Alexander: Yeah, I think we probably have all been in these situations where, you, you have been, working on some project and since there’s a new person coming into the team and, says, oh, we need to do things completely different now and we need to do this since this, and I know better because, I have done that before and all these kind of things.

You probably run into problems if you act like that Exactly what you mentioned is missing. It’s this caring part. Yeah. So I think the, and for me, where’s where I, where it’s really important is listening to the discussion about Where are the pain points of the different people, is it, let’s say, are most concerned regarding timelines as are most concerned about, worlds that, make it more complex for them?

Is it, are they concerned that it will cost more? Is it concerns that’s say, can’t maybe explain it to their peers? If you come up with this, super complex method to do something, Are there concerns that they need to then explain about it? And they don’t understand it so what are really the pain points of the different people and understanding, these kind of things and caring there in terms of understanding these and then helping them to how.

Your solution or your change that you want to have, how that actually helps them. So I think sets and then the other part,

[00:18:30] Gary: yeah, I think simply stated, and I think this is one of Covey’s seven rules is seek to understand then to be understood.

[00:18:38] Alexander: Yep. Covey is a really great resource.

So if you haven’t read any of his books since, and I would strongly recommend them, great resource for learning about leadership and these kind of things in terms of character. Can you expand a little bit more about, about.

[00:18:58] Gary: Yeah, that’s a tough one actually. Someone described it as not what you do or how you do it when people are watching, but what you do and how you do it when people aren’t watching.

I guess I’d like to think of character, as I said, as having some level of principles. Ethics, maybe doing things the right way, doing things consistently. In terms of your temperament your practices, a lot of those types of things that, that’s something where it’s a word that I still struggle to, to give a definition to.

And it’s one of the things I’m trying to of find maybe a good reference or a good way of describing it. But that’s about the best I can do,

[00:19:41] Alexander: so I’m just thinking about a person that has a lot of competence, knows exactly what he’s talking about, obviously has lots of expertise and these kind of things.

And I even maybe gets the feelings that he cares about my goals and these kind of things. , but there’s problems with his character. So I don’t see that he’s, he plays a fair game, he maybe cheats or maybe, has been, I get the sense that, there’s maybe some hidden agenda or see this kind of things going on.

Then, he could be, the most competent person and look very caring. I still wouldn’t trust. So I think that’s why, this character is important because it if that is missing, people still, by definition will not trust you because you’re not, people can’t believe that you know what you will actually tell them or promise them you’ll hold to.

[00:20:41] Gary: Yeah. As you were talking, so a couple other, I guess words came to mind to me of integrity. , humility and maybe even personal accountability. Does that person, when they say they’re gonna do something, do they do it, do they hold themselves accountable to doing it?

Are they willing to take blame when they’re at fault and when they do something well, do they basically, Give the credit to others or do they take it themselves? So I think those are a lot of the types of things that lend themselves to someone of a strong character. Yeah. I,

[00:21:14] Alexander: And I think we have all been in these kind of situations where, we worked with someone and at the end of the project, Maybe something went south or the complete project went south and then, says the finger pointing, starting and says, people talk about behind your back and these kind of things.

This is really where char character comes to light, in these kinds of situations. And if you, if people have a bad feeling about that aspect, so c then I think that limits the power very much. See, and of course, it’s the other way around as well, if that is, if you have seen that, Person takes a credit for team achievement, says also speaks to bad character.

Yeah. And these kind of things has nothing to do with competence. They have nothing to do with caring. They have to do with character. So that’s, I think why you need this cert C of competence, character, and caring in terms of, Improving these things? I think it’s pretty obvious how to improve competence.

I would guess It’s pretty difficult to improve character . How about the caring aspect? How can you improve that?

[00:22:26] Gary: Yeah, I think I’ve observed statisticians that have gotten better about caring and even character to some extent, cuz I, I think you can develop maybe a reputation of being. You may be more out for yourself or looking for the praise of the recognition, and you can turn that around.

You can start to, to be more of a team player. You can defer the recognition to others. You can really work in the best interest of the team. And by actions, I think you can change the way people think about your character in terms of caring. Again I think of a situation where maybe someone is not thought of as caring is someone that’s maybe part of a team that doesn’t come to the meetings consistently, that maybe is distracted while they’re at the meetings.

Someone who may be only delivers on part of their commitments. So in order to improve that, you can do just the opposite. You show that you’re dedicated to the team you’re focused and attenti. When working with the team or when working with individuals on the team, you make sure that you deliver on your commitments, that you’re seen as reliable and that you even would step up to do things that maybe aren’t your responsibility necessarily, that you do what it takes to keep the team moving forward.

I think those are all ways that you can improve how people look at you in terms of how much you.

[00:23:52] Alexander: Yeah. One of the other things as we talked about goals, I think is spending more time with CSR people to better understand their goals, better understand their backgrounds. , do they have, particular experiences, very good ones or very bad ones?

In previous projects or maybe, even outside of the job kind of challenges, how do they interfere with the job? Because of course we are not, working in isolation in the co in the companies we have. Everybody has a real life in the background.

Yeah. So understanding how this complete picture, I think is really important to make sure that Yeah, you can really take care of.

[00:24:36] Gary: Yeah, I I think you raised a good point cuz it makes me think of we’re talking about, I think these things in the context of a technical contributor, but if you think of someone in a supervisory role, They need to gain the trust of the employees that are porting to them.

And you use the same type of, I think, approach in terms of the competence, the character and the caring piece of it. I think some of the things you were saying hits right at that, showing a genuine interest in what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and showing an interest in things outside of work.

If you think, again, in terms of opposites, , the person that, that you sit down with and they want to tell you all that they’re doing, but don’t really seem to take an interest in what you’re doing or how you’re feeling, or how things are going for you, or what your interest might be, that’s the person that doesn’t care.

So I think you bring up a good point in terms of how you demonstrate to the team that you care. I talked about that, but in terms of how you demonstrate to individuals that you care, I think some of the things you mentioned are just the ways to do. in doing it in a genuine way. .

[00:25:44] Alexander: Yeah.

As you talk about Kenneth, his, how the supervisor can gain trust by, from his teams, that reports to him. I think it’s also the other way around, see how you can get trust from your supervisor. I think it’s also very important and in building this, Relationship with your supervisor because sometimes, influencing your supervisor is also a part of your job and leading your supervisor.

In a way, leading upward is sometimes also important, and not just leading side words and downwards. And the organizational

[00:26:17] Gary: hierarchy level. Yes, I would agree that the same way that your, the supervisor wants the employees to trust them. The employees want the supervisor to, to trust them.

And you, the same formula, I think works as you said

[00:26:31] Alexander: in terms of, building these relationships and buildings, the trust with the people. How do you actually know whom you need to invest Sarah in? Do you need to build trust with everybody?

[00:26:43] Gary: Ah, yes. That’s a, that’s another good question. I think with your team, I if I am in a management type role, I wanna gain the trust of everyone within my team, that team I, my reports, my organization, because that’s in a sense.

That, that helps me do my job for them. It helps me understand what motivates them and helps me meet their needs. In terms of a team like a multidisciplinary team, that’s a really good question. Ideally, yeah, you would like to gain the trust and you would like to invest in, in everyone, but. And I think that should be a goal, but they’re obviously going to be maybe some key players that maybe have more influence than others and are maybe.

Decision makers on the project or who are maybe what you might call more the core of the team. And you’d certainly wanna try to build relationships and invest in and gain trust in them first and foremost. But I would say you don’t do that at the expense of others. I think that’s a key thing is that you need to, maybe you need to especially build trust with.

Core people on the team, but you need to still treat everyone with

[00:27:58] Alexander: respect. I think it’s important. This typical things that comes to my mind is the, this test for news data in the company that first interacts just with the a, just ask for a coffee or something like this before he enters into the room to have the actual interview.

I think, of course you wanna. For foremost a relationship with a person that is interviewing you, but you still can be, build also a relationship with the A that, said, just ask you whether you want to have a coffee. So I think, that is, this kind of relationships are important, but as you said, you.

If you wanna invest more, I think focusing first on, so set, obviously you have a more influence set are that you very work regularly with set is the most important thing in terms of. Building these relationships. How can I actually sense whether there’s a good relationship ? Is it just my gut feeling or is there some, how do I get

[00:29:06] Gary: that?

Yeah. I th I think based on my experience, it’s. Gut feel, awareness, observations. Sometimes people will come out and just say things that make it clear to you. But some telltale signs. I would try to maybe meet and build relationships with certain people, and you might schedule like a 45 minute meeting and.

If it’s a person that maybe you’re asking questions and they don’t really want to engage in the discussion, they don’t really want to have a discussion. Their answers are short and quick, and you just get this feeling like they’re wanting the meeting to be over. They wanna move on to their next, whether it’s their next meeting or their next task.

Some of those things you can pick up, I think, pretty quickly that the person doesn’t want to build that relationship with you or that they. . They don’t wanna they don’t want you to gain their trust. And I think there are gonna be those types of people that are out there. But there you will find plenty of people who, who do want to, they want to engage with you.

They understand the importance of you as a member on the team. They’re willing to share their expertise, they’re willing to answer your questions, and then they want to do the same for you. They want to understand who you are. They might have questions that you need to answer for them, but I think it, it’s, there is some, it’s the.

Reading the body language, taking sort of some of those little hints and cues and gut feel that this person maybe they don’t want to invest the time in a relationship and that’s okay.

[00:30:37] Alexander: Okay. Very good. Thanks so much for this episode where we talked a lot about how to build, a relationship and because that is a foundation to influence other people, we talked about.

Influence and how that relates to power. And very much, we talked about the trust as a foundation of all these kind of things and the how you can build trust and you mentioned competence, character, and caring and the curiosity to find out. And ways to improve trust. And I think we also, mentioned about trust-building relationships can go in all different directions.

Of course, with your supervisor, of course with your team if you have direct reports, but very much also in your day-to-day interactions and your cross-functional teams. And to with that, I think laid another foundation. Where we can, in the next episode actually talk about more kind of skills that we can need to develop in order to build on this relationship, build on this power on these trust relationships, and actually get things done.

Because trust building, trust is a foundation. Understanding what leadership is a foundation, and this next. And we’ll talk about what are the different skill sets that are important. Thanks so much, Gary, for this interview. It was very nice to talk to you again.

Please check out the free resources that we have about leadership and other things on the Effective Statistician homepage. Look for the free library where you can learn much, much more. Lots of things to boost your career as a statistician. This show was created in association with PSI. Thanks to Reine and her team at VVS will help with the show in the background.

And thank you for listening. Reach your potential, lead great science, and serve patients. Just be an effective statistician.

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