In this podcast episode, we discuss an important part of leadership – proactive behaviour. Or simply put – drive!

As a statistician, you’re day-to-day approach about this topic will build up to long-term success.

We discuss various aspects of drive including:

  • how it relates to your goals,
  • what it takes to think strategically,
  • which role innovation has here,
  • what practical steps to take to drive teams forward,
  • which knowledge to acquire to lead teams successfully,
  • how this relates to influencing,
  • and how your attitude will play a big role in this.


As a statistician – do you take the back seat or do you drive yourself?

Welcome to the Effective Statistician with Alexander Schacht and Benjamin Piske. The weekly podcast for statisticians in the health sector designed to improve your leadership skills, widen your business acumen and enhance your efficiency. In today’s episode number 15 we’ll talk about as a statistician. Do you take the backseat or do you drive yourself?

This podcast is sponsored by PSI, a global membership organization dedicated to leading and promoting best practice and industry initiatives for statisticians. Learn more about upcoming events at

Welcome to another episode of the Effective Statistician. I’m here with Benjamin Piesk, my co-host, and I’m Alexander Schacht. Welcome. Today we will talk about drive. And actually, I was reading an article by Michael Hyatt just the other day about five marks of authentic leadership.

And the second mark was demonstrate initiative. And that is exactly what we want to talk about today, how to drive things as statisticians.

I think the first point is, if you want to drive things, you need to be clear about in which direction you want to drive things. I think the first thing to be really clear about is the goals. Absolutely. I mean, it’s as if you drive a car. You should be quite certain about where to go. So otherwise…

So how can you be if you don’t know your goal? You shouldn’t drive the car. Yeah, and actually the car is a very very nice picture for that because you will usually Check your direction quite frequently You need to check your direction. Yeah. Mm-hmm. I think some things that we are not regularly mostly doing is Checking our codes. I think there’s a

That’s a widespread bad habit to create goals at the beginning of the year, file it in the HR folder, forget about it for half a year, then maybe check about it once. Oh, I wanted to go in this direction. Then have a short discussion with the supervisor, file it again, and be surprised about where you end up end of the year.

And actually, this also goes back to the supervisor as well. It’s not only you as a statistician should be clear on where to go, but it’s also for a leader that you should drive not only your goals, but the goals for others as well. You need to know the directions and you need to give the directions.

and the goal should be clear to you, for you and your team. Yeah, and come really very, very often check on it. So Michael Hyatt actually recommends to check on it daily, every morning, first thing in the morning, kind of have a look at your goals. And I would miss my cup of coffee.

But you know, if you think about it, it makes actually a lot of sense because that way you can structure your day and have in mind what is really important and what is just a kind of nice other project and you know, maybe gets you sidetracked. Yeah, I agree because you know, we are not necessarily talking about a long term goal in this way. I mean, the goal is also short term. So you should be clear about.

basically what the goal of the day is, for example. If you have a meeting, if you plan something, then you should be clear about what is the goal for this meeting. The content wise it was quite confusing probably to say that you should check your annual goals every day again and again. I don’t think that is necessary. But for every day you have goals and that’s why it’s absolutely necessary to have a sense check every morning.

or quite often to be clear about what you would like to achieve, maybe in term, short term, even long term, but really for the day. I think it’s also very important because otherwise, if you are not clear about your goal, it’s very, very easy to be sidetracked by others.

and then actually work on someone else’s goals and not your own goals. Or that you just drift through the day and drift through the week, drift through the months and you end up somewhere where you never intentionally wanted to go to. But you find out that somebody else defined the goal for you. It’s the direction that somebody else shifted you towards.

If you don’t know where to go and what goals you have, then others will do that for you. This is not necessarily the same direction that you would like to go. Yeah. Also, if you have this clear goal in mind, this longer term goals, it helps you to think more strategically about things.

better say no to just nice opportunities and in order to say yes to the important things that help you drive forward. I think one thing is also to help getting there is to be clear about what the goal is. I think this is quite important because you say, well, usually you can say, well, I would like to have this done successfully.

What does it mean to achieve the goal? So what is the definition of success in the goal? I think this is also quite often missed. The point is often missed that people are happy that, you know, now everyone signed it. Yeah. Okay, that’s fine, but this can’t be the goal because the signature, you know, you have to…

create success by really achieving a predefined goal, which is a success. Yeah. I think very often, how does it feel like if you are successful? Yeah. So if you can visualize it, if you can verbalize it in a way that speaks to your feelings about it.

I think that is sometimes more helpful to understand how success should look like.

That will also help you to then understand how that fits into the bigger picture. And what are the other key stakeholders involved in the project that you need to work together with, possibly influence.

that things are going into the right direction. And just for the definition of the success or the goal, I think it is also important to, if you would like to drive somewhere and you just keep on driving towards a goal which is then at the end maybe successful but in a way where you say what you said about the feelings.

It doesn’t feel like success. For example, you’re creating an SAP and the signature of the SAP is your goal. Okay, you achieve it at some point, so you are successful. Does this give you a good feeling of being successful? Should the goal be the right SAP? So the right…

methodology or the right direction of where the ICP is going. It should be the excellence of the SAP. The impact that the SAP has, will that be a success? It’s not a signature for others maybe, but for me, I wouldn’t think that this is the right goal to set to really drive toward the goal. The goal should be the positive impact that

an excellent or the correct SAP has rather than the signature itself. Yeah, I think you need to be proud about it. Yeah, it needs to be a good feeling. You need to be positively looking back and saying, wow, I achieved it. I did it. Yeah, and I think if you know how that good looks like in the end, you can then kind of

bring it down into next tactical steps. So, for example, with having the SAP in mind, okay, what are the necessary parts in the SAP that I need to build together to make it really urgent? Yeah. So, it’s very concise, so that it’s easy to understand, easy to read.

said it’s clearly written, that the different stakeholders that need to work with it all have the same understanding, that it very well communicates what needs to be done. There are no contradictions in it, for example.

What I want to see in statisticians is that they then drive towards these kind of different things and say they have this inner drive to do the next step to move forward these things. That is, I think, what we are today speaking about.

the goals repeated every day. So this is really breaking it down into the next steps, into little pieces to really drive, for example, the meeting that is set for today about the SAP development or something. Actually, this meeting is a very, very nice topic. I think.

driving things forward is sometimes, you know, just this next step is organize the meeting. Yeah. Get it together and make sure you have the right people and only the right people in it. Drive things in setting a clear agenda for the meeting. Yeah. Or if someone else is organizing the meeting and says, you know, there’s no agenda, then drive this agenda. Yeah.

And be sure what the outcome of the meeting should be. Because seriously, if you go in the meeting without a goal, how should you drive a meeting if you don’t know where to go? So you have to really know what you want to get out of the meeting. Yep, absolutely. Absolutely. I think there’s no more waste of time than these.

pointless meetings that kind of drift on and drift on and drift on and you go around in circles and nobody takes actions and next steps and yeah, you had a nice coffee. What I want to see is that, you know, that drive in these meetings and that…

If no one takes the responsibility, the statistician is taking the responsibility and structures the meeting. Sometimes that is actually one of the benefits of having a very structural thinking approach that we as statisticians are trained at, that it also helps to structure such things like meetings.

Yeah, and also be active in the meeting give input and also ask questions because whoever asks the questions is giving the directions for the meeting. So it’s leading the meeting. Yeah, that’s actually a very, very funny thing. I always thought that those that have the answer is leading the meeting. No, it’s exactly like you say.

the person asking the question is leading the meeting. Another important thing is making sure about the minutes. And I really like capturing minutes because that gives the person that is capturing the minutes lots of additional power in terms of how to phrase it

make it very precise and not so fluffy and also make sure that action steps are clearly defined who is doing what by when.

And what was discussed, these kind of things can be really, really critical, especially in if your company or if your organization has a tendency to have lots of hallway discussions after meetings. Having this clear minutes helps tremendously to make sure, OK, this was the agreed thing. And

If you want to do something different, then yeah, you first need to explain why you want to do it differently.

Yeah, I hate taking the minutes. But I agree. It’s, it’s, it’s additional power. So you can really get out the, you know, you can phrase it in the way that you would like to, or you understood it and the, you know, and also as you said, the, I think important is the

the actions because the follow up of the meeting and the points that you would like to take out of the meetings or give others to delegate to others. So that’s very important. Another important thing in terms of driving things is actually if you have good process knowledge, if you have good tribe knowledge in terms of how to get things done, that helps you.

tremendously to lead and to structure things. If you know why, for example, certain things need to be done before other things, and you can explain this to others, that helps you tremendously to lead projects and to lead teams, and to drive things forward in the most effective way.

These people are usually the natural leaders of a team because people listen to them and they ask them first if they have the answer. That’s true. This might sometimes not be the approach or the nature of anyone to really be this type of person who is always explaining and giving and leading. But just recapturing the importance.

is here not about how you… It’s really about the tasks that you as a statistician have. So this is really… We have to get away from the uncomfortable feeling of, let’s say, presenting something or leading something. The knowledge that you as a statistician are bringing in anyway. You just have to structure it correctly.

You have to perform, you have to just define you and drive towards your goals that you would like to do as a statistician anyway. So this is not the I present openly in a meeting or anything. So that’s why present or provide to the team what you know.

over time, this will naturally, you will naturally lead the team because they will they will listen because they understand that you understood it that you are saying the correct thing to drive. Yeah, and you can structure things in a way so that people other people can understand it. Yeah, yeah. And so

I think there’s one side note to the benefits of being a statistician is that we are in our research projects.

Very few are only in this position starting from, we are involved in the start up to the final end. There’s lots of other functions working in these research projects that get involved far later and the dropout of the projects far earlier. And having this complete structure in mind helps tremendously.

and having this end in mind and knowing why we need to do certain things in a certain way and in a certain order.

And there might be difference to CRO statisticians, by the way, because this is obviously not necessarily the case that they are involved from the very beginning and also not until the very end. But anyway, the thinking is the same because there is usually like a handover, a cooperation together with the statistician from the pharmaceutical side. And it doesn’t change the mindset.

doesn’t change the need for the statistician to really take the facts or take the input then from the pharmaceutical statistician then from the very beginning, lead it over until handing it over back to the pharmaceutical company or even longer for submission for example.

So it doesn’t change the mindset even though we are not, from the CRO side, not necessarily involved directly from the very early beginning until the very late end. Yeah, but I think that depends probably from project to project. So if you’re working with someone with a company that has no statistician, very, very small company, and you basically serve as the statistical department for this company.

you’re maybe much more involved. Absolutely. It’s really the setting that is case by case is different. In terms of especially driving things forward together with other people, for me, prerequisite for this is that you’re also actively listening to what are the goals and needs of the others to help.

create win-win situations and then drive in these directions because that helps you to actually get faster to your point. It’s very interesting. Lots of different functions have very, very different goals. Some are…

purely measured on timelines. Some are really, really interested in peer recognition, maybe through authorship or things like this. Probably everybody is concerned about what helps them with their next promotion. Having these kind of different things in mind helps also a lot to drive these things, projects forward.

Yeah, we even experience sometimes that the goals are not necessarily in the same direction. So it’s kind of opposite. So that might makes it a little bit different sometimes. But no, I fully agree. So it’s, I mean, just going back to the example of the, you know, of the car from the very beginning. So if you drive on a bumpy road where everyone is just, you know, trying to avoid things moving forward because it’s going in the wrong direction for them, that’s not a good situation to work together in the team and drive things forward. So

You need to align and you need to be actively working together with the team and their goals. Especially if they’re from other departments, I fully agree saying that the goals might be completely different to what you know as your goals. But being with the still in the picture with the car, I think you might not be kind of in the driving seat for the car, but still giving input and direction.

is really, really important. And just don’t kind of accept that people go in the wrong direction and say, well, I said it differently. Really drive things so that everybody gets into the right place at the right time. Absolutely. Be in charge of the navigation system.

One of the benefits to be such a driver in projects, I learned that it actually opens doors. For me, as a statistician in my career, I learned that if these type of people that have this drive get further opportunities.

that is recognized and they get easier seat at a table. They get, they’re not sidelined when the important discussions happen. They’re pulled in when the important discussions happen. And very often, because people want to hear their thoughts. And…

Well, just because they drive things, they’re naturally much more often actually present when the important discussions are happening. I think from that perspective, it’s really, really important to be a driver as a statistician because otherwise, the probability that you get sidelined is far bigger.

No, I agree. And especially with what you described about how, you know, when I look back or when everyone probably looks back and just looks at the people that you would like to consult for a decision. So who are you inviting for this consultation? These are the people that drive things. They really, you know, that have their, you know, that are the drivers. No, fully agree.

other functions will recognize us and will therefore include you naturally. Then you don’t need to plea that you get involved. You’re asked to be involved and that’s a much nicer position to be in. Absolutely. No, that was a very, very nice discussion about…

drive as a statistician and we started with a picture of the car and we ended with a picture of the car. Excellent. Thanks a lot. Thanks a lot for listening. Thanks a lot, Alexander, and talk to you next week. Talk to you next week. Bye.

We thank PSI for sponsoring this show. Thanks for listening. Please visit thee to find the show notes and learn more about our podcast to boost your career as a statistician in the health sector. If you enjoyed the show, please tell your colleagues about it.

Join The Effective Statistician LinkedIn group

I want to help the community of statisticians, data scientists, programmers and other quantitative scientists to be more influential, innovative, and effective. I believe that as a community we can help our research, our regulatory and payer systems, and ultimately physicians and patients take better decisions based on better evidence.

I work to achieve a future in which everyone can access the right evidence in the right format at the right time to make sound decisions.

When my kids are sick, I want to have good evidence to discuss with the physician about the different therapy choices.

When my mother is sick, I want her to understand the evidence and being able to understand it.

When I get sick, I want to find evidence that I can trust and that helps me to have meaningful discussions with my healthcare professionals.

I want to live in a world, where the media reports correctly about medical evidence and in which society distinguishes between fake evidence and real evidence.

Let’s work together to achieve this.