Category Archives: Leadership

Eliminating Hassles

TimeForChangeIt is easy for me to fall into the trap of the “who” versus the “what”. If we are not careful we can get caught up in a web entangled mess. I often get asked how do I go about handling each day and staying organized. Let me be the first to say it isn’t easy, and just because it works for one person doesn’t always mean it will work for the next. However; with that said I am happy to disclose some of my methods in what I call eliminating hassles.

Ask What Rather Than Who

Usually, a problem that arises many people tend to throw out the “It’s not my fault; it’s your fault” card. Some do it with quite precision I’ve found out over the years. When an issue arises instead of immediately looking at someone to place blame on; step back and look at how the issue got to where it is. Example, perhaps a procedure or policy that has been mandated for years contributed to the said issue. Don’t get me wrong and confuse this with letting discipline go by the wayside; there will be instances where it is in fact needed. For future reference, I try to think about the problem at hand and how we got there first then go from there. Who knows; maybe a problem has existed for a while now that is due to a standard and it can easily be changed to help all parties involved. Just because something has been done one way for years doesn’t mean it is right.

Listen To What Others Are Saying

Within IT, we provide a service, to both our external and internal customers. A necessity for survival is keeping a pulse on what is going on around us. Many times we can find process failures if we just listen. We have grown accustomed to having information and data at a moments notice. Being in the financial industry myself I realize how important it is for processes to work as quickly, smoothly, and efficiently as they can. I once had a coach who told me not to listen to how he was saying something but rather what he was saying. I didn’t realize then what that means; all we heard was yelling – I get it now from a business perspective. Listen to the complaint or concern that others are initiating and see if there are some improvements that can be made.

Always Think Ahead

This may be easier said than done, but don’t just wait for issues to appear; continue to find ways to improve upon process before the issues arise. One key aspect I’ve learned in leadership over the years is to anticipate problems and be prepared to handle them. As sports teams go through practice day in and day out preparing for a big game by studying and anticipating what their opponent will be doing and vice versa. The same concept applies here; we as data professionals should be proactive in our day to day efforts. Continue to review disaster practices, processes that may have become stagnant through the years. Don’t become complacent.

Review Your Own Processes

Let’s leave everyone else out of this next topic. Time for reflection of yourself; everyone has their own routine – some are good and some are bad. Some leaders I know often say that routines can be bad and I get that. However, there are some good routines that if correctly put in place can garner stability for an environment. One headache I’ve seen over and over again with many data professionals (myself included) is organization. So, me personally, below is my routine for myself:

  • BROWSE THROUGH YOUR EMAIL. Is there anything that needs to be done today or tomorrow? This week? This month?
    1. What did I not do well yesterday, in any area of my life, I need to go back and fix?
    2. What went well?
    3. What did not go well?
    4. What did not get done yesterday?
  • What can I start working on today that will not pay off for 5, 10, 20 years from now?
  • What is important for me to be working on right now?
  • What is the biggest problem in my personal life? My business life?

That’s it; I start off with those same questions each morning; will it work for you? Not sure but this is just an example of what my routine is in the morning before I get going. Time is key and time management is even better. I will not go into my routine on time management, but maybe I will turn that into a future post.

Resistance = Yes

Anytime changes are made to existing processes or procedures you should expect resistance. This goes hand in hand with listening to what the major problems and complaints are both internal and external. Processes that I’ve encountered in my own shop that was put in place say 8 years ago were put in place for a reason; however, that reason may have outlived its purpose. With that being said working through resistance is a skillful mastering that doesn’t occur overnight. One lesson I’ve learned over time is how your words are interpreted and what people take from your words is crucial and key. There may be times that you have to garner support for your ideas and that is okay; this is where it is key to know what you are doing and to present the idea thoroughly and skillfully. As a data professional it is our duty to continue to look for and implement new and better processes to help streamline processes making them the most efficient as they can be.

One thing I would like to say in all this doesn’t sacrifice what is right for the sake of speed. Remember, do it right the first time and don’t cut corners – chances are if you do it will come back to bite you in the end.

Reflect On Changes Made

Going to let you in on a little secret. Every change that I’ve made has not always gone according to plan. Yes, I’ve taken risks in the past – calculated ones and ones that I felt were right. There are times when you have to re-evaluate those changes made and that’s okay. This is part of the journey and growth. Introducing new ideas to a team, the culture at a shop, or individually is easy – making them stick is not always as easy. I recall an assistant coach of mine would meet me at the gym at 3:30 a.m. before school so I could get in 800 jump shots and conditioning. This was a change I wanted to make so that I could get better at what I was doing at the time – was it easy – – um no. The same thing has carried over into technology for me. When change is made it is not always going to be easy – it is then when true leadership and character come into play. Lead by example and if you have made a mistake own up to it and make the necessary change.

Take A Ways

  • Don’t look to pass blame; rather identify failure points
  • Eliminate hassles
  • Review processes and keep them up to date
  • Don’t be afraid to make changes when required
  • Expect resistance
  • Ask why something is done one way
  • Get organized
  • Listen to your internal and external customers – what are the pain points
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Four PASS Questions–My Take #PASSElections

As part of the campaign material for this years election for Board of Directors; the candidates were asked to answer four questions. While I did put together a short two-minute video for PASS that will be published soon on the election site regarding these questions; I felt it prudent to also do a bit more justice to the questions.

What is PASS to you?

In simple terms PASS to me is the people that embody PASS in general. We are fortunate and blessed to have some great events worldwide at our disposal. To name a few events offhand:

All of the above are great avenues to learn, and we are fortunate to have them. If it wasn’t for some of these above I can honestly say I probably wouldn’t be here before you today on a slate to run for the PASS Board of Directors. However, with all that said, in my heart what makes PASS is the people (our community).

  • PASS is the one-off conversations that you see members having at the PASS Summit.
  • PASS is seeing a member helping another member with an issue or a problem.
  • PASS is the countless volunteers that devote their time to help others to connect, share, and learn.
  • PASS is speakers who devote their time and knowledge to helping others learn.
  • PASS is providing data professionals the ability to get ahead of the curve by keeping them out front of today’s technology.
  • PASS is when someone in the community is struggling and someone stops and offers them encouragement offline.
  • PASS is having healthy debates.
  • PASS is not just an event.
  • PASS is in everyday life; it doesn’t have to be regulated to confined events. It has no boundaries or walls.

We, as a community, have grown and made great strides over the years. There is still, and always will be, room for improvements. We cannot become stagnant nor can we be afraid of change when it merits it. I’m a byproduct of PASS and what PASS can do for you.

What one change would you like to see in PASS for the 2 years you serve, if any?

I think with any organization you have to keep improving on key aspects. For me, personally, I would like to see the following occur:

  • Continue to build on transparency with the community. Being more of a “grass-roots” data professional I would love and welcome to see additional collaboration efforts with community members.
  • Continue to build on PASS being a global entity. We cannot just view PASS as a US entity, but rather a global entity that is impacting data professionals from all over the world. I’m amazed thus far at the progress made in this area; still, with so much progress we still have so much more work to do.
  • Look at leadership paths for community members and also for existing Board of Directors. We should all continue to grow in this area regardless of where we are at in our careers.

What are your goals as a Board member

This is a great question and one that is not taken lightly. My stance on this question is simply to go in each and every day; put on the PASS uniform jersey, and make an impact in some form or fashion. Whether this is making some tough decisions or reaching out to bridge some gaps. I would love to continue the excellence in what I believe PASS to be; listen if I didn’t believe in PASS and what it stood for I wouldn’t be devoting the time these past six years. I’ve seen it at work first hand; I believe in it, and I also believe that with anything we can make it better for future PASS members.

In my original post found here regarding running for the board of directors I stated I would not make promises and that holds true. All I can say is that I will give it all I got every day. Will I make mistakes, yes. What I can guarantee is that the drive and passion are real along with a work ethic that wants to see success for PASS for many years to come.

How can the community stay current with the ever-evolving world of data?

I think the foundation has had a good starting point with the BI and BA tracts coming into play. We have to continue to hone in with the changing times from all angles of the life cycle. We need to continue to partner and collaborate with one another from Dev, DBA, BI, BA, Data Scientists, Data Professionals in general and provide mechanisms that help drive thought leaders within their respective industries.

We need to continue to provide the tools within the infrastructure side of PASS that enable cross-collaboration across local events – what worked for you vs. what didn’t work.

I’m excited about what the future holds and where data and solutions will lead us.

Summary

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read this post. Leadership is something that I don’t take lightly. One of the sayings I’ve kept close to me is from John Wooden, “The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example.” I think it’s imperative that we, as leaders, in the community view leadership as not creating followers, instead we should be creating more leaders.

I will have the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of the community and fellow board members. We should be able to demonstrate what is possible and continue to build future leaders within our community.

Again, it’s an honor to share the time with all of the candidates whom I respect. Whether you vote for me or not I do encourage you to go vote when balloting goes live on September 20th. It’s our community; let’s shape it together.

 

 

Running for the PASS Board of Directors #PASSelections

Someday_20564This year I decided to take “someday” to heart and do something that has been on my mind for awhile – submit my application to run for the PASS Board. Going through the process so far has been a humbling experience; one that I’ve learned a lot from. I’m excited to say that my application was accepted and with that this is my formal announcement and the beginning of my campaign for election.

You may ask who is Chris Yates and why is he running? By the end of this post, my goal is to answer that question for you. I am a by product of what PASS can do for you as a data professional. There are so many stories that people have shared who have had similar experiences such as mine. My first time I heard of PASS was in 2011; it is then I was afforded the opportunity to attend my first PASS Summit – information overload ensued! Unknown to me at the time it was the foundation being laid for the journey to arrive at this day.

The Question – Who Is Chris Yates?

Well, that’s easy enough. I’m a 17-year vet of SQL server who views his job as, well not a job. I work for a stellar company in Republic Bank located in Louisville, KY. It is there where my first break with PASS was given to me. I help John Morehouse run the local Louisville SQL and Power BI user group along with helping co-organize the local SQL Saturday event here with Malathi Mahadevan, John Morehouse, and many volunteers. I enjoy helping others succeed and leadership is a strong passion of mine to which I’ve dedicated time to leading a Center of Excellence initiative around leadership for our IT folk at the shop.

You can read plenty more over on my bio page on PASS’s web site located here.

You can view candidates rankings here

The Why?

So this is the meat of this post – the why? Chris, why now. Listen, earlier I mentioned that I’m a by product of what PASS can do for someone and their career. I’ve been blessed and fortunate in my career and more so over the past six years since PASS and I got to know each other. I want others to experience that same success and want to continue to help lead PASS to many more successful years.

PASS is the people, it is the networking at events from big to small, it is staying ahead of the curve that will provide and give our members the edge in their data professional careers. If you’ve been around me long enough then you’ve heard me say over and over again that if we just reach one it’s worth it; I truly believe that. For me it was a guy by the name of Chris Shaw who decided to take a chance on me and become my very first mentor after that 2011 PASS Summit – that is PASS. It is the one off conversations you have at events, email, phone calls in helping each other to learn – that is PASS.

There are plenty of Chris Yates’ out there who are still looking for something and don’t know about PASS. It’s time to step up to the plate and pay it forward like so many before me.

So What Do You Bring to the Table?

I’m not perfect; never will claim to be. If you come here looking for that then it is time to move on. Heck, I’m not even going to make promises that I won’t be able to keep. What I can tell you is this; each candidate running for this board is more than qualified. I’d even go as far as to say I would support all of them if I could. I can tell you that I have a passion for seeing this community succeed, and seeing PASS succeed. I will attack it like I do everything else and give it 110%; at the end of the day, there will be nothing left on the table and nothing left in the tank. Along with the passion and effort; I will tap into my previous board experiences along with being cognizant of my grass roots mentality. I truly believe that we can make an impact anywhere at anytime. Doesn’t have to be at an event; nor does it have to be on a call. Each one of us can impact someone’s life both as a data professional and on a personal level. This will be one epic ride and I ask that you take that journey with me.

Summary

There will be no “what if’s” nor will there be no looking for that someday. That someday came knocking on the door and I’m ready to answer that call and step through it hoping to make a difference for all you and our community. Whatever the outcome may be when this is all said and done; know one thing. The people make up PASS and without you (us) we couldn’t do what we set out to do on a daily basis – help each other to connect, share, and learn. If elected; I’ll give you all I got.

Now whether you vote for me or one of the other candidates I implore you to go vote; what you are doing is helping shape the future of the PASS organization.

To all the other candidates running; it’s truly an honor to share this stage with you. Thank you for laying it out on the line and accepting the call.

My name is Chris Yates and I’m running for the PASS BoD – for more information please go and visit here

Built My Presentation, Now What?

IMG_20161025_092017_01Over the course of several years, I have given many technical and non-technical presentations. It is fun for me to put a new slide deck together, but it also requires a lot of hard work and can be time-consuming. I’ve had a few mistakes, to say the least, over the years where that one typo slips through or something doesn’t go according to plan ~ guess what? It happens.

I compare articulating a presentation to similar fashion in testing something. Yeah, you go over it again and again just like you would test a backup process or verify indexes are actually working. For me the same concept applies; I can’t remember who in the SQL Community always mentions having a checklist handy. I know I’ve read that somewhere before but cobwebs are thick right now so, please, forgive me if I don’t remember. Through the years, I’ve managed to build my own checklist regarding presentations. It is the nuts and bolts of what works for me; it doesn’t necessarily mean it, in turn, will work for you.

Given light of some past conversations I’ve had, I figured I’d share it with you all and maybe someone out there will benefit from it.

Presentation Checklist (a.k.a. Project Double Check Yourself)

What is the purpose – fully understand the purpose of the presentation. By that I mean, what outcome are you seeking?

  • To inform
  • To convince
  • To generate insight and discussion
  • To drive action

Know your audience

  • Do you know who my audience is? Have I provided adequate context to make it easier for them to understand?
  • Are there any personal motivations that you need be aware of?
  • Is the audience familiar with the topic? Have you included adequate detail and background information?
  • Is the presentation tailored to fit the audiences communication style?

Know the message

  • If applicable, do you know the problem or issue you are trying to address?
  • Do you have three to five key teaching points you want to deliver? If so, have you tied those teaching points logically and clearly to the original problem?
  • Have you clearly linked your teaching points to key data or trends along with explaining how the analysis supports, confirms, or denies beliefs about the problem and/or possible solutions?
  • Have you limited the data to what matters most?
  • Have you clearly established relevance? (why would your audience care? Have you clearly highlighted how this aligns with the target audience?)
  • Have you clearly established urgency (why would the audience act now; why is it critical?)

Structure

  • Is the presentation clearly marked with markers and sign posts? Is it easy to follow?
  • Is there an agenda that clearly identifies the different elements and how it fits together? Key point up front?
  • Are there additional details about internal or external sources that were consulted for the included information? Give credit where credit is due

Narrative

  • Does the presentation include insights that will be most influential to the audience? Is the scripting memorable and powerful?
  • Does the presentation identify key assumptions?
  • Does the presentation articulate immediate actions that you believe the audience should take?

Graphics

  • Do you know the purpose of each graphic? Is it tied to a teaching point in the message?
  • Do the graphics present information in a logical, visually appealing manner? Are there other ways of interpreting the graphic other than your intention?
  • Is the page balanced?

Formatting

  • Does the presentation have a standardized look and feel (same headings, colors, fonts)?
  • Are page elements consistent (background, title, body text)?
  • Are colors used judiciously (to emphasize, highlight, and organize)

Conclusion

Checklists; they are everywhere. They don’t necessarily have to be for technical related activities; heck we use checklists for grocery items. They are a part of our daily lives; so when you get that presentation built and you are ready to give it at your shop, on the job, a conference or a client take a few minutes and review a checklist. Make sure you have your house in order and that everything makes sense.

Remember, you get out what you put into something. Continue to work hard and hone in on your speaking and presentation talents that lie within. Like I said, these are some of the things that have helped me over the years; doesn’t mean they are for everyone. The flip side to that, you may have some of your own to share. I encourage you to do so.

 

Personal Ownership–The Vision Within

vision-imageIt has been said that the very essence of leadership is that you have a vision. It has to be a vision you can articulate clearly and precisely on any occasion. There is a vast difference between a person that has a vision and what is called a visionary person. Think of it in this manner:

  • A person with a vision talks little but does much.
  • A visionary person does little but talks much.
  • A person with a vision finds strength from inner convictions.
  • A visionary person finds strength from outward conditions.
  • A person with vision continues when problems arise.
  • A visionary person quits when the road becomes difficult.

Some of my personal experiences have taught me the following:

  • The credibility of a vision is determined by the leader.
  • The acceptance of a vision is determined by the timing of its presentation.
  • The value of the vision is determined by the energy and direction it gives.
  • The evaluation of a vision is determined by the commitment we the people have.
  • The success of a vision is determined by its ownership by both the leader and the people.

Take a look around you; what is happening to others

A good idea can become great when the people are ready. The data professional who is impatient with people can become defective in their leadership. The evidence of strength lies not all the time in blazing a trail ahead but instead adopting our stride at a slower pace while not forfeiting the end goal. If you run too far ahead then you run the risk of losing your power to influence.

The ability to decipher the big picture

The ability to decipher the big picture is oftentimes what separates leaders. They are concerned with the shop’s basic purpose of why it exists and what it should achieve. Some things to think about that may hinder a vision:

  • Limited Leaders – everything rises and falls on leadership.
  • Concrete Thinkers – see things as they are and say why?
  • Dogmatic Talkers – to be absolutely sure about something one must either know everything or nothing about the problem. At times knows nothing but conventionally says something.
  • Continual Failure– many people look at past failures and fear the risk of pursuing future visions.
  • Satisfied Sitters – people who strive for comfort which sits on the heels of complacency, predictability, and boredom.
  • Census Takers – some people are never comfortable stepping out of the crowd.
  • Problem Receivers – some people can see a problem in every solution.
  • Self-Seekers – people who live for themselves.
  • Failure Forecasters – extract only discord; outlook is always gloomy and times are always bad.

Summary:

Spend some time and think about the dreams and vision you have as a data professional. Whether you are in an organization or a consultant I challenge you to consider the following:

Refuse to accept failure with self-worth.

Don’t restrict thinking to established, rigid patterns.

See the big picture.

Welcome challenge with optimism

Don’t waste time in unproductive thinking.

Integrity–A Key Ingredient to Leadership

IntegrityWhen I have the opportunities to speak, whether local or elsewhere, on leadership I am often asked what are some things that make up a good leader? Over the years one very common word keeps coming up ~ integrity. It is a small word with a big meaning; if you were to pull up a dictionary integrity is defined as, “the state of being complete, unified.” When one has this ingredient their words and deeds match up; meaning they are who they say they are no matter where they are or who they are with.

This ingredient seems to be vanishing where personal standards are crumbling with data professionals in hot pursuit of finding shortcuts to success. Integrity is not what we do so much as who we are, and who we are often determines what we do. Our system of values is so much a part of us that we cannot separate it from ourselves. It is a navigational system so to speak that guides us. We often struggle in our respective shops with situations that demand our decisions between what we want to do and what we ought to do. Integrity establishes those ground rules for resolving such occasions.

Below are some traits that I believe derive from Integrity:

  • Integrity builds trust.
  • Integrity has high influence value.
  • Integrity facilitates high standards.
  • Integrity results in a solid reputation, not just image.
  • Integrity means living it myself.
  • Integrity helps a leader be credible, not just deemed clever.
  • Integrity is a hard-won achievement.

All the above are not given factors in everyone’s life. It is as result of self-discipline, inner trust, hard work, and a decision to be relentlessly honest in all situations.

Summary

Think about the situations as a data professional that you find yourself in. Begin asking the question am I taking a shortcut in order to get to success? Will that security permission not mean anything if I give it now and let another data professional handle the fall out at a later time? Or maybe you are a leader at your shop, is it something that you would sell a team or colleague out to get ahead. Whatever the case may be I urge you to take a long look at what your leadership looks like in your current role. Everyone influences someone in some form or fashion, will you have this key ingredient that is called integrity?

Don’t Duck On Responsibilities

ResponsibilitiesBeing a data professional you assume a certain amount of responsibility. It often requires having the right attitude and an action plan in place for finding the solutions to our problems at hand. Too many times we attack the symptoms causing the issue, but overlook the root cause. The quick Band-Aid fixes are found many times over, whereas our jobs should be identifying the real issues that lie beneath the symptoms. Now, don’t get me wrong – I understand at times you have to stop the bleeding. In the end though one should uncover the root cause and make the permanent fix.

Prioritize the issue at hand

Chances are you, dear reader, encounter many problems throughout the day. Never try to solve all the problems at one time; instead make them line up for you one by one. Might seem odd but make them stand in a single file line and tackle them one at a time until you’ve knocked them all out. You may not like what you find when uncovering the root cause issues, but that is part of the process. Be careful of this uncovering and be cognizant that what you find with the issues may or may not be the root to all the problems.

Take time and define the problem

In it’s simplest form, take time out and ask yourself this question – “What is the problem?” Sounds easy enough doesn’t it; you’d be amazed by the many accounts of knee jerk reactions data professionals make all over the world. You  may be thinking to yourself that there has to be more to it than that. Think about it in four easy steps:

  • Ask the right questions – if you only have a vague idea of the situation, then don’t ask general questions. Do not speculate but instead ask process related questions things relating to trends or timing. What transpired over the course of the week that may have led to this issue.
  • Talk to the right people – you will face people who inevitably will have the all-knowing and all correct way that things should be done. Heed caution to such as you may find resistant to change and blind spots by these individuals. Creativity is, at times, essential to any problem-solving skill.
  • Get the “set in stone” facts – once the facts are all laid out and defined you may find that the decision is pretty concise and clear on action that should be taken.
  • Be involved – don’t just let the first three steps define you; get involved in the process of being the solution.

Questions to ask yourself regarding the problem

  • Is this a real problem?
  • Is it urgent?
  • Is the true nature of the problem known?
  • Is it specific?
  • Are all parties who are competent to discuss the issue involved?

Build a repository

Once you’ve come to the conclusion and provided a solution to the issue – document it. I know I just lost several readers there. Believe it or not documentation will save your bacon at some point. Maybe not next week or next month, but at some point down the line it will. Some things to consider are:

  • Were we able to identify the real cause to the problem?
  • Did we make the right decision?
  • Has the problem been resolved by the fix?
  • Have any key people accepted the solution?

I am reminded by a saying I once ran across:

Policies are many, Principles are few, Polices will change, Principles never do

Summary

Each day we encounter issues and problems. Don’t let them define you but rather you define the issue. Often times we overlook the root cause; remember to go through your process, policy, and standards in rectifying the problems at hand. It is better to tackle the problems when they are known than to sweep them under the rug for the next data professional to come along and then they are faced with fixing them.

Hopefully this short post will provoke you to think about the issues you deal with on a daily basis and how best to tackle them.