#060: The People and Personality Side of Analytics

Do you want to know something about analysts? They’re people. And, not only are they people, but they work with people. And people have personalities. Even the hosts of this podcast have personalities. One of the hosts is introspective about the ramifications of those facts when it comes to his work. The other host gets so rattled by the topic that he uses the phrase “a lightbulb went off,” when the appropriate idiom was actually “a lightbulb went on.” Can you guess which host is which? Give this episode a listen to find out!

Books, People, and Frameworks Referenced in This Episode


Episode Transcript


00:28 Tim Wilson: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Digital Analytics Power Hour. This is Episode 60.

00:35 TW: Now, for those of you who’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, you may be thinking, “Hey, wait a minute, that guy doesn’t sound like Michael Helbling, that sounds like Tim Wilson opening the show. What happened to Michael? Is he okay?” Well, don’t worry your pretty little heads, dear listener. Michael Helbling, Analytics Practice Lead at Search Discovery is right here. Hi, Michael.

01:00 Michael Helbling: Hi, Tim.


01:03 TW: Now, I’m Tim Wilson, Senior Partner at Analytics Demystified. More importantly for this episode though is that I’m Type A, and I’m an ENTP on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. And I had to look that up, because I don’t have much patience for talking about this people and personality shit, but I’m sure if we looked at my StrengthsFinder assessment we’d also find that I’m the kind of guy who is sufficiently inquisitive to figure it was worth digging into the topic just a bit more. And I saw somebody give a pretty awesome talk, well at least, I stayed awake for the whole thing, on the topic at SUPERWEEK earlier this year. That someone was none other than the highly emotionally-intelligent Michael Helbling. So I proposed that he be our guest this week, and as such I’d take over as the moderator. Michael didn’t think that was a very good idea, but emotionally intelligent as he is, he read the situation, thought about my personality, thought about my needs, and decided that the best thing to do for us to maintain a positive podcast working relationship was to roll over and let me have the moderator seat. So that’s what we’ve done. Does that just about sum it up, Michael?

02:09 MH: Yeah. Really, my greatest fear here is that you will so dramatically outperform me that the listeners will rise up and revolt, and just demand…


02:21 TW: I doubt it.

02:23 MH: No, no, then, you could just leave the intelligent off, just the highly-emotional Michael Helbling.

02:29 TW: No, no. See, I feel like I’ve got the emotional nailed down. I can pitch a fit like the best of ’em.

02:32 MH: I can be emotional.


02:37 TW: Whether that’s an intelligent matter, who knows? But…

02:41 MH: It is sort of a strange thing to cover in the context of analytics, but that’s what we do, is cover strange things.

02:49 TW: Well, except I think it was interesting from a… See, look, I’m already dropping in the interesting. I have picked up the Michael Helbling verbal tics like nobody’s business.

03:00 MH: Proximity.

03:00 TW: I was somewhat struck, and we had talked about this before SUPERWEEK, that you felt like in some ways your topic was not a typical topic for what you were covering there, ’cause there weren’t, “Here’s how to use IFTTT. Here’s how to hook stuff up to R. Here’s how to do crazy things with Google,” and I thought, “Well yeah, you’re probably gonna fall flat on your face.” No, I actually thought it was gonna be a good topic and you didn’t disappoint. And then I heard a lot of feedback, people were saying that it actually did make them think. So other people apparently, it mattered to them. I still think it was a… Whatever, but just do your damn job.


03:44 MH: That could work. When you look at situational leadership or adaptive leadership, telling somebody like that, that could be the ideal thing to tell somebody.

03:55 TW: Well, to tell certain people. Other people though, it would send them right to the job board, right?

04:00 MH: That would send me home to cry myself to sleep.

04:04 TW: Yeah. So why don’t you maybe set that up? We’ve learned, if nothing else, that even as a moderator I can be long-winded, even when it’s a semi pre-scripted opener. But why does this topic matter? I don’t know if the softer side is the way to say it, but more like thinking about people and personalities.

04:25 MH: Yeah. No, it’s really interesting, Tim, because in essence, about four years ago my job shifted in the world of analytics, in that I was no longer doing analytics, digital analytics, which is sort of what I’ve done professionally for many years and what I love, but now was actually in a position where I was leading analytics, and leading the people doing analytics, and so that shift got me thinking a lot about “How do I effectively do that and what is it?” And of course, I’m a big… What’s the right word? I do a lot of looking back. I think about all kinds of stuff, and I think about my career. I think about what worked or what didn’t work? “Why I was successful here? What was unsuccessful about this interaction?” And so…

05:13 TW: You were managing a small team prior, right?

05:16 MH: Yeah, but not in the same…

05:18 TW: You were a manager analyst, I guess?

05:20 MH: Yeah, and my primary job was still kind of client-facing and those kinds of things, and then you had reporting responsibilities, but it wasn’t as direct, and then taking over the operational side of the business as well, sort of just all… The whole thing, from soup to nuts, owning the P&L and the hiring and all those kinds of things. And you start basically to realize one day, “Oh, I’m not actually a digital analyst per se.” And it certainly even comes out on the show. I think to me, Tim, you are kind of the quintessential analyst, you kind of embody everything that I see as a really great analyst; you’re always learning new things.

06:02 TW: Socially awkward? [chuckle]

06:03 MH: Well, you’re over there trying those shoes on, I’m not gonna…


06:09 MH: No, I’m just kidding. No, it’s why we get along so well, ’cause I’m socially awkward, too. But, what I was starting to look at was, “Hey, I still have an analyst mentality or I still have a sense of, I wanna get better and I wanna make things work better than the way they’ve worked in the past.” And so all through the last few years I’ve been thinking about that and thinking about, “What is it that makes me more effective, less effective? Where am I improving? Where am I not seeing improvement?” So basically, I took my analyst skill set and I started applying it to where I was, as now this other person and doing this kind of work. And it was interesting ’cause there was a lot of different of points in the road that were like big moments, I guess. And I think it’s probably just a caveat, this whole thing, I am not a specialist or knowledgeable person in the field of… Well, in the field of analytics. No.


07:15 MH: In the field of psychology or personality, or any of those things. So I’ve cobbled together…

07:24 TW: But there are very few analysts I think who are. There are some who come from a psychology background, but yeah.

07:30 MH: Yeah. But there’s some people who definitely can play in this space with even more authority, and I think the only thing that’s potentially interesting or unique about me is that I’m directly relating it back to digital analytics and how I felt as an analyst and how I see people responding as analysts and those kinds of things. But it came back to, a lot of people have this idea of conflict happening on a meta level of the analytics person is going into the organization and they’re there to break down the hierarchy or the problems, the calcification. They’re a change agent, which is a… I’ve even described myself that way. John Lovett did a really amazing talk a few years ago, where he described that mentality of the analyst, which I think is appropriate, that kind of concept… And it’s interesting that we view ourselves… And actually, the whole concept of the HiPPO, where it’s a antagonistic relationship between the analyst and the person who judges things from their gut and uses their intuition instead of data, and just little pieces along the way. Actually, weirdly enough, a Radiolab episode, many years ago, that my good friend, Stu Schilling, told me about, where they studied people who made decisions when they had limited… When they had brain injuries that limited their ability to apply emotion to a situation, and they basically became paralyzed by the choices.

09:10 MH: And I was like, “That is interesting, because as an analyst knowing how people decide things is really fundamental to that last mile of digital, of analytics, of getting people to believe in my idea.” And there’s been lots of books, Chip and Dan Heath wrote the book ‘Switch’, which I really loved a long time ago. And to a certain extent people like Malcolm Gladwell with ‘Tipping Point’, those kinds of… And again, you can tell what kinds of books I read, just like the pop-business books, the in-depth business books I just can’t… I try, but I’m not good at it. But anyways, all of that just coalescing into a point of view of like, “Wait a second, what if I can take my analyst mentality and apply it to the soft skills, and is that something that only I can do, or is that something that any analyst could do?” And that just engendered this whole line of thinking. And I honestly am not in a place where I can be like, “Ah, if you follow my five-step program.” But watch this space ’cause if I figure out some cool little methodology I’ll definitely write an ebook for $39.99.


10:26 TW: How much of is this for you trying to figure this out?

10:31 MH: Oh, this is all journey of self-discovery stuff.

10:34 TW: But there seems like there’s part of it that is, “How do I, as a manager of analysts, manage analysts more effectively?” And then there’s a part of it, that hopefully is coaching and mentoring that’s happening, that, “How do I as a manager of analysts as well as the analysts that are working with me work more effectively with the business?” ‘Cause this stuff all falls into both of those, but which one are you focusing on more, or is it two sides of the same coin?

11:04 MH: Well I think that it’s two sides of the same coin, because if you learn to solve the problem with one you’re learning how to solve it with another. ‘Cause in reality, if we reduce it down a little bit, we’re all just talking about interpersonal communication, conflicts, managing your own emotions, and that’s if you just find emotional intelligence. It’s just recognizing your own emotions, being able to tell other people’s emotions, making sure you’re actually calling them the right things, and then using the right reactions and responses in that environment.

11:38 TW: Some of us just call that maturity and then market off and then move on down the road.

11:43 MH: And actually that’s what they’ve observed is as you grow and get older, your emotional intelligence typically will increase a little bit.

11:50 TW: I think I might have plateaued at like 23, but…

11:53 MH: That’s the thing is, unless you’re very specifically going after it, it is something that is difficult. You have to specifically go after it, you’ve gotta have probably some help getting to figuring out exactly what they are, the right emotions, but that can lead to growth. But I think that’s the thing that I really like about it, is it’s not like IQ. It’s not static, there’s actually an ability to move the needle on this. So in a lot of ways that feels like an optimization challenge to me. And if you think about, it comes from a purely selfish place, I’ll be honest with you, because I want to be good at what I do, and I wanna be the best at what I do. Not the best like Michael Phelps the best, but like… Well maybe Michael Phelps the best, but I do not have the willpower or commitment that he has.


12:53 MH: That guy is… Anyways.

12:55 TW: And your wife won’t let you smoke pot, so…

12:57 MH: Hey listen, we all have our moments. I’m not saying I…


13:03 TW: But let me… I keep wanting to make this a binary thing. Take something like Myers-Briggs. So I have gone through… I went through, back in business school, went through a day-long Myers-Briggs thing, where I thought I might actually drop out of business school, ’cause it was so fucking painful. And that was in an academic context, but then maybe a few years ago when I was working in a startup, there were only four of us there, and there did turn out to start being a lot of friction with one person, and this other person said, “You know what? We’ve got these Myers-Briggs experts… ” And I’m assuming most people are familiar with Myers-Briggs. It’s where you get your ENTPI, whatever. We won’t go into too much detail.

13:49 TW: So the four of us who were the entire company at the time, one other person had been hired, but I guess he hadn’t… He’s been there a lot longer than I was at this point. But we did the Myers-Briggs thing, and then we sat down for half a day and they went through it, and lo and behold, the three of us who had no issues whatsoever seemed very… We’re all kind of in the EN world. There were two ENTPs, one ENFJ, and then the guy that was just friction out the fucking yin-yang was a ISTJ, and they said, “A-ha! Look, we have identified because of this, there’s friction.” So I’m like, “Okay great, people have different personalities.” I still thought, “Well that guy’s kind of a dick. He’s kind of impossible to work with.”

14:32 TW: And we dug into my detailed stuff, when you do the half-day things, there was stuff that was completely way off base in various bullet points. And I’m like, “Well that doesn’t… Generally this describes me. Overall this stuff doesn’t describe me.” But on the one hand, I was like, “Great, that proves there’s a difference.” I get this idea that, that means now, I’m going through life, and I’m identifying people who are ISTJ or ISFJ and saying, “A-ha, I understand you’re coming from a different place.” I don’t know that I’m ever gonna be equipped to say, “I’m gonna fundamentally work with them differently.” I think I can get to a point where I say, “You know what? I don’t need to know the letters, I can just know that you operate a completely different way than I do.” And I guess that’s a very roundabout way to say, “How much is it of recognizing… ” Matt Gershoff made a comment actually after your… He’s actually made the comment a couple of times, and now we’ve gotten our token Matt Gershoff reference…

15:34 MH: Ding-ding-ding.

15:35 TW: About how a little light bulb went off where he was like, “Oh, Michael actually… ” A little light bulb went off about how other people just don’t think about some stuff the same way I think about things, and that was very helpful, and at that level that seems useful. Your stakeholders, other analysts… Other analysts are more likely to think the same way you do. The marketers you’re working with are not… And just understand that, and listen to what they’re saying, and listen between the lines. And then there’s the other level that is saying, “No, I’m gonna be an analyst, and I’m gonna analyze exactly where they’re coming from, and I’m gonna apply this StrengthsFinder or Myers-Briggs, or you pick your framework, and I’m really gonna try to come up with tactical things that I can do differently.” Is that on a spectrum, or is that… Does that make any sense as a question?

16:31 MH: Yeah. So I think it does. So if you break down sort of, “Okay, I wanna be effective at bringing my analysis and selling it into my organization,” and that’s a common… Anybody who listens to this show should be aware of that challenge, and has either hopefully had some successes and is aware of some failures, and maybe if you’re listening to this show and you’ve only had successes, you should contact us, we should have you on as a guest.


17:04 TW: Make you the moderator.

17:05 MH: Yeah, exactly.


17:08 MH: So, put one of us out to pasture now that Tim can do the intro. I don’t know.


17:13 MH: When you reflect back on those things, and actually that right there says something about my own personality is I do a lot of that reflection. I’m introspective like that just naturally. Some people aren’t that way. Some people’s personalities are not naturally that way. So when you look back on those things and you thought, “Well what was it? What dynamics were in play?” And it’s not just tactics, it’s also people. So the best data visualization combined with an analyst that nobody trusts will not win the day. And a terrible visualization presented by an analyst that has the confidence of the business will change people’s minds about what should be the next action.

18:00 MH: And I’m pro data visualization, just FYI, because you wanna give yourself every advantage, but there’s more to that process than just the data itself. And I think that’s what I started to learn over time, and that’s what got me interested in it. And the other thing that was happening is, my job is very challenging to me. I often describe the last few years of my job as being the most stretched I’ve ever been as a professional, and mostly because I’m not that great at a lot of things, so I’ve had to make a lot of decisions about what is it that I wouldn’t be willing to change in terms of my ability to adapt, my approach to the things I do, even my own personal style to be the best I could be for the people that are on my team? And I have this amazing opportunity to work with so many, frankly, smarter people than me, and so it challenges you to kind of, “Okay, what else?” And so, what I realized was over time I saw some things improving ’cause of effort, and some things were not improving because of… I don’t know, “challenges”. And so…

19:18 TW: Not to put you on the spot. What’s something that improved and is there a specific example that… I don’t know, your whole team is probably required to listen to this podcast just to get our numbers up but… You can obfuscate it enough to… [chuckle]

19:31 MH: No. I’ll say this: One aspect is the amount of things I can handle before I crumble under in disarray, has gone up significantly, so my ability to prioritize, be efficient, focus and have higher throughput has increased dramatically. It’s still not great but it’s increased dramatically. One area that I noticed a flatline was specifically in the area of business development. So I do a lot in a position where I have to talk to companies and sell our services, and those kinds of things, and when you have to put yourself out there like that, I always struggle with putting pen to paper. And it comes from… Tim, you and I, we have this similar thing where we both have this feeling of, we’ll wake up one day and everyone will recognize suddenly that we have no place being in this industry or business…

20:30 TW: This might be the episode where that happens actually, you never know.

20:34 MH: Yeah. Here’s the shark, let’s line it up and jump right over it. But as silly as that sounds, especially for Tim Wilson, that literally goes through people’s heads. And there’s other people that I’ve talked to throughout the industry that have that same thing, and there’s the name for it, ‘Impostor Syndrome’, which is interesting, but it’s in trying to figure those things out. So I actually read a book a year or two ago by a guy by the name of Marshall Goldsmith, and he’s a pretty well-known executive coach. He wrote the famous book ‘What Got You Here Won’t Get You There’. But he wrote a book called ‘Triggers’, and basically what he was explaining to people was, there’s typically a stimulus and then a response, but actually in between that, if you can slow down time and analyze the emotions that are happening between stimulus and response, and deal with those things, then you can actually give yourself an opportunity to change the response of the outcome that happens as a result of that stimulus.

21:40 TW: Okay, you’re not applying for professorship here. What do you mean? What’s an example of this…

21:44 MH: So, I’m gonna give you…

21:46 TW: Give me a digital analytics example of a stimulus response, or a business…

21:50 MH: It could be personal. It could literally be something like, somebody compliments your dashboard, and it has you on cloud nine for the rest of the day, stimulus and response; it makes you feel great. That’s what I’m talking about. Or in some cases somebody sends you an email, and they actually didn’t mean anything by it, but it came across to you as kinda negative, and that sends you into a tailspin of like, “Oh, wow,” and you’re doubting yourself and those kinds of things. And actually people who are more naturally confident, this doesn’t really occur to them, so this may seem foreign, but those of us who don’t have that will probably know what I mean by that kind of thing. And so, I observed myself having the same kinds of reactions to the same situations over and over and over again, and so I went after that as a problem to solve. And I just said, “Okay, why? Why is it that I am… ” And it’s partly because I have this feeling of like, “I’m not that special at the end of the day in terms of my ability to think. There’s so many people out in the industry that I respect so much. There’s so many people who are smarter than me. They all…


23:07 MH: But that was what was holding me back from just saying, “Okay, I know what is needed here. Let me describe the solution and what we can do to help your organization take the next step in analytics.” I do know it, and I just have to let myself say it without going through all of that mental and emotional sludge, if you will. And that’s a very personal example, but it applies broadly to anybody and anything in terms of the situations or the triggers that you find yourself in. And it could be even something as sort of just, “Okay, that guy, I don’t know why, but he just rubs me the wrong way.” There’s a trigger and a response going there that that other person may not even realize is happening. They probably have no idea that they are making you completely angry. And it could be something like, “Well I just really don’t like stupid people, and he’s stupid.”


24:03 MH: That might be the edge case of the exception, I don’t know. But the point being is, this happens to all of us, all the time. Anyways, a very good book, because it kind of tries to show you ways to get in between… I call it ’emotional flossing’, ’cause it’s sorta like getting in between your teeth. It’s like, “That’s a very narrow spot, how are you gonna get in there and floss?” Well you just have to work at it, you gotta get that flosser in there and whatever. So that’s a really weird analogy. Sorry, but that’s the…


24:40 TW: Emotional flossing. You know what? You need a blog post on that. Now you own a long tail on that term.

24:47 MH: Emotional flossing. I’m not even going to Google that.


24:51 MH: But that’s the other thing is, there’s this processing of emotion that you have to do, that it turns out, there’s a lot of a areas I’m not so good at it. There’s this emerging thing, and I haven’t done nearly enough reading on this called ‘mindfulness’, which basically… I’m gonna totally screw this up. But basically, it’s just being aware of what’s going on in your own head. But emotion basically works in your brain. It’s like a part of thing that happens in your brain. There’s science around it somehow, I don’t really know a lot about it. But in essence, if you’re not dealing with your emotions, they’re still there and they will come out, that will happen. So you have to know that, and so everything you do, the emotions that you carry through that will emerge on the other side, and it’ll either make your experiences very negative for no reason or ineffective, ’cause you’re not aware of the other thing that’s going on in the situation.

25:54 TW: So that’s the very introspective view, know thyself mindfulness.

26:02 MH: Yeah. I bought a book about it, I haven’t read it yet. It’s on the list.

26:07 TW: I’m still, thanks to Astrid Illum, I’m still working my way through Kim Stanley Robinson, whose name I actually know, at this point, I hope. I’m on the first book of the Mars trilogy at this point. But, good for you for reading. So there’s kind of a know thyself aspect of this. And I am probably more of the loosey-goosey, sorta slowly figuring this out, probably the hardest possible way, whereas you’re very mindful and analytical about figuring out the know thyself, being mindful, and that seems like some useful, the stimulus response. And realize that’s not completely separate from… It’s not isolated but…

26:47 MH: Yeah. So then there’s the other half.

26:50 TW: Yeah, how’s the other part where you try to figure out what other people, what’s…

26:55 MH: I think it has to start with you though, because I think if you’re not aware of what’s going on with you, it will be pretty hard for you to figure out, “Hey, what’s going on with you?” Unless people just tell you.

27:07 TW: So what is going on with me? I’m curious.

27:10 MH: Well, let’s take a half an hour and let’s unpack this.


27:14 TW: This will be the first four-hour episode.

27:16 MH: Yeah, exactly. [chuckle] The old, “When you do this, it makes me feel… ” Anyways. So what I’ve noticed is people, when they interact with each other either have good, neutral or negative interactions typically.

27:34 TW: Consistently? Is that a…

27:36 MH: I’ve kind of ran the spectrum there, so it’s up, down or in the middle.


27:41 TW: I wasn’t talking about you and me, I was trying to generalize it a little bit more.

27:46 MH: No, no. Yeah, I’m not talking about you and me, I’m talking about just generally speaking. And that’s the thing, as analysts we… And actually, as an industry, we believe sometimes maybe too much in the power of data, to transform the lay of the land, to terraform, if you will, the digital landscape and make everything better, and certainly… I spent the bulk of my professional life in data, so I believe in it, but it’s data with all these other things, and the analysis and the insight and the actions that come from that, and what I observed is there’s a lot of people who are successful, and they go on to do really great things, and there are a lot of people who face a lot of frustration. And actually, I feel like it’s a very common personal trough of disillusionment that most analytics people get into, and honestly not everybody even ever gets out of, in terms of, “Why can’t I be in a role in a company that values what I’m bringing, values the data, values the insights that I’m generating, and accepts them and brings them into the organization?” There’s a lot of angry analysts out there, and not… Sometimes people feel like if you’re angry, then you’ve failed, but actually anger is an emotion that’s okay. You should be able to say “I am angry,” and that’s okay.


29:24 TW: That’s how I wake up every morning and that’s how I go to bed at night.

29:27 MH: We should do a call-in show, like Frasier, “I’m listening.” Yeah, that would be the worst advice ever.

29:36 TW: There’s a point where you need to say, “Is it me or is it the organization?” And there are definitely times where I look at analysts who have bounced from job to job, and they’re like “I can’t find the company that basically… “

29:48 MH: Yeah. It’s part of both, it’s part of both though. And actually that’s like, when Dylan Lewis was on the show and talking about being into it for all those years, and finding a place where he could really grow his career, and maybe it’s also ’cause he’s got more patience. But the reality is, is like there’s really something to that longevity that builds lasting value, which is really alluring to anybody who cares about doing something great with their career. So, there’s two sides to that, and how do you find that or how do you do everything you can do to build that? And part of that process is, I think, I’ve come to believe, that it’s this process, it’s going through and figuring out, “Well, how do I work with this person over here?” And certainly as a consultant… I actually was having this conversation just the other day with one of the people on the team is, try to remember that we’re a consulting organization, but the person, the client that we work with, if they go out on a limb where they work, and what we do for them doesn’t work out, it’s not just like, “Oh well, that project didn’t go very well,” which is how it would end for us, it could be, literally, them not getting their full bonus, or them losing their job.

31:15 TW: Now, Goddamn it! You had to bring it to the bonus. I just don’t… I think bonuses… I think monetary is an excellent motivating factor than… Yeah. No, no…

31:22 MH: It’s not highly motivating, but I’m saying there are real-world impacts for the decisions that people make, and certainly, when you go to that HiPPO and say, “Hey, we need to change the home page of the website because my analysis says this, this and this,” or “We need to change the way we do all of our media spending because my analysis shows this, this and this,” to go pull the trigger on that is a much bigger deal to them than it is to you, as the analyst. And that’s what I think we don’t always evaluate effectively, and so we see it from our own point of view, which is, “Ah, yeah, the data shows we should make the decision. Case closed.” And then the evil HiPPO, which actually, the executive or the HiPPO is getting a little more respect in the industry lately, but back in the day, it was like, “Oh, they just crap on all of our ideas. They don’t accept our advice,” and in reality it’s ’cause, well they would literally lose their jobs if they make the wrong choices, and that leads people to behave certain ways and not necessarily healthy ones.

32:31 MH: They should use the analyst to their advantage, but they’re scared. So people are people. And that was something else you gotta kinda learn is, everybody gets up out of bed and puts their pants on the exact same way every morning, and so we all have these common emotions, fears, doubts, those kinds of things. And, getting to know that or respect that about somebody like that HiPPO or that executive who’s not listening to your advice or your analysis is a very good first step to getting better at meeting them where they’re at, and growing your own emotional intelligence to a point where you can really work with them, and I think that helps build a bridge then for you to be listened to and heard better by that person.

33:22 TW: So this has me… I will say that I have now learned, already, how challenging it is to be a moderator, and keep an eye on the clock.


33:33 TW: ‘Cause I have a whole bunch of other things that I wanna hit you with, and you just started…

33:38 MH: Well, I’m one of those really long-winded guests that never shuts up, so…


33:46 TW: That’s okay. I think you have a co-host who has that problem as well. But you just kinda hit on the risk-aversion versus risk-seeking spot. So, what I wanna do is I wanna run through a range, and we will start… Well, we’ll start with that one, and just get your take on the what and the why, looking at the people you’re working with, as well as yourself through that lens, how useful is it? Where should you start? What is it useful for? I think you just hit… So, I think one of the things you… This is something you talked about at SUPERWEEK was the risk-aversion versus risk-seeking, and you just implied that, “Hey, you know what? Consultants can be inherently risk-seeking whereas clients can be risk-averse.”

34:34 MH: Yes, because it’s our job to come in there and change things, that’s why you hired us half the time.

34:41 TW: But do you still look at individual people… I guess one, how do you evaluate where somebody’s risk profile is, and what do you do with that?

34:50 MH: Yeah. So I think it’s important for you to get to know your own risk stance or your… And, what’s funny is I’ve done a lot of Googling. I’ve only read like… There’s only one book I’ve read so far where I got a clue into this concept of risk, that’s a book called ‘Smart Decisions’, which is really primarily about trying to make better choices and a scientific breakdown of decision-making process, which actually is a great read, but there’s a good chapter in there that does a nice job breaking down risk. But it’s one of the only places I’ve seen it tackled, not from the perspective of investing for some reason. That’s the only way that people talk about risk aversion is investment. But it’s actually true everywhere, like how we do what we do, how we engage in social situations is actually more or less to do with our risk-aversion versus risk-seeking mentality like, “Oh, I’m gonna go talk to somebody I don’t know that well and jump out there and take a little bit of a risk, whereas just stay back and only hang out with my friends.”

35:51 TW: Well how much is that… I mean how useful would that be? I’ve never formally tried it, but from your readiness to really launch an optimization program, if you’re incredibly risk-averse, aren’t you just gonna inherently wind up doing shitty little wienie tests where you’re changing the color of a button from two shades of blue?

36:11 MH: Well, certainly that will be the temptation, and so that’s the kinda stuff that you wanted… And again, interpersonal stuff… You thought digital data was fuzzy…


36:24 MH: Wait [36:25] ____ until you try to get ahold of understanding people, and I’m certainly… That’s the thing, I just wanna caveat the crap out of it, ’cause I don’t feel like I’ve gotten to a place where I’m like, “Oh yeah, it’s like this,” it’s more of just like, “Let me pull together the strings and I think there’s something here, and I hope someday to have it better figured out.” But there’s a way to figure that out, and then do things proactively, to kind of ease the road for those people, to help them understand, “Hey, we’re not taking a huge risk to do this,” ’cause I wannna show you all the possible things, and it’s me seeing where, “Hey, instead of you shutting this whole thing down I’m gonna show you how it’s gonna be successful. I’m gonna pick tests early that help show this as something that’s gonna work well,” and those kinds of things, to give people a sense of, “Okay, hey, testing is our DNA, it’s something we do.” Always talk about the positive aspects, “There’s not winners and losers in testing, there’s only learnings.” So those kinds of concepts are all things you do to build people’s confidence and get past the risk aversion that’s core to a lot of people.

37:36 TW: And does it also… So if I look at the… Man, Jim Cain, I quote him on this so often when he talks about how analysts don’t do anything, with his point that analysts are not the ones pulling the trigger, which is really saying, “Analysts can be totally risk-seeking. You know what? Make the homepage black. I know we have a very white… Just change it. Why not?”

38:00 MH: Well, hey, you wanna see cavalier optimization attitudes, wait ’til computers take this whole thing over and you’ll see some crazy stuff then.


38:08 MH: ‘Cause computers just don’t care.

38:10 TW: So I think that may be part of it as well, but if you actually look at your stakeholders through the risk lens and realize that you’re naturally more able to be risk-seeking and they’re risk-averse, then how can you make recommendations that actually feel lower risk to them? How can you incrementally do stuff?

38:27 MH: Right. And it doesn’t mean necessarily changing the recommendation, it just means putting the things with the recommendation that will allow for a ramp up to making that decision, “So here’s why… ” And you see this all the time. How many times in your career, Tim, have you heard someone ask, “What is a good rate for our industry?” Or “This industry? What conversion rate should we be trying for?” It’s like, “Who cares? Get a better conversion rate,” is what we all wanna…

38:58 TW: Better than what you’ve got right now, yeah.

39:00 MH: Exactly, that’s we all wanna say. But that is a clue into that risk-averse… Or “Hey… ” Even the concept of a best practice. Or when you go in and be like, “Well we don’t wanna be the first to do this. We don’t wanna be guinea pigs, we want a proven way.” All of those things are saying, “Help me mitigate some of this risk.” And none of those things are wrong, by the way. It’s not wrong to wanna do things in a proven method, that is not a bad thing. It’s more just, those are all clues into this concept of… But that’s why… I mean, that’s partly why competitive intelligence data exists. There’s other reasons from the media side of the world that ratings and those kinds of systems that brought that over. But people’s interest in what other people’s websites are doing as a function of how I do optimization or whatever, always boggled my mind until I realized, they’re just trying to find a place where it fits, so we can say, “Okay, we’re here, and that’s okay, and now we can go.” And it’s just giving the comfort from…

40:10 TW: Okay. At the risk of, my Lightning Round is not… We’re risking the time of the show. So let me hit… I did a whole riff earlier on Myers-Briggs, but give me your take on how useful is Myers Briggs for yourself, as a team? Do you guys do it? Where do you come down on the Myers-Briggs type indicator?

40:33 MH: I’ll be honest with you. So up until about six months ago, maybe eight months ago, depends on when the show goes live.


40:42 MH: I really didn’t like the Myers-Briggs. In fact in… I liked to tell this story. In college, I actually… I took a class where we all had to take the test and it’s not hard once you take it a time or two to know what it’s asking and what direction it’s steering the way you answer it. And I purposefully tested into at that time the opposite of my current personality type, just so that I could be in a group with a bunch of other students who were different than me. And so, I’ve never really liked it that much. People use it as a parlor game, or worse, like a box to put people in, and I never liked that aspect of it. That being said, I think when used respectfully, it can be very useful to help people understand each other better. And certainly for me, my personality type, I am an INFP, which is a very strange type of…

41:43 TW: 4.4% of the population, as of a few years ago.

41:45 MH: Well, and not a lot of analytics people I think go that way. The ENTPs or ENTJs or INTJs, a lot of times, that NT combination is… Those are the people who like to ask the question why, like “Why is it like that?” And they’re curious, they wanna challenge preconceived notions. That to me is like “Oh that’s the quintessential analyst.” And certainly if you’re listening and you’re not one of those things, don’t worry about it. It’s just fine, the Myers-Briggs is a spectrum it’s not a locked position, so you can float around and you have some of all of them.

42:20 TW: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

42:21 MH: I’m just trying to give people space, ’cause I needed that for myself. But that was the thing, it’s sorta like “Well, how do I fit in?” I was like, “Oh, you know what? This personality type actually fits how I even approach analytics.” ‘Cause I’ve always… Like I said, I’ve never felt like I was super great at the math or any of those things, but I’ve been effective because I work with the people and I try to figure out how to make the analysis go into the organization. “Who can I work with?” “Who’s receptive to our ideas?” “Who is someone who is eager to make changes and how can we help them grow and use our data to support them?” So, those have always been the focal points of the way that I’ve done digital analytics, and certainly, even how I look at websites, it’s,”What is the user trying to do? How can we help them be more effective at what they’re trying to do?” Which is a different point of view than, “How do we force enough people through our conversion funnel that we want?”


43:27 MH: It’s just, I’m not saying either one of those is wrong, I obviously have a preference, but that’s more personal than it is anything else.

43:36 TW: Cool. So we’ll do one more. And this is one you did not talk about in Hungary, but have bantered about in the past, and another one I’ve run through a couple of times and could not find my documentations to what I am. But the StrengthsFinder world, “Your five strengths, we’re not judging anyone.” So it’s got the Myers-Briggs component of, “This is not saying anything is good or bad,” but there are what, 37 or something number of strengths?

44:01 MH: 34, I think, yeah.

44:03 TW: 34, okay.

44:04 MH: So the StrengthsFinder’s interesting because it’s built on research that the Gallup Organization did as they were trying to understand what made people successful and happy in their careers. So they talked to and surveyed people across a really wide spectrum of different industries, careers, all kinds of things over a number of years, I think, and so the output of that is the StrengthsFinder’s books that have come out over the years. And so, conceptually the idea I think is really solid, which is if you know what your strengths are and you focus on those in the context of your work, you will be happier, more successful, more fulfilled in your career than if you don’t. And that’s a counter-mentality to a more typical model, which is, identify your weaknesses, and then go after those weaknesses and eliminate them, which is not actually the way that humans work most of the time. That being said, if you remember at the beginning of the show, I mostly said I was trying to identify areas where I was weak and then pick them apart and figure them out.


45:16 MH: So, there’s two sides to that coin. It’s not just only do the things you’re good at. And actually that’s the thing about StrengthsFinder is you have to be careful not to make it too focused on a specific set of activities as much as a conceptual approach to a lot of different things in terms of how you apply your strengths. That being said, I’m a fan, I think, in all honesty, it’s useful up to a point, and then I personally have not been able to chase it further than that in terms of how to develop people or help them grow more, but there are more things in the StrengthsFinder’s world that I haven’t done, like they have more classes and training that you can actually do. So until I do that, it’d be stupid of me to say have I reached the end of its utility.

46:08 TW: I will say, as much as StrengthsFinder is something I can’t retain where I fall, to me, anytime I’m working with anybody who’s a first-time manager, to me the ‘First, Break All the Rules’ book, which was the pre-cursor to the ‘Now Discover Your Strengths’, which became ‘StrengthsFinder’ and has probably got more traction, but actually from a manager perspective, the times that I was managing the ‘First, Break All the Rules’, and I still kind of reference… Not reference like I go look up the book, but there are concepts in that book that really, really resonated with me. And that was probably 10 years ago, and that was the last time that I gave a shit about soft skills, then I moved onto consulting.

46:51 MH: Yeah, and that’s the thing is soft skills are a tool in your arsenal, not the tool in your arsenal. It’s part of a complete breakfast, as they said in the Saturday morning cartoons.

47:05 TW: There you go.

47:06 MH: You spend all the time showing the sugary cereal, but then it’s like… But also eat all this high grain toast and stuff.

47:13 TW: So, we have been all over the map, this was good for me, that’s what matters. But on this episode, as I’m continuing to try to manage my moderator duties, we do a segment called the ‘Last Call’ where we go around and anybody who’s in attendance, we kind of throw out something of interest or use that we thought might be of interest to our listeners. And Michael, do you have a Last Call?

47:43 MH: I sure do. And in keeping with sort of the namby-pamby personal… So, not too long ago I attended the Qualtrics Customer Summit, and one of the keynote speakers there was a woman named Angela Duckworth, who’s written a book called ‘Grit’. And…

48:05 TW: Ooh, yeah.

48:06 MH: And I was aware of it, but had never read it, and so, I still haven’t, or at least as of this recording I have not read it, but it is high on the list now. But the things that she talked about were to me, very compelling, in terms of understanding the idea of development of yourself and accomplishment in pursuit of your, I guess… I think about it in terms of my career or career objectives, the things that I would like to see happen in my life. And it’s sort of, you have this, things I always say to people like, “Hey, nothing worth having comes easy.” So hard work seems to be part of what anyone must go through to get good things. But she is actually a real researcher who does real research in science and has studied this, and I’m just… I was super impressed with her keynote, and she has a really great TED Talk that is worth also checking out. But her book ‘Grit’ is…

49:08 TW: But since we have podcast… Podcast listeners here, there was a whole Freakonomics episode back last year…

49:15 MH: There you go.

49:15 TW: That was, “”How to Get More Grit in Your Life”. We will link to that in the show notes as we like to say.

49:20 MH: Nice! ‘Cause we’re all big podcasters, but none of us are bigger podcasters than Tim.


49:28 TW: That way I don’t have to interact with people, I can just listen.

49:29 MH: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Anyway, so that’s my Last Call is just something I’m excited to learn more about, just this concept of grit that she was able to enunciate and it was really compelling.

49:43 TW: Nice. So I will go with a much, much more tactical, and I think I have done last calls in the past that were kind of color/palette, color blindness related. The latest thing I stumbled across was an article called ‘A Color in UI Design: A Practical Framework’. And it took this very simple idea of pointing to some fairly well-known user experiences, like the Facebook app, and calling out how a lot of those interfaces use one core color and then they use different shades of it, and you’re like, “Okay. Yeah, whatever.” And then it pointed out that actually figuring out what those right shades are, it’s not just like adjusting their transparency, and it breaks down in a very analytical way how to come up with different shades, and it’s all about the hue saturation and brightness and how you adjust them.

50:36 TW: And it had me thinking from a dashboard and report design perspective, when trying to use a corporate color palette in saying, “I want to… I don’t wanna turn things into a rainbow, but I do need to have two or three colors for headings. How can I come up with something that’s lighter or darker?” And it was really actually wound up using it today as to how to adjust the stuff. So it was a very, very analytical approach and a fascinating, fairly quick little read.

51:10 MH: Nice!

51:11 TW: So I will throw that one out.

51:14 MH: In lieu of emotional intelligent, use appropriate colors.

51:17 TW: Use appropriate colors, just data visualize the fuck out of it.

51:22 MH: Again, it’s part of a complete breakfast.

51:25 TW: There you go. So, well, this has been a lot of fun. Our listeners get this every two weeks. We are a little bit, not quite that time. So we actually, it’s been a little while since I feel like we’ve chatted, so this has been a lot of fun for me, and we know it’s all about me.

51:46 MH: Well, and it’s, thank you for having me on the show, Tim. It has been such a pleasure, such a gracious pair of hosts.

51:56 TW: We might have you back.

51:57 MH: So, accomplished, both of you.

52:00 TW: So if you’ve thought that we have rambled our way into a hole and you’ve probably promptly unsubscribed from every podcast app that you have to this show, you can let us know about that. Or if you have questions, absolutely, Michael and I are both, readily, we’re right there on the Measure Slack. There have been a few cases of late where people have said, “I keep hearing you mention that, but where is it?” So I will go ahead and do an audio throw out that it’s at join.measure.chat. It’s free, and it’s phenomenal. We’re also on Twitter. We’re on Facebook. We have a website, and what the hell, if you’ve enjoyed this episode in particular, or any past episode and despite this episode you wanna hop over to iTunes and give us a rating, give us a review, why not? I’m pretty sure Lea Pica has 27 times more than we do because she remembers to ask for them on every episode. So, that’s kind of it.

52:58 MH: And if you could just remember to mention how much more you prefer me as the moderator, that would really help us out.


53:06 TW: I think that’s kind of a given. This show would have been 25% shorter if Michael was the moderator.

53:12 MH: That is not true. Anyways. Alright, sorry. I’m just making it worse.

53:18 TW: Yeah, whatever. Look at that, you just can’t stay out of it. You’re like…

53:21 MH: No. ‘Cause now people will go onto Measure Slack and be like, “Michael, you’re terrible.”


53:29 TW: Oh, this was… Absolutely, a one time thing.

53:30 MH: Our community is actually mean. There are bunch of mean people in our community. They’re mean to me.


53:37 TW: Join the Measure Slack and trash this podcast. Why not?

53:41 MH: Why is it that my one contribution is… Drunk Helbs. Like, what’s that?

53:49 TW: The animated GIF for the Measure Slack.

53:52 MH: For incredulity.

53:53 TW: Yeah. We have run this topic and this entire experiment into the ground, so.

54:00 MH: We’ll just cut all that out.

54:00 TW: For Michael Helbling… Oh yeah, we’ll see. For Michael Helbling, I’m Tim Wilson, and I’m hoping you keep analyzing.


54:12 Announcer: Thanks for listening and don’t forget to join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter or Measure Slack Group. We welcome your comments and questions. Visit us on the web at analyticshour.io, facebook.com/analyticshour or @AnalyticsHour on Twitter.


54:32 Charles Barkley: So smart guys want to fit in, so they’ve made up a term called analytics. Analytics don’t work.


54:40 TW: Really? A dog that is gonna communicate through barking?

54:43 MH: Yeah, it’s really annoying.

54:47 TW: You were hoping for SMS?

54:49 MH: That is a very interesting concept.

54:53 TW: You want rich media… You want video? You want videos in your survey? What do you want? We can do anything. We’ve got…

55:00 MH: Hey, we need those snappy one-liners. And here I was, trying to make a point. [55:07] ____.


55:07 MH: [55:07] ____ I can mute with whatever button I want, is that what you’re telling me?

55:14 TW: You can do that.

55:15 MH: After all of that? Now I’m really nervous about it.

55:20 MH: Rock, flag and personality!

55:23 TW: Oh my God, you are so much better at that than I am.


One Response

  1. Lea Pica says:

    27 times more reviews seems imprecise. I’m pretty sure there’s a much more esoteric algorithm behind my review count.

    On that note, to review the Present Beyond Measure Show, just visit….kidding!! 😉 Thanks for the shout-out!

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