Whether you’re a solopreneur, a small business owner, an emerging leader or in an executive leadership role, life in the 21st century dictates that you need to know your numbers and use them to enhance your impact. Increasingly, executives and board members around the world are held personally responsible for knowing the data – meaning that this understanding helps minimize and mitigate risk not only for businesses but for individuals. Whether you’re organizing your home budget and feeding your kids, or running a multinational, multi-million-dollar organization, it is no longer sufficient to say ‘but I’m not a numbers person’ and believe that it is someone else’s job to keep track of the numbers. We all need to be data literate and able to ask the right questions at the right time.

Meet Selena

Dr Selena Fisk is a data expert and consultant who is passionate about helping others sort through the ‘numbers’ to tell the real stories and lead positive change. She fiercely advocates for a world in which we are all data-informed, not data-driven. Selena has mentored executive, senior, and middle leaders, as well as hundreds of others in data storytelling, which has positively impacted the organizations in which they work.

Timestamped Overview

During this interview Selena and I discuss the following topics:

  • 00:06:09 Numbers vs words: Labels shape perception.
  • 00:07:00 Connecting narratives and numbers, challenging subject silos.
  • 00:11:03 Recognize and share progress in learning.
  • 00:14:00 One person dancing alone, others gradually join.
  • 00:18:58 Encourage dialogue between data analysts and employees.
  • 00:19:57 Engage employees in data analysis, form team.
  • 00:24:28 Willingness, skill, and commitment on effective team.
  • 00:27:54 Effective data storytelling: combining visuals, data, narrative.
  • 00:29:47 Building data-informed culture, identifying insights, taking action.
  • 00:34:29 Data informed, not data driven decisions advocated.
  • 00:36:09 Data insights help understand, not necessarily act.
  • 00:39:53 Data team helps analyze business analytics.
  • Alternatively: Data team essential for business analytics success.
  • 00:44:14 Time is money, but benefits outweigh cost.
  • 00:47:56 Help friends win, share and subscribe now.
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The following is an AI generated transcript which should be used for reference purposes only. It has not been verified or edited to reflect what was actually said in the podcast episode. 


Scott McCarthy [00:00:00]:

On episode 233 of the Peak Performance Leadership podcast, we speak to data expert doctor Selena Fisk, and she’s gonna teach you how to be a data informed decision maker and not a data driven one. It’s all about data today, folks. Are you ready for this? Alright. Let’s Do it. Welcome 1. Welcome all to the Peak Performance Leadership podcast, a weekly podcast series dedicated to helping you hit peak performance across the 3 domains of leadership. Those being leading yourself, leading your team, and leading your organization. This podcast couples my 20 years of military experience as a senior Canadian army sir, with world class guests, bringing you the most complete podcast of leadership going.

Scott McCarthy [00:00:56]:

And for more, feel free to check out our web site at moving forward leadership.com. And with that, let’s get to the show. Yes. Welcome 1. Welcome all. It is your chief leadership officer, Scott McCarthy. So good to have you here today tuning into yet another great episode from the world’s best leadership podcast. That’s quite humble of you, isn’t it? Well, you gotta think it to believe it, and I believe it.

Scott McCarthy [00:01:32]:

So here we go. But, no, this is just one of many great podcasts out there that you can listen to, so I’m actually quite humbled that you’re here listening to me today. So thank you. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to grow with me because that’s why it’s all about here at the podcast. And today, it’s all about show me the data. Give me the numbers. Show me those numbers. Have Have we not heard those before? Show me the numbers.

Scott McCarthy [00:02:03]:

Where’s the data on that? And so much more. And if you’re like me, you’re probably going, yep. I’ve heard that before. I’ve been told that slash asked that, and it’s driven me nuts. Why? Because, well, you just can’t quantify everything out there, yet we live in a very data driven world. Like, we are accessing a thousands, if not millions, of data points a day now. Everything. Everything is giving you data.

Scott McCarthy [00:02:42]:

Your phone’s giving you data. Your computer’s giving you data. Heck. Your watch is giving you data, your car, truck, whatever you drive, maybe even your bicycle. And it gets confusing. Right? Especially when you’re not a numbers person. You know, us as leaders, it’s not always about the numbers. It’s about the people.

Scott McCarthy [00:03:10]:

About ourselves and our organization and culture and all these things. Not data, But here we are. We’re gonna talk about data today. And to do so, I brought on a expert guest, doctor Selena Fisk, who is a data expert and consultant who’s passionate about helping you sort through the numbers and talk about the real story behind those numbers and most importantly, lead positive change. She’s all about being data informed and not data driven. She’s mentored execs, senior, middle leaders, and all kinds of other people. In that dimension, she is doing this, you know, as her own business. So she takes what she preaches and applies it to her day to day business and then in turn helps you, the leader.

Scott McCarthy [00:04:16]:

And if you’re like, Scott, I’m not a numbers person. I got you. I hear you. I am a numbers person, so I can’t say I’ve I I completely line up with you. But what I will tell you is this, and that is Selena goes in this episode and makes it crystal clear for you as a non numbers person. And that’s the most important thing. That’s what we want, and that’s what we need to be able to get out of these podcast episodes, take tangible things and then run with them. So that, ladies and gentlemen, is today’s episode, And that’s enough with me.

Scott McCarthy [00:05:04]:

So why don’t you sit back, relax, and enjoy my conversation about how to lead with numbers featuring doctor Selena Fisk. Selena, welcome to the show.

Selena FIsk [00:05:29]:

Hey. Thanks, Scott. Thanks for having

Scott McCarthy [00:05:31]:

me. So we’re talking about data. We’re talking about numbers. We’re talking a bit about your latest book, I’m not a numbers person, which is interesting. So this is gonna be a bit tough for me to even connect with that that title because I am a numbers person. I am a data driven type person. I I like working in that area just because of my background and what I do for for a living in my day job. So that that really, really drives with you.

Scott McCarthy [00:05:59]:

But why why are people out there scared of numbers in the 1st place. Let let’s start with that. You know, why is like, oh, I’m not a numbers person. Like, why? Why is that even a thing?

Selena FIsk [00:06:09]:

Yeah. It’s a it’s a good question. And, you know, the title of the book is a little tongue in cheek because, clearly, I am a numbers person, but, You know, people say it to me all the time. I work with people that kind of say, yes, Selena. I get it, and I know that I should be paying attention to the numbers and the metrics that I’ve got, but I’ve just I’m just not a numbers person. You know, there’s a number of different reasons why people get to that point in their life, but I reckon it really does stem back to what Happened in, you know, our early kind of formative years in primary school, where almost people are labeled as being math science people or humanities people. And I know for myself, I did a lot of math science subjects, and I very much had an identity going through school as that being my strength and me not being very good at words, which is a little ironic now that I’ve written a book. But, I think it really does stem from that.

Selena FIsk [00:07:00]:

And the fact that, you know, when we go into English and maths and we have learning time that’s dedicated to one subject or the other, we almost see them as silos, and we don’t actually see them see that they’re connected. But in a lot of my work, it is about kind of bringing the narrative and bringing the stories in with the numbers, and it’s just not a skill that we’ve necessarily, grown up with. So, yeah, it’s interesting. Like, I used to be a secondary school teacher, And by the time kids get to year 7 year 8, and we’re walking into my classroom, they had their own identity as, you know, I’m either good at maths or I’m not. So, Yeah. And I I reckon parent perceptions have got a fair bit to contribute to that as well. But anyway

Scott McCarthy [00:07:41]:

No. No. It’s it’s its valid points, and I enjoy, you know, your little history. I was much the same. I was my my favorite subject in school right through was math. Straight up math. Like, I couldn’t get enough of it, and it’s interesting to see my 7 year old Mhmm. Who I had to print off the multiplication tables and put them on the wall so he can actually learn them.

Scott McCarthy [00:08:04]:

And he just finished grade 1, and he’s learning multiplication on his on his own, which is insane. It blows my mind. Yeah. Yeah. Right? It just blows my mind. But, you know, it’s very similar to him. He’s struggling in writing. And guess what? You know? Like, you wanna see my handwriting? My God.

Scott McCarthy [00:08:19]:

Like, you talk about stereotypical doctor writing. I have it. I wish I had the pay of a doctor, but I have the handwriting to be a doctor. Right? So it’s it’s just that stereotype of we were we kinda fall into, 1 of 2 camps. Right? Yeah. Which is, again, ironic with you. I ended up having my my bachelor’s in built in history and then my master’s, one of which is MBA, and my 2nd was in defense studies. So very hard writing writing, you know, stuff like that.

Scott McCarthy [00:08:49]:

So it’s kinda interesting how we kinda cross pollinate at some point.

Selena FIsk [00:08:52]:

Yeah. Absolutely. And I’m you know, I’ve taught a lot of secondary maths, but I’m actually secondary school teacher trained in maths and physical education. So I used to be a head of physical education previously. So, again, it’s almost that kinda cross pollination of Working in teams and working with people and human anatomy and all of that kind of component of physical activity. And then maths is just so different. So Yeah. Yeah.

Selena FIsk [00:09:17]:

Yeah. And I think that’s in some ways, that certainly helped me on this journey to be able to draw from both of those different, Or have a pretty fixed mindset around, you know, well, I just can’t do numbers, and then they just accept that for a really long time. And I just don’t actually think that That’s true anymore. I reckon we can all get better at it, and, and we desperately need to. And we need more people in our organizations that are getting better at it. So, Yeah. It’s how how do we shift that? I guess it’s a long it’s a long slow game, isn’t

Scott McCarthy [00:09:54]:

it? Well, that’s literally my question is, like, how do we get people, you know, out of that fixed mindset and and more into a growth mindset of, okay. Yes. I’m not good at that today, but I can be good at, you know, tomorrow, next week, next month, next your

Selena FIsk [00:10:09]:

whatever. Yeah. You know, in in terms of teaching, like, I go back to my teaching experience, and I think about what what What would I have done with a 15 year old boy sitting in math saying to me, oh, well, I’m just not good at it. And, you know, in some ways, I think we need to treat adults in our organizations in a similar way. It’s multiple exposures, and multiple opportunities to practice and ask questions and Give them time and support to build their skills. One of the, I have a data diagnostic that I run, and I’ve had about 2 a half 1000 people do the diagnostic over time, and the 2 questions that consistently score the lowest are around the time that given to build their skills with using data and the support that they get from their organization. So out of a score of a out of, like, 100% as being the absolute maximum. Those 2 questions score at about 40 46% consistently.

Selena FIsk [00:11:03]:

So that that’s certainly something we need to do. But the other part of that, I guess, which comes back to what do I learn from teaching was also celebrating and recognizing and and sharing with others when people in our organizations make progress in this space. So if they do something really good, how are we recognizing that and sharing it. And, I guess, what I’ve learned in the work that I’ve done over the last few years is that One size doesn’t fit all in this space. What will work for some people and some leaders and some teams can be really useful and interesting for other people in the organization to see and learn about, and that can almost spark a bit of curiosity in them and and start getting them thinking about how could I potentially use this, or how could this be beneficial for me. So, Yeah. Sharing and, recognizing the progress that people are making, I reckon, is a really kind of good way of building that culture and and also normalizing the fact that this is a skill that takes a long time to build. It’s not just a, you know, a one off professional learning day where you can’t just go on a course and be magically better at using numbers.

Selena FIsk [00:12:12]:

It is a long game, and we’re in it for the long haul.

Scott McCarthy [00:12:17]:

You’re hitting my heart with all that. Like, it’s like warmth coming in pouring into me. Listen to our listeners. Like, hit rewind and go back a couple minutes and relisten to all that because you you you hit on so many crucial leadership topics that revolve not around just data, but leading as a whole. You know? 1, having the psychological safety to make mistakes, having the time to go back and learn from said mistakes, having the culture that revolves around that type of, you know, a workplace, and understanding that it it’s a journey. It’s not just, oh, I won and done, but rather a journey to from that continues because there’s skill fade involved with this stuff. Right? Data and analytics. The longer you get you step away from it, the quick quicker that people Forget or, you know, the the the skills just dull over time.

Scott McCarthy [00:13:14]:

Right? So there’s so many things in there that can be applied to, not just data

Selena FIsk [00:13:19]:

right there. Absolutely. Yeah. It’s and it’s like leading any change in any organization. Right? You need to Think about how you’re building capacity in other people. You need to be vulnerable and open to sharing with people that you won’t necessarily have all the answers and that you’re on this learning journey, with them. The other thing is, like in any or leading any change is having a group of early adopters or having those people who are really on board and believe in the change you’re trying to make and really harnessing the power of them. Because if we’re able to lead change with that small group and you might have seen, the YouTube of the dancing guy.

Selena FIsk [00:14:00]:

And it’s a guy at a music festival that comes out, and the music’s playing and nobody’s dancing, and 1 person comes out and is dancing alone. And then, you know, slowly another yeah. You’ve seen it? A couple of people come join, and it’s an analogy for leading change. And, you know, it’s it that applies to the use of data and building a data informed culture in our organizations as Well, because we can’t just come down heavy handed and expect that everybody’s come going to, I guess, come to the table at the same time. It is about thinking, well, Who can we almost tap on the shoulder? Who can we get into a data team? Who can we really start to celebrate and recognize? Because every organization Has people in the in their in their organizations that have actually got a fair bit of wisdom and creativity and some ideas around this Face or might actually be using data really well. And it’s about how do we actually identify those people and get them sharing their work with others because, Yeah. We’ve gotta do the work from the inside out. Right?

Scott McCarthy [00:15:00]:

Yeah. Yeah. There’s a lot of great points there. That video, I believe it was, from my recollection, it was talking about how leaders aren’t actually leaders. The leaders are the first followers. And, and everyone follows the fur follows the 1st follower of the leader. So it it was an interesting video. I for I think it was during a lecture during my 2nd master’s program that I saw for the 1st time.

Scott McCarthy [00:15:27]:

It was it was it was a very interesting, very interesting video for sure. But I I’d like, I like what you talked about there in, you know, finding early adopters. And and I I believe that is a crucial step in, leading any change really. Like, right now, I’m I’m running my team through a massive, a massive change getting ready we’re getting ready to launch on a massive change. So this is my night job. It’s actually night here. You’re in Australia where Morning. I’m, it’s, 747 at night here.

Scott McCarthy [00:15:59]:

This is my side hustle. By day, I’m a senior Canadian army officer, And then and I I lead a fairly robust team of 25 folk. And right now, what I’m getting ready to do is I’m ready getting ready to shake up our organizational structure, roles responsibility to whole 9 yards of about 10 of the, yeah, about 10 of the 25 are getting shaken up and and so on and so forth. And the other 10 and the other 15 are there’s gonna be a change that’s gonna affect them as well. And he’s like, this has been in my head for a while, and it’s just like, this needs to happen for x, y, zed reasons. I’m going to bore you with those. But the thing is, I’ve been kinda piecemeal at them. Like, hey.

Scott McCarthy [00:16:37]:

You know? What are your thoughts on this? You know? I said, hey. This is the problem I see. Come back with some solutions you got. And in my I’ve had solutions in my head, but I wanted see if they would come back with same ones. And then okay. You know, very similar. Oh, I took some ideas. I incorporate into my ideas.

Scott McCarthy [00:16:52]:

I threw it up on the whiteboard, Brought people in ones and twos at a time. Like, hey. What’s your thoughts here? And kinda and getting them, and they’re like,

Selena FIsk [00:16:59]:


Scott McCarthy [00:17:00]:

Yeah. Yeah. Look. You know, think about this or what about that? And I’m like, oh, yeah. And then I go back, redraw it. Now I’m actually at the final point of, okay. Here’s the plan. Start dice you know, here’s the plan.

Scott McCarthy [00:17:10]:

Everyone, here’s the plan. This is how I see it. You know, start hammering at it type thing. And I’ve been trying to get those early adopters. So my question to you is, for the list leaders out there are listening and they go, yes. We need to We need to make data more important. We we are lagging behind here. I I hear Scott.

Scott McCarthy [00:17:27]:

I hear Selena. Yes. That is important. But how do I go finding, you know, the right person, the right fit to be that early adopter? Because We’re all busy. We’re all stressed. We all have so much to do. You know? What’s the right person? I can’t waste this opportunity.

Selena FIsk [00:17:45]:

Yeah. I really liked in what you just shared, that idea of collaboration. So it’s not a decision that you’re making with your restructuring, for your team. You’re asking them what they think, and you’re taking on board some of that feedback. I have no doubt, that you’re listening to what they’re saying. But, also, I think what you possibly alluded to and what I’ve seen a lot is that when you go and ask people, they often confirm or reiterate what you thought was going on anyway. And so being able to then lead a change where you’re able to say, okay. Well, We’ve had these conversations.

Selena FIsk [00:18:18]:

These are the things I’ve been hearing, and, therefore, these are the changes that have we’re making or are coming out of this process. That’s a lot more powerful. It’s significantly more impactful than you walking in one day and going, right. I’ve had this I’ve got this plan. This is what we’re doing, and this is how we’re moving forward. I’ve totally forgotten what your question was. Sorry. You’re gonna have to edit

Scott McCarthy [00:18:40]:

that out. No. It’s all good. We’re gonna keep it real. The guess guess what? We all make mistakes. We all forget. We get in this drain. We keep it real.

Scott McCarthy [00:18:50]:

Now the question the question was, how do we identify the right

Selena FIsk [00:18:54]:

people to be able to

Scott McCarthy [00:18:54]:

be early adopters, right, that get them on board?

Selena FIsk [00:18:58]:

Yeah. So in a lot of ways, it’s, you know, similar to what you’ve done. Even ask people who have an interest in this area to come and have a conversation with you, Think about putting a team together. And this is this is, I guess, different advice to different organizations because some organizations have got analysts. They’ve got people that work in the data space, And then you’ve got people in your organizations who are not the data people, and and they perceive that the analysts are the ones that do all that work, and they go and ask for a report or they go and ask questions of the analysts, and the analysts report back to them. So if you’re in an organization where that’s the case. What and the space, I guess, I work in is trying to bridge the gap between those 2 groups. So we need to be getting those groups of people in the same room having conversations about data rather than just relying on or expecting that it’s a transmission of information from the analyst to other employees.

Selena FIsk [00:19:57]:

So we’re trying to almost raise the low watermark Of all of our staff, all of our employees, we still need the analysts. We still need them doing some of that work, but we want employees asking really good questions of the data and being able to engage in rigorous, useful, conversations and questioning around the information that they’ve been given. So analysts or no analysts, one of the way that I see some organizations, I guess, Branch into this for the 1st time is to set up a data team. And so if you’ve got analysts, they might choose to be on the data team, but You are generally I think the most successful data teams that I’ve seen have been ones where people are invited to the table. They’re not told that they are now in this new team, and, you know, this is what we’re working on, and this is what the goals are. The the thing that I’ve noticed when organizations do that and they open the invitation to people to patient to people to be as on a on a on that team is that they always get people that they wouldn’t have expected. People who are interested, people who Maybe know that they wanna or are are conscious of the fact that they’d like to build their skill in that area, who put their hand up and agree to be on it, and then really kind of shape the direction and the focus of that team moving forward. As you were saying before, the power of those early adopters, that group essentially then becomes your early adopters.

Selena FIsk [00:21:25]:

The benefit of them is that they’re going back to their teams, all the people that they work with. And as you mentioned, they’re leading the change then for you because they’re facilitating the conversations with other people who wouldn’t have put their hand up to be in that team, but they’re shifting the culture progressively by being able to do that. The other way, I guess, that I’ve seen in larger organizations is where the leadership or the executive team do some of the work first, followed closely by the middle managers. And then the idea is that we bring their skill up and we improve their capacity, in using the data and engaging in data storytelling. And then we equip them with the skills to go back and build capacity in others. Because if your organization, even if it’s got, say, a 100 people in it, Trying to roll out this change for a 100 employees is quite a difficult ask, whereas that kind of top down, as much as I don’t like that language, Almost the top down approach can have more of an impact because you’re able to work closer with a smaller group of people that will hopefully have a greater impact, and then they’re the ones charged with leading, their people as well.

Scott McCarthy [00:22:37]:

No. That’s great. I especially like the fact that, you know, there’s no one cookie cutter solution. Right? Every situation is different. Every organization is different. You really gotta think about it through. But you gay you gave some nice, you know, what we call in the army lingo, left and right arcs. I you you know, kind of, you know, guidelines that people can follow kinda like.

Scott McCarthy [00:22:56]:

The interesting thing you talked about was, like, when when there’s, self, what do you refer to? It’s how to add out there. Self self dev not developing teams, but assigning teams, basically. Teams that developed the you know, assigned their own task type things where you’re like, okay. We’re gonna do this. Whoever wants to be a part can come. And and you said it’s interesting because people generally get surprised by the people who actually show up. My experience tells me they’re the ones that are generally most frustrated with the current situation. They’re like, this is my opportunity to make this change.

Scott McCarthy [00:23:31]:

And and for example, for myself was like, my job, I have nothing to do with, you know, day to day information management. I guess what a major project I’m at the head of right now is revamping our entire our information management systems. Why? Because I am so frustrated at some of the archaic ways we’re doing business. And I come and I did have talks with people like yourself, And I interact with all kinds of different organizations. I’m like, oh my god. This is amazing. Like, then I go to work, and I’m like, I feel like I’m with a stone tablet and a chisel, like, front a fun stone. Like, tink, tink, tink, tink.

Scott McCarthy [00:24:05]:

Right? So I just got you know? And the boss said, alright. You know? He’s like, got we gotta fix this. I’m like, yeah. We do need to fix it. Put me in coach. Put me in because why? Because I’m frustrated. I wanna make some positive change, and we’re getting there now. So but Find those people, and they’ll be the ones most motivated to move you in the right direction is my, I guess, is my my moral of the story here.

Selena FIsk [00:24:28]:

Yeah. Absolutely. And I’ve certainly seen that on teams. For me, it’s also that skill versus will the you’ve seen it, the continuum of, you know, Skillshare as well. And, obviously, the people who most often are gonna choose to be on a team like that are the people who’ve got some skill in space and are really willing to make the change. But the next group of people that tend to join are the people who are really willing And want to make a change, as you say, they may not necessarily have a lot of skill in what that looks like or how it’s gonna, you know, I guess, unfold over the next 6 to 12 or 24 months. But because they’re willing to be there and they’re willing to give their time. They’re absolutely great people.

Selena FIsk [00:25:13]:

That’s gold to have those people on-site, because we can teach them the skills. We can teach them how to Engage with the data. We can tell them or we can work through with them what we prioritize and what we focus on and how we engage in the data storytelling. We can do that. But when we’ve got a captive audience, that is just so much easier, and we can have a really significant impact more quickly than if we’ve got people that we’re telling that they to be there on the team, but, actually, they’ve got very little willingness, and they’re very disinterested.

Scott McCarthy [00:25:45]:

Yeah. Absolutely. There’s nothing worse than someone who is forced to be there when they have absolutely, 1, no skill, 2, no desire, no interest, in it. Now you’ve mentioned something a couple times, which is piquing my interest. You’ve mentioned data storytelling. Yep. That’s a new that’s a new one. Honestly, it’s not because I read your book.

Scott McCarthy [00:26:07]:

But it’s the first time it’s the first time I hear of it, I in a podcast interview. There we go. And now I’m not lying. So my question to you for listener out there is, you know, what is data storytelling and why is it important. And then, I guess, the follow on part is, how can we use that in our day to day lives as leaders for, you know, a max

Selena FIsk [00:26:31]:

that. Yeah. So I’m definitely gonna forget part of that question because I know there was 3 parts to it. But, anyway, let’s

Scott McCarthy [00:26:37]:

go ahead and Sorry. That was a super long one. Let’s with, what is it?

Selena FIsk [00:26:41]:

Well so when I first stumbled across the term data storytelling a few years ago, I just it was a real light Bold moment for me because I constantly was focusing on you know, we’ve got all this data. We’ve got all this information. We’re not short of data. Like, that’s not the problem here. The problem is that we’re actually not using it all that well. I often get people coming to me saying, Selena, we’ve got all this data, and we’re literally using it. And so data storytelling for me was that light bulb switch that was really about well, That’s that for me is the action. That’s the being able to yes.

Selena FIsk [00:27:17]:

We need to understand the data. We need to be able to read our visualizations. But at the end of the day, we can be exceptional at both of those things. But if we’re not engaging in data storytelling, which is where we’re actually thinking and talking about action and and shifts in Our organization and then our team, all that data collection is complete waste of time and space. So I’d say real light bulb real light bulb moment for me. In terms of what it does, storytellings. There’s a couple of different people, who work in this space and talk about it, often. Brent Dykes is one of them.

Selena FIsk [00:27:54]:

He Wrote a book called effective data storytelling, which is really great. He talks about storytelling data storytelling as being a skill similar to, you know, reading a book to to a young kid. It’s how do we actually communicate the information with others, how are we bringing in together. And he has this really nice Venn diagram of the data itself, any visuals that we need, and then the narrative, and how are we overlapping and how we’re drawing on all 3 things and how we’re constructing the narrative with the data and the visuals to convey that message to others. And in some ways, I believe that so he’s very similar to a couple of others. For me, I reckon that’s a conceptualization of data storytelling is, like, the name of it. You know, what is data storytelling? It’s bringing those 3 things together to be able to communicate insights to others. In turn for my work, data storytelling more as being, like a verb, like a doing a doing word.

Selena FIsk [00:28:53]:

It’s 2 kind of key parts for me. So the first part is And these these 2 questions relate to anybody. It doesn’t matter what role they’re in, what organization they’re in, what sector they’re in. The first one is, What’s the data actually telling me? So what are the insights? What am I seeing? What are the trends? All of those questions kinda fall under that same, in that same basket. The 2nd part is then now that I know those insights, what am I doing about it? So for an executive, they’ll be looking at maybe organization wide data. And that for them, the 2 questions are, what’s it telling me, and then what’s my response. For the 2nd, you know, for, say, middle managers, same same thing if they’re looking at data for their team. It’s always what’s the data telling me? What are those insights? What do I do about it? And for an employee, the questions are exactly the same.

Selena FIsk [00:29:47]:

So, you know, in terms of how we do this and how we improve our data informed culture. And this kind of goes back to a question that you had earlier. For me, it’s actually about building the capacity of people in those 2 areas. How are we teaching them how to identify insights? And there’s a there’s a lot in that because they need to understand the data. They need to be able to read the visualizations, all that sort of stuff. They need to be able to know what actually matters and what they should be paying attention to. That’s an a really important skill in itself, but then how are we getting them to actually connect to that to action, and how are we creating the culture and the structures and the processes within the organization or within the team that allow them to then talk really openly and collaboratively about what they’re then going to do as a result of the data.

Scott McCarthy [00:30:36]:

You know, for someone who said they forgot the question, you just, like, Nailed every single part of it. I was like, wow.

Selena FIsk [00:30:42]:

I kind of remembered midway through. So I just

Scott McCarthy [00:30:44]:

kept going. You just kept rolling. It was awesome. Yeah. I’m like, like, oh, like, oh, she’s answered the question as I’m, like, updating the show notes.

Selena FIsk [00:30:53]:

Sorry about

Scott McCarthy [00:30:53]:

that. Just keeping your No. No. No. No. It’s awesome. So this is exactly what, what I want. I really like I really like, how you talk about you know, it’s you can use data storytelling to essentially, you know, identify identify the situation, reasons for problems, and so on and so forth, but then you make informed decisions on the way forward.

Scott McCarthy [00:31:12]:

And, you know, I’ll give you a, I guess, a personal example. So at work, we’ve had a chaotic year. So I operate in a unit that, is high we refer to as high readiness. So we can go out we can go out the door at a moment’s notice and and not know when we’re returning. And the past year has been absolutely chaotic if you haven’t noticed the world. So we’ve been extremely busy. And we actually you know, as a as one of the senior leaders, my my supervisor and my the rest of my peers and stuff, We we ran the numbers, and, obviously, I won’t get into the numbers, but we’re like, holy cow. We’ve been on the go.

Scott McCarthy [00:31:49]:

On the number of days we’ve had people out. And by out, we mean internationally. So we’ve been able now to, you know, essentially, as you say, data storytelling, like, explain, like, you know, we’ve done all these operations, and here is the number of days of deployed person referred to as deploy personnel days, you know, x, which equates to per person who’s available, y, and stuff like this. And just explain to the story, like, This is and then it’s like and now here are the intangibles that we’re hearing, I. E. People are having burnout. People are worry about their family situation. People were extreme you know, still concerned about COVID issues and stuff like this.

Scott McCarthy [00:32:31]:

And then we just use the data to back up all the intangible, you know, statements, which we we know is true. You know, you feel it. You feel it. You know you know it’s true. Like, I look at my team. Like, yeah. You know? I looked at like, I looked at one of my guys. I said, you, you’re done.

Scott McCarthy [00:32:48]:

You’re going nowhere for the next while. And he’s like, why? I’m like, no. Like and and I and people like, oh, we gotta send someone out. Like, it’s not him. He is not going. Not happening. And, like, why? I’m like, because he’s been gone. Like, I don’t know since when.

Scott McCarthy [00:33:03]:

And they’re like, oh, wow. Like, okay. And, like, you know, he’s been he’s been gone for x number of days already this year, and there’s only been y number of days available to go. Mhmm. And they were like, oh, okay. So, you know, I use that. Now so here’s here’s my question to that is, you know, when talking about the intangibles, how do we find that balance between data and then the intangibles of, oh, I feel burnout or I’m we’re stressed. You know, we’re we’re running ourselves too too far because I ask, I I run a free Facebook group.

Scott McCarthy [00:33:41]:

Leadership skills for managers who wanna be leaders, not bosses. That’s the name of for the listener out there. If you’re not part of it, feel free to join us. And I asked you, you know, what’s, you know, what what’s what’s wrong these days? You know? Where’s your pry pain points? Where can I help you? And I hear the same things every single month. I literally put this question in the group once a month because what I like to do is do a q essentially, a q and a podcast episode off of the off of that question. And every single month is burnout

Selena FIsk [00:34:10]:


Scott McCarthy [00:34:12]:

Stress, individual conflict, you know, conflicts between members, so on and so forth. So, you know, these are all intangible things. So how can we use data, but at the same time recognize that these intangibles exist and get them to complement each other vice, you know, go against each other.

Selena FIsk [00:34:29]:

Yeah. So I often make the distinction, between being data informed and not data driven. And I fiercely advocate for a world in which we’re informed by the data that we’ve got, not driven by it. Because if you’re driven by the data, You know, that’s when things can fall apart. You know, you’re making poor decisions that are going to impact people, like in your instance, people who’ve been away too much. You almost need to override the data that you’ve got, the quantitative kind of hard facts, with your understanding of those people, the context, all of those other challenges as well. So for me, when we’re informed by the data or not driven by it, where We use the quantitative information. We use the numbers, but we’re we understand the context for the organization, for the team members, the economic you know, even the economic climate.

Selena FIsk [00:35:24]:

It might be seasonal for some organizations. There might be changes in seasons. And so we’re informed by the that information, rather than it driving our decision making. And, you know, we in that example that you shared before, sometimes the data just confirms a lot of the time, the data confirms what we already know, and that’s Great. It’s when it doesn’t. It’s when it surprises us that we absolutely, need to be acting. But sometimes as well, the data, the insights that we see, we actually need to make a conscious decision to not act on. And that’s a bit controversial, but it’s important that we’ve at least gone through the decision making process the inquiry process of looking at the insights and then thinking about action.

Selena FIsk [00:36:09]:

And the example I’ll use is, you know, for, for example, If you owned a restaurant, or a or a, or, like, a retail store during any of the COVID lockdowns, If you were to look at your data for that quarter, that, you know, half a year annual income, whatever it might be, The insights will be really clear, but you’re not necessarily gonna need to take action on that. Because By being data informed, we know that, yes, the numbers have dropped. Yes. The numbers wouldn’t have been as good as they were the year before or whatever it might be. But, Actually, we understand the context of what was happening, so we don’t necessarily actually need to act on that. We we just need to get our doors open get people coming back in, and we need to get people spending money again. And and a lot of those things are out of our control. However, We need to go we still need to go through the data storytelling process to be able to get to that point.

Selena FIsk [00:37:10]:

And, obviously, there are things that we could then do, we could think about marketing and how are we encouraging people to come and shop in our store or come back to our restaurants. But, You know, just because our revenue dropped during COVID doesn’t mean that we need to act on that specifically, if that makes sense.

Scott McCarthy [00:37:27]:

No. It makes absolute sense. And I thoroughly enjoyed that that example, because, you know, we often see, I like doing investing. Right? I I do all my own investing, and I go through. And the person who I follow, Shout out Mike Giroux, by the way, from Dividend Stocks Rock. So I’ll let Mike know. I I give him a shout out. You know, Mike says it basically says, like, look into the story of the company before you go and buy a stock.

Scott McCarthy [00:37:55]:

You know, if you look at the last quarter and the quarter’s like, boom, down. Well, what was the reason behind that? And you’re like, oh, they made a huge acquisition, which, you know, turns if you look at the you think you extrapolate that well, if and you look into the other company and that has you huge revenue, high huge profit margins, all this stuff. Well, you can go, okay. The expectation now is that that profit is not only gonna go bounce back up, but even go beyond because of this acquisition by by now. Right? Like so Yeah. That’s why I like it.

Selena FIsk [00:38:25]:

Yeah. But we’ve got a we’ve got something similar in Australia. We’ve got quantitative ratings of of stocks so you can go and and get a quantitative. And it’s just basically all of their data’s being dumped into an algorithm, and it comes out with a you know, is the stock just based on that information. You’d wanna go and do some research and find out why it’s currently undervalued or what’s the market volatility. Like, There’s all those other things that that one number doesn’t actually include. So, yeah, it’s all about being data informed. Right?

Scott McCarthy [00:39:04]:

Right. So on that note, so, you know, a little role play here. I’m a leader. I’m a, you know, middle manager. Maybe I’m the senior leader of a mid size or a large a company. You you can you can run with it as you please. And, you know, we we have data, but, yeah, it’s data. Like, we look at the numbers and then And then you kinda like, okay, whatever.

Scott McCarthy [00:39:26]:

And we generally go with what our gut feel says or what the boss says to do and stuff like this. But I believe in it. I believe in what you’re saying. I believe in data storytelling. And more importantly, I, you know, I believe in making data informed decisions, not data driven decisions. So how can I get me and my team there? What you know, what’s the steps to get to being that data informed decision making, enterprise that we need to be.

Selena FIsk [00:39:53]:

Yeah. So, I mean, a first step, if you wanted to do the data team kind of that would be a really good step, but, Tom Davenport talks a lot about business analytics and the fact that change in this space can take 24 to 36 months for an organization. So I’d encourage you, if you’re in this space right now, while a data team might be an initial, thing that you could do and then work out kind of together what your focus is in the areas of the organization that you’re gonna work on and and and what you’re going to do collectively. I’d also encourage you to think about how do you or how can you map out the next 24 to 36 months of what this looks like. Because what I have seen organizations do is start this change process with really great intentions and some really good ideas, and then, You know, we all get busy. There are always distractions. There are competing priorities, and then it falls away. And, you know, you alluded to this before.

Selena FIsk [00:40:49]:

If we just have a data conversation with people today and then we get completely snowed under and we, in 4 months time, come back and go, oh, Gee, we wanted to make some change here, and we haven’t kept talking to people about it. We almost have to start again. So over that to staff development in this space over time. So, I have, I mentioned before, I have that data diagnostic. It’s on my website. Anybody can take it. It’s free. So even if you wanted to get people in your team to do the data diagnostic, it gives them a PDF And even open the conversation about where are you at.

Selena FIsk [00:41:36]:

Like, where are your skills? What are the areas? So for me, you know, I’ve mentioned these a few times, but it’s Data literacy is the 1st part. Data visualization is the 2nd, and data storytelling is the 3rd part. That report gives people a score and compares their results to other people who’ve done, the diagnostic before. So that could give you, as an organization, some guidance on where the gaps are in your team. But yeah. You know, as I mentioned kind of right at the beginning, the 2 things that come up in that diagnostic, the biggest issues, all the time and support that people have to build these skills. So regularly building time and space and capacity building into a 2 to 3 year program And mapping that out from the beginning, I reckon is the best way to start.

Scott McCarthy [00:42:26]:

Love the end of that part. Drop it in the calendar, Make a protected space and let the team do what you ask them to do.

Selena FIsk [00:42:35]:

Yep. Absolutely. Because we just It’s just time.

Scott McCarthy [00:42:39]:

Yeah. 100%. If Yeah. If you don’t if you don’t plan it, if you don’t prepare for it, you don’t protect it, It’s gonna get filled with something else. Yep. I see I see it day in,

Selena FIsk [00:42:51]:

day out. Yep. And people forget. Right? Like, You know? And going back to an analogy of, like, a a young kid. If we wanted to show them how to tie their shoelace, we wouldn’t just show them once then assume that they know how to do it, and they’re gonna be able to do it for the rest of their life. We need to keep practicing, and we need to keep coming back to it. And, Yeah. And I think it’s exactly the same with adults in a lot of

Scott McCarthy [00:43:12]:

ways. 100%. So, you know, a personal example, for me is that, we have a morning a week where it’s protected time for me as a leader of a t of my team. That is just my time with my team to be able to get together with them, go over things, you know, whatever. Right? We have that morning assigned. There is no no unit level meetings. There is not, you know, no no plans, nothing that is supposed to be prior at your time. And now suddenly, one day, a meeting invite popped up, and I was like, okay.

Scott McCarthy [00:43:42]:

You know, and, you know, blindly hit accept because I knew I was gonna go to it. And then, like, check my calendar. Like, wait now? Mhmm. That’s us. So and, like, I went back like, hey. Like, Uh-uh. That that’s our that’s our time. Like, that’s our projected time.

Scott McCarthy [00:43:57]:

And for the leaders out there listening, like, that’s what you need to do with these times. Right? And if you’re going if something is actually big enough priority, you need to protect it, and that sometimes means you have to push back. Go. No. We agreed. This is gonna be a protected time for this team to do this. They

Selena FIsk [00:44:14]:

need that time. And I’m I’m super aware that that Time is money. You know? It’s a it’s a cost to the organization, but the benefits outweigh cost. I mean, if you’re able to optimize, you know, the money that you’re making or you’re able to improve the service that you’re providing for your clients be as a result of people learning more about the data and then acting on it. Like, if you’re able to mitigate or minimize risk, like, All of that is far more important, and worth a whole lot more than, you know, allocating a couple of hours every fortnight or whatever it might be to spending time, on this

Scott McCarthy [00:44:53]:

work. And and for North American listeners out there, 4th night means every 2 weeks, just FYI. Most of my audience is can Canada US. Just so just to get a do that translation. It’s all good. Selena, This has been an awesome conversation. I truly enjoyed it. As we wrap up here, I do got a couple of last questions for you.

Scott McCarthy [00:45:14]:

The first being a question I asked all the guests here at the Peak Performance Leadership Podcast. And as according to you, Selena Fisk, what makes a great leader?

Selena FIsk [00:45:27]:

Somebody whose data informed, obviously, but I’m not gonna stop there. I just can’t Overstate the importance of vulnerability and willingness to recognize and acknowledge that we none of us have all the answers. None of us are perfect, And we’re actually far stronger and far better as, you know, as a part of a team. So the more we can harness other people’s brown brainpower and show people that we really appreciate that and value that, I think, that makes a really great leader.

Scott McCarthy [00:45:59]:

Can’t agree to more often say, the role of the leaders not to have all the answers, but rather ask the right questions this day and age because we can’t do it all. And then the follow-up question of the show, how can people find you, follow you, shameless plug, have at it. It’s all about you right now.

Selena FIsk [00:46:16]:

Yes. My website is selenafisk.com, soselenafisk .com. My books at the moment, right now, I don’t think you can buy them in Canada. It’ll be end of the year, that you can get them. But, Yeah. You can grab them online, on my resource page, but, yeah, I’m on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, you know, all of the socials. You get varying, you know, types of content on each one. Some have more dogs than others.

Scott McCarthy [00:46:48]:

You you sent it thoroughly, happy to yes. My my info. Yeah. But that for the listener right there, all jokes aside, you can check out the links during the show notes as always. Go to lead dump boss.comforward/233, 233, and the links are there in the show notes As always, Selena, thank you again for coming out, talking to us today. It’s been fantastic.

Selena FIsk [00:47:10]:

That’s okay. I think for me, this has been an awesome conversation, but just listening to the way that you pronounce out every time has just been my thing. So Thank you so much. Scott’s been

Scott McCarthy [00:47:24]:

awesome. And that’s a wrap for this episode, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening. Thank you for supporting the peak performance leadership podcast. But you know what you could do to truly support podcasts. And no, that’s not leaving a rating and review. It’s simply helping a friend, and that is helping a friend by sharing this episode with them if you think this would resonate with them and help them elevate their performance level, whether that’s within themselves, their teams, or their organization. So do that.

Scott McCarthy [00:47:56]:

Help me. Help a friend. Win win all around. And, hey, you look like a great friend at the same time. So just hit that little share button on your app, and then feel free to fire this episode to anyone that you feel would benefit from it. Finally, there’s always more. There’s always more lessons around being the highest performing leader that you can possibly be, whether that’s for yourself, your team, or your organization. So why don’t you subscribe? Subscribe to the show via moving forward leadership .comforward/subscribe.

Scott McCarthy [00:48:35]:

Until next time, lead. Don’t boss, And thanks for coming out. Take care now.