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 but speak about specificexamples including negotiations.

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

Gary Sullivan

I worked in and around the field of statistical science in both technical (13 years) and management roles (15 years) for Eli Lilly and Company, a major pharmaceutical manufacturer in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Couple this experience with my leadership study – almost 10 years creating, implementing and instructing leadership programs. The result is a perspective from all sides: the employee, the manager and the leadership expert.

This allows me to understand what will be helpful and insightful to any person or group seeking to improve their leadership.


Why should statisticians care about leadership and developing their leadership skills? Interview with Gary Sullivan

You are listening to episode number 42 of the Effective Statistician Podcast. Understanding leadership deeply, trust, relationship and influence for statisticians.

Welcome to the Effective Statistician with Alexander Schacht and Benjamin Bieske. The weekly podcast for statisticians in the health sector designed to improve your leadership skills, widen your business acumen and enhance your efficiency. Today we talk about building trust, strengthening your work relationships and get influence to drive positive change.

Do you want to improve your leadership skills? Then we have something really nice and special for you.

we will have a webinar to train your leadership skills. And this webinar will be done three times through the beginning of the year in January and at the beginning of February. Just go to the effe and you will find all that you need to register for this webinar. So just remember the effe and register here.

interest for this webinar directly there and you’ll get all the other information there as well. In today’s episode we will talk exactly about leadership. We will talk about what is actually relationship power. How does trust play into that? Is influence the same as power? How are different?

What are the different elements of trust and how can we improve trust? What are ways to build relationships? All these kind of different things we will talk about with examples for statisticians how you can improve that in your day to day life. This podcast is created in association with PSI, a global member organization dedicated to

leading and promoting best practice and industry initiatives. Join PSI today to further develop your statistical capabilities with access to special interest groups, the video on demand content library, free registration to all PSI webinars and much much more. Visit the PSI website today at and become a PSI member.

Hello, another episode of the Effective Statistician. And this time it’s another episode also with Gary Sullivan. Hi, how are you doing, Gary? Hi, Alexander, doing great today. Okay, we’ll talk again about leadership. So what have you been up to in terms of leadership recently? Yeah, so…

I think I mentioned that I worked for Eli Lilling 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.

What are your typical kind of clients? What is your ideal customer, so to say? Oh, 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 sort of 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, very nice. So leadership is really kind of the day-to-day activities that you’re now.

now that you have retired from Lilly. But of course, you have been very, 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 learned so much about what’s

leadership is and what the definition of leadership is and these kind of things. 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.

what it means if you don’t develop them. So please go back, just scroll back in 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 that you so nicely crafted.

Yes, so the way we define leadership, and there are different ways to define leadership, but 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 otherwise. Okay. So it’s really about…

influencing others and in terms of influencing others, there’s very often this connotation with how can you actually influence others? Can we put that into something different concept? Is it influence power?

or is influence something different? Yeah, the word power is an interesting word because when you talk about leadership, by being 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 going back to your question of how do we influence, in a sense, I think influence in itself with its meaning 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, I mean, that’s sort of a multifaceted thing and it’s something that we can certainly get into. It’s not about this, let’s say, typical role power set, you know, because you are the boss, you control the money, you control other resources. So you have the power to kind of…

influencing why is that? There’s one 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

this special knowledge that we have? Yes, I think that’s always part of it. So certainly, our technical knowledge or technical competence is important and influencing. It’s important in if in no other ways, just having the technical know how to implement

or execute a certain type of statistical method. You know, if you’re trying to convince someone to use a Bayesian approach, having a technical understanding of Bayesian 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, those are the places where we can get frustrated or get into trouble. So can you give an example how such a conversation would look like if someone just kind of relies on the technical arguments for, let’s say, using a Bayesian approach?

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 experiment in the bio-

medical or a bio research type situation. So in 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, well, I want to design an experiment to optimize

you know, two different factors and we’ll do it with 12 experiments. Well, someone could look at me and say, well, that’s, 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 or 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, you know, 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.

So how can you kind of, if you have these objections of, we can’t implement that here, there’s these constraints here from a technical perspective from just a whole thing so set up.

There’s one thing of course to know about that, but there’s another thing, how can you actually learn about it?

Yeah, and those are, I think, some of the building blocks, I would say, of leadership. And these are even, I think, some building blocks just 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…

You know, 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 they have to deal with.

I think you’re bringing up a very, very important point. It’s not about you. It’s about the other person. You need to understand what keeps him up at night or her up at night. What are their problems, not about what are your problems. I think if you want to influence someone, you need to see things from their perspective.

I think that is the first, first very, very important point because as long as you stick with all your knowledge about statistics, your understanding of the situation, you can’t really move forward. You need to view the problem or the topics that you are talking about.

from the other person’s perspective? Yes, I mean, 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. That’s one place to start, is to just try to gain their trust. How do I get that? How can I improve the trust with my colleagues, my cross-functional colleagues? Yeah, that’s a really good question. I’ve thought about this a lot. I’ve read about it quite a bit.

people will sort of have different formulas for trust. And I think one sort of simple one 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 you know enough to be able to.

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…

And then the third being character, that’s a little bit harder to define. But I think there’s sort of 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 follow. 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, well…

we are all hired by the organization to actually do the job. So aren’t we just by default competent? I 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, to be able to interact with others to understand

the problem that the team is trying to address, that you understand at least at some level the challenges that they face. So 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 the team. My experience in terms of this competence is very much kind of, okay, where do I get kind of competence from? When I work with someone, how do I know whether that person has competence?

And of course, there’s kind of, you know, you look into, you know, what do people tell about this person? You know, what do my colleagues tell about that person? You know, they had a great, you know, experience with me helping them. What is, you know, do you have a track record sale? You know,

Is it, you know, what is your supervisor talking about? You know, 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. It’s my perception. Yeah, in some ways it’s a reputation or a brand. Certainly, you add your past experiences, I think help define

your competence. So it’s a really good point in that, you know, everything you do becomes part of your reputation and sort of 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.

Yeah. So let’s go to the second part, the caring that we talked about. You mentioned kind of that it’s important to kind of understand their goals and that you take care of that. So how do I actually find out about the goals of the other person? Yeah, I think that’s the part of

you know, 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 team. So I think actually there’s another C that can come into play here, which I think is important. And it may even sort of 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 to, you know, how do you, how does that work scientifically? What’s the process behind that? What’s the process from a…

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 sort of 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 sort of that way too, is what not to do.

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

you probably run into problems if you act like that. So, so because, you know, exactly what you mentioned is missing. It’s this caring part. Yeah. So, so I think the, um, 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 that they are most concerned regarding timelines? Are they most concerned about, you know, will that, you know, make it more complex for them? Is it, are they concerned that it will cost more? You know, is it concerns that say, you know, 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 explain about it and they don’t understand it? What are really the pain points of the different people and understanding these 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 that’s the other part. Yeah, I think sort of simply stated, you know, and I think this is one of Covey’s seven rules, is seek to understand, then to be understood.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Covey is a really, really great resource. So if you haven’t read any of his books, then 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 that?

Yeah, that’s a tough one, actually. Someone sort of 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 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’s something where it’s a word that I still sort of struggle to give a definition to, and it’s one of the things I’m trying to.

to sort of find maybe a good reference or a good way of describing it. But that’s about the best I can do right now. 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 kinds of things. And I even maybe get the feeling 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 plays a fair game. He maybe cheats or maybe has been… I get the sense that there’s maybe some hidden agenda or these kind of things going on. Then…

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

you know, hold to. Yeah, as you were talking, so a couple other, I guess, words kind of came to mind to me of integrity, humility, and maybe even sort of personal accountability. Does that person, you know, when when they say they’re going to do something, do they 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 strong character.

Yeah, 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 there’s the finger pointing starting and there’s people talking behind your back and these kinds of things. This is really kind of where…

character comes to light in these kinds of situations. If people have a bad feeling about that aspect, this third C, then I think that limits the power very much. Of course, it’s the other way around as well. If you have seen that this person takes credit for team

that also speaks to bad character. And these kind of things have 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 third C of competence, character, and caring. In terms of

improving these things? Well, 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? Yeah, I think I’ve observed statisticians that have gotten better about caring and even character to some extent.

Um, cause I think you can, you can develop maybe a reputation of being, um, maybe more out for yourself or looking for, uh, the praise of the recognition and, um, you can turn that around. I mean, you can, you can start to be more of a team player. You can defer the recognition to others. Um, 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

is distracted while they’re at the meetings, someone who maybe 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 attentive 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 care.

Yeah, one of the other things as we talked about goals, I think, is spending more time with the other 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 their kind of outside of the job kind of challenges. You know, how do they kind of interfere with the job? Because of course we are not working in isolation in the companies. Everybody has a real life in the background. So understanding how this complete picture, I think, is really important.

make sure that you can really take care. I think you raise a good point because 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 reporting to them.

you use the same type of, I think, approach in terms of the competence, the character, and the caring. 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, 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 interests 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 that and doing it in a genuine way too. Yeah, yeah. I think as you talk about kind of this, you know, how the supervisor can gain trust from his teams that report to him, I think it’s also the other way around, you know, how you can get trust from your supervisor.

I think it’s also very, very important in building this relationship with your supervisor because sometimes influencing your supervisor is also part of your job and leading your supervisor. So in a way, leading upwards is sometimes also important and not just leading sidewards and downwards in the organizational hierarchy level.

Yes, I would agree that the same way that the supervisor wants the employees to trust them, the employees want the supervisor to trust them. The same formula, I think, works, as you said.

Okay. In terms of, you know, building these relationships and building the trust with the people.

How do you actually know whom you need to invest therein?

Do you need to build trust with everybody? Ah, yes, that’s another good question. I think with your team, I mean, if I’m in a management type role, I want to gain the trust of everyone within my team, that team, my reports, my organization, because that’s in a sense 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 everyone, but, and I think that should be a goal, but there are 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 sort of more the core of the team. And you’d certainly wanna try to build relationships and invest and gain trust in them first and foremost. But I would say you don’t do that at the expense of

of others. I think that’s a key thing is that you need to, maybe you need to especially build trust with some core people on the team, but you need to still treat everyone with respect.

Yeah, I think it’s important. The typical thing that comes to my mind is this test for a new starter in a company that first interacts just with the AA, 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 want to build a relationship with a person that is interviewing you, but you still can build also a relationship with the AA that just asks you whether you want to have a coffee. I think that these kind of relationships are important.

But as you said, if you want to invest more, I think focusing first on those that obviously have more influence, that you very work regularly with, that 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, you know, how do I get that? Yeah, I think based on on my experience, it’s, I think it’s gut feel, awareness, observations. Sometimes, sometimes people will come out and, and just say things that make it clear to you. But

I mean, 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.

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. I mean, 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 don’t wanna, they don’t want you to gain their trust or they don’t wanna gain your trust.

And I think there are going to be those types of people that are out there. But there you will find plenty of people 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’s, I mean, there’s some, it’s sort of the, you know, 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.

Yeah. Okay, very good. So thanks so much for this episode where we talked a lot about how to build a relationship 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…

that trust is the foundation of all these kind of things and how you can build trust. And you mentioned competence, character, and caring, and the curiosity to find out ways to improve trust. And I think we also mentioned about that trust building relationships can go into 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. With that, I think we laid another foundation where we can, in the next episode, actually talk about more kind of skills sets that we can need to develop in order to

build on this relationship, build on these power, on these trust relationships and actually get things done. Because trust, building trust is a foundation, understanding what leadership is a foundation. And in the next episode, then we’ll talk about what are the different skill sets that are important. Thanks so much, Gary, for this interview. It was very, very nice to talk to you again. Thank you. I enjoyed it.

Stay tuned for next time. Bye! Don’t forget to sign up for the leadership webinar.

It’ll be awesome and you don’t want to miss out on this. The webinar is of course for free. Just sign up at thee slash webinar. The show was as always created in association with PSI and next week you’ll learn even more about leadership. So come back next week. Thanks for listening and have a great time.

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