In-Ear Insights Predictive Analytics, Productivity, and Management

In-Ear Insights: Predictive Analytics, Productivity, and Management

In this episode of In-Ear Insights, the Trust Insights podcast, Katie and Chris discuss how to better manage people and marketing through frameworks, predictive analytics, and anticipation. We talk about how anticipating questions, needs, and potential issues can help smooth communications between managers and employees. Chris shares how predictive analytics and AI assistants can help managers plan for situations and employee interactions. Katie suggests using frameworks to set context and clarify purpose when starting potentially tough conversations. We explore emotional barriers to anticipation and how to create psychological safety. Tune in to learn communication tips for improving management and marketing outcomes through anticipating needs.


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In-Ear Insights: Predictive Analytics, Productivity, and Management

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

Christopher Penn 0:00

In this week’s In-Ear Insights, one of the most popular sayings when flying a plane is a three word catchphrase.

aviate, navigate, communicate, fly the plane, keep falling out the sky, navigate, make sure you go and we’re supposed to go and then communicate.

However, there are all these types of frameworks for other kinds of work management, SEO, content, marketing, etc.

So, Katie, when you think about the kinds of frameworks that are helpful to you, and particularly for managing people and for marketing, what is what are some that come to mind for you that would help you as a stakeholder, manage someone better?

Katie Robbert 0:40

You know, it’s funny, I, I don’t have one.

And that’s, that’s part of the problem.

So there’s, you know, there’s frameworks around, you know, communication in terms of is it helpful? Is it necessary? I don’t remember exactly what that one is.

But, uh, there’s a framework.

And, you know, it’s interesting, because it’s actually taught like, all the way down to like preschool and kindergarten, in terms of communication.

And it’s the idea is, if you have something to say, you know, is it relevant? Is it helpful? Is it necessary? Like, is it timely, and I forget what the acronym is.

But that’s a framework that has always stuck with me as an adult, that even down to, you know, kids were five years old need to learn or need to understand how to participate helpfully in a conversation, other than just like, yammering on for 20 minutes about this bug that they saw, they start with, and then they end by, you know, whatever piece of gum, they stuck in the back of their claws, and you’re like, wait a second, how did the GM get in the closet, we were talking about the bug.

Which for a kid can be endearing as an adult, it’s really annoying, especially when you’re sitting in a meeting, and you just want to get out of the meeting.

But you know, then, you know, Jim shows up, and Jim is a talker, and Jim is going to tell you about, you know, everything from you know Which shoe he tied first to what he had for dinner three weeks ago.

And you’re like, oh, for the love of God, Jim, I just want to get out of this meeting.

And so the very now I’m demonstrating the point, the long winded way of saying, you know, frameworks help us communicate.

And so I’ve been thinking about this.

And the thing that is often missing from management and communication frameworks is anticipate.

And so the idea of anticipating, almost, I was thinking about it in terms of like predictive analytics, where you’re, like, proactive and thinking ahead.

But in terms of communication, one of the things that I was taught as a manager was anticipate the questions that you’re going to be asked and answer them before the other person can ask them.

And it’s just, it’s such a small thing, but it will like, blow people’s minds and dazzle them and be like I was, I was going to ask that exact question.

Wow, you really got ahead of it.

And it just it’s such a time saver.

Overall, when you’re communicating, if you’re anticipating.

And so I’d say in terms of frameworks, I don’t have one.

But the thing that’s always missing from the ones that I do see is that anticipation piece.

Christopher Penn 3:28

Well, that makes sense.

I mean, we talk about the same thing in in good content, marketing strategy, and good SEO strategy.

One of the things that has been sort of a time tested content marketing trick for any kind of page is to say, okay, here is where the person lands on the page.

Here’s the question we answer.

What is the next question that they’re going to have? Answer that on the page next? So if you arrive, for example, on the Trust Insights website, you go to the predictive analytics pages, it says, What is predictive analytics? And it goes, blah, blah, blah, blah, math, etc? Your next logical question as the reader is probably going to be, why do I care more? If you understand why it and this is where intent management comes in? If you already know why you care, then your next question is, okay, how do I do it? Right? So if that’s one of the things, we talked about content marketing, to sort of what why, how or why, what, how, and depending on the intent of the page, if you have a visitor come space, and they don’t know why they’re there, then you go, why what how, why did why could expand looks as important.

You want to anticipate things, what is predictive analytics math, how do you do this? More math? If it’s the person knows why they’re within it sort of the what, why how, okay, what is this thing? Why do I care about this specific implementation of it, and then how do I do it? And so that anticipate is really important because that’s, that’s not just predictive analytics.

That is also generative AI, think about it.

A tool like ChatGPT is just put dictating the next word, what is the next likely word and sentence.

And you and I, as human beings, we are also predictive engines, we are constantly saying, in our brains, what is the next thing for me to say If the next word out of your mouth in predictive analytics is rutabagas, something has gone wrong, right.

And so, as part of this idea of communications, prediction, and anticipation really are at the heart of it.

Katie Robbert 5:28

And it’s, it’s interesting that for some reason, as humans, where we can grasp that concept when it comes to machines and software, but in terms of a general conversation, we still struggle person to person, even though, you know, I can say to you, Chris, you know, what’s on your plate next week? And you’ll tell me, you know, the five things that you’re working on? Because I’ve asked you the question 100 times, for some reason, there’s a disconnect in the anticipation of, but you know, that I’m also going to ask timelines, and communication and like, I’m going to ask all those things.

And yet, those pieces don’t get communicated until the question is asked.

And so as a human, you know, I sit on the side of the conversation where I’m always trying to anticipate and so I try to answer those questions.

And I get frustrated, when I don’t get the same type of, you know, call and response, that anticipation when I’m talking with someone else, like, I’m just picking on you, for example, but you know, you are by no means the only person in the world, who, you know, doesn’t anticipate or answer the next question I happen to be really tuned in, because it’s how I was trained to do it.

But it’s interesting that you can talk about the software, and understand that that’s the call and response that that’s how you should operate.

And so, you know, as I’m thinking about maybe developing a new framework, maybe I should be thinking about it in terms of if people can wrap their head around talking to a piece of software, how do I reposition that, so that it’s person to person instead, so that we don’t lose those skills?

Christopher Penn 7:17

So there’s, there’s two things that well, there’s more buttons, but the two big things for screw up prediction, right? One is having insufficient data, I don’t have enough data to predict what the next likely thing is going to be.

And so therefore, I don’t do it.

So that’s one avenue.

Now, in like a new relationship, like when you just onboard a new customer, mate, yeah, you don’t know how someone’s going to respond.

And so you’re like, Okay, I’m just gonna wait and see.

Right, that’s one branch.

The second branch, which applies to our working relationship, because we’ve been working together for like, eight years now is emotional, which is insane.

Like, I don’t really want to do that extra work, right? There’s that that that procrastination impact, or, even worse, well, not worse, but even more impactful is emotional valence.

Like, I know what Katie’s going to ask me next.

I don’t want to answer that question.

So I’m not going to anticipate, and therefore maybe I don’t have to go down that route.

Right? We all had that growing up, we had that.

Your parent asks you a question.

I’m already in trouble.

And I know if I say anything, once I get more durable.

So how do I don’t avert that situation? So with machines, it’s largely just, hey, there’s not enough data to make good predictions.

There’s no emotion, even if it can simulate emotion.

But with humans, there is that whole emotional side as well.

And so that’s when you’re talking about predictive analytics and predicting an anticipation.

Those are some of the things can can really foul things up.

Katie Robbert 8:51

It’s, I find it interesting, though, because I feel like so if we go back to the insufficient data, for example, so there’s insufficient data, so you can’t answer the question.

And then you talked about it in terms of a new relationship, a new client, I would argue that there are always basic things that you can anticipate.

So you should be answering those questions.

Whether you’re a machine or a new client, like you can always answer a baseline, you know, timeline resources, like communication style, those kinds of things.

Even if your new client doesn’t know to ask, well, what is the timeline for this? You should be able to answer that question.

You know, what is the communication style? You should be able to answer that question.

So I would say there’s still some level of anticipation that you can do with like a core set of questions that will likely always be asked, you know, who is my primary point of contact? How often will I be getting updates on this project? And then within this Jean, I would imagine that the same is true, that ad has to be true in order for the system to be built in the first place.

Like there has to be a core set of known data to start to, like feed up into the unknown questions.

And so the known data is, you know, who are you? What are you trying to do? Like, what is the data set that I’m even looking at? So like, I think about when I hear phrases like, well, I didn’t know what to ask, or I didn’t know how to answer.

I didn’t know what they want.

I sort of call BS on that a little bit.

Because there’s always a core set of things that people want to know, even if they’re not asking the question.

Christopher Penn 10:37

I will civilly disagree with you on that front, or two in two ways.

One is two ways.

There’s more than two ways, but one for practitioners who are newer in their in their roles, particularly young in their careers, they don’t know they’ve not had those experiences yet.

And to four, it’s not that people don’t know it, again, it goes back down to that emotional side is that nothing, they don’t know it is that they don’t want to go down that road if they don’t have to.

Katie Robbert 11:10

So do you think it’s so I feel like now you’re talking about avoidance? And so you’re talking about avoidance of potential conflict, avoidance of continuing the conversation, and I guess, so again, I sort of put myself into a different category, like, I don’t avoid conflict, I, I tend to face it, head on, deal with it and move on.

So maybe that makes me more of the exception than the rule in this situation.

Christopher Penn 11:40

It’s interesting, because this is a whole separate tangent that we can go on in another show.

But there is There absolutely are people who are, you know, conflict avoidant, and then conflict, anticipatory or conflict eager they are they they just want to yell and shout and be right all the time.

There’s not used but there’s the example I’m thinking of as people arguing with each other on social media, right about politics, or news is that ever, there’s no shortage of people who are conflict eager.

Like, let’s go, right, I want to fight just for the sake of fighting.

But in the context of management and of of AI and anticipation, one of the things that makes a tool like ChatGPT, for example.

So effective is, to your point key, it has been trained on so much information, that there aren’t many situations that are common that we would be dealing with, where it does not have lots of examples already.

They may not be good examples, but they are definitely examples of some kind.

And so people are able to use this tool to anticipate for them to ask them ask questions like, Hey, I’m about to go into this meeting.

Tell me what things I should expect, right? Or I’m about to go into my annual review.

I know things have not been great this year, what should I expect? And how should I prepare? And so there’s there for people who are managing or being managed, these tools would be useful tools to answer some of those anticipation questions like, Hey, I, you know, my boss seems unhappy with me, what should I do about and have a conversation with the tool, just to give you those options of things that if you are conflict averse, you may not even know to ask or to to anticipate what could happen.

So again, that’s I think there’s value there, you know, predictive analytics tools, classical machine learning ones take numbers and forecasts more numbers, language models, can take anticipatory questions and help us anticipate better.

Katie Robbert 13:46

And so I would say going on that, you know, pulling on that thread of conflict, anticipation, good managers, strong managers do that.

They don’t go looking for a fight.

Let me sort of like clarify.

You know, as a manager, I’m not looking for people to argue with all day long, what I’m looking for are conflicts, potential conflicts that can be easily resolved, with better communication, better, you know, expectations, and, you know, all that sort of stuff.

And so, that’s one of the reasons why I asked so many questions.

You know, why ask, you know, so many follow up questions, Chris, of like, well, what about the timeline? What about this? What about that, because what I’m doing is I’m doing that conflict anticipation, and not necessarily conflict between you and me.

But like conflict between us and the client or conflict between you and your schedule or conflict between me and my communication.

I’m trying to find all the holes so that I can fill them in proactively and not find ourselves on the other side of a project going oh crap, we missed a 80% of it.

Christopher Penn 15:02

Oh, yeah.

And part of part of being an effective manager absolutely is be being that anticipatory and looking for, hey, based on my past experiences, things, here’s what I know is going to happen if we don’t answer x, y, and z, on the flip side, for the people that you are managing, a couple of challenges can crop up there that may not even be under your control, or you have to anticipate them and be able to the other one is just creating a safe space to have those uncomfortable conversations, even if they’re just mildly uncomfortable.

Because we have all these wonderful things, right? That these these technologies that essentially give us instant gratification, give us whatever we want.

If we want, we swipe right and something happens, you can make alcohol appear at your house, make groceries appear at your house, things like that.

As a result, we are less and less used to not getting our way.


And so there’s a there’s a cultural aspect, I mean, think about a company like Amazon laughing because

Katie Robbert 15:58

you’re right.


Christopher Penn 16:00

it’s nothing like Amazon is designing friction free experiences, you can have your way just insert your credit card and boom, you know, magic appears.

company like Disney exactly the same you book a you book a full, fully managed trip to Disney World.

And it is like magic is like no other travel experience you will ever have.

Because like Ha things just happen.

For managers, when you’re dealing with with people who are, like me difficult to work with, sometimes you have to be able to create that safe space where they feel safe enough to be even willing to have an uncomfortable conversation rather than just avoid it entirely.

Because that’s just human nature, we will try to avoid it if we can.

And to understand the rationale, like I’m not asking these questions to be a pain in the ass, right? I’m not asking the questions to slow you down, I’m gonna ask you these questions to, to just self satisfy my ego and justify my place as a manager, I’m asking these questions so that we can avoid problems.

So that context is really important that an employee or someone you’re managing knows that because there are a lot of folks, myself included, who have a lot of past unpleasant interactions with bad managers, where even even if a good manager is fantastic, they may just say something that triggers a really horrendous experience you had in the past.

And now you have you’re dealing with a person who is reacting in an unanticipated way, what should be a fairly routine thing.

Katie Robbert 17:40

I can definitely think of a few examples where that’s happened.

But I didn’t have that insight to understand why it was happening.

So that’s, you know, we’re getting a psychology lesson today, too.

But you’re absolutely right.

You know, so when I asked, you know, a million questions, you know, I can see where as the person being managed, it comes across as I wouldn’t say harassment, but like, okay, just like, leave me alone.

I just got work to do, like, why are you still asking me questions.

Whereas from where I sit as the manager, it’s, if I know the answer to these questions that I’m asking you, I will leave you alone, because I can move and tackle and block and push everything out of the way.

So that you have that clear, you know, runway to just go and do the thing, but I gotta get all this information first.

And so it’s definitely has to be, you know, a collaboration between the person asking and the person answering.

But to your point, both sides need to understand the purpose, you know, as to why so many questions of things that haven’t happened yet, are being asked.

Christopher Penn 18:55

It’s funny how we keep coming back.

Katie Robbert 19:00

It’s weird how that happens.

And so to your original question about frameworks, the framework that I probably find the most helpful is the five P’s.

So that’s purpose people process, platform and performance, starting at the top, but the first piece of purpose is why, why are we doing this thing in the first place? What is the question you’re trying to answer? And then you have who other people involved? Is it you and the other person in the conversation? Are there other stakeholders? Does your audience need to know? Or the people who aren’t involved in the conversation who would benefit from this information? Regardless? What is the process in this instance? You know, is it we’re doing this face to face? We’re doing it electronically, that’s definitely going to change the style and the manner in which you’re having the conversation.

You know, the platform, how are you doing it? You know, what other things you need to factor in? Are there other technologies like generative AI or predictive analytics, for example, that you would need to think about in terms of oh, this would be helpful to answer the question and then performance Did we answer the question being asked

Christopher Penn 20:01


And in the case of people management, the platform is the framework, right? If you go online, there are no shortage of frameworks for management.

Like there’s the disk process.

There’s, there’s all kinds of what’s the 515 thing.

There’s Agile and Scrum, there’s so many different platforms for managing your communications with your direct reports, with your vendors, with your partners, etc.

And choosing them.

This is this is one of the challenges for managers, certainly a challenge that I had when I was managing people, which was figuring out what platform to even use that fits both the style of the manager and the person being matched, because there’s lots of things that I can choose that as a manager would fit me well, but they’re a poor fit for the person that I’m managing, because they don’t think like I do.

And so that going back to anticipatory anticipation, and predictive analytics, part of part of that challenge is to say, well, what is the best tool that satisfies both sides of the equation, because just choosing one side tends not to give great results for the other.

Katie Robbert 21:10

And, you know, it’s it’s interesting that you put it in those terms, because again, you’re very, you’re someone who’s very much like, if I have the framework that I follow the steps, I do the thing, just like I do with software, people aren’t software.

So having a framework is a good guideline.

But you know, rutabaga, banana, potato, you didn’t think I was gonna say those things, but I just did.

And I’m completely unpredictable in the moment, not as unpredictable as one could be.

But the point being is that a framework is only going to get you so far in people management, you have to be comfortable with the unknown data with the lack of predictability, which is why doing so much work up front with that anticipation helps you with that scenario planning of, okay, if Chris is going to be out for the next five days, what does that look like in terms of client communication? What does that look like in terms of his work getting done? What if for some reason, he has no internet connection? How is that how, what does that coverage plan look like? And so when I’m asking all of those questions, you’re like, I’m just trying to put my shirts in my bag, so I can get on the plane.

And I’m looking at it like, okay, but if I can prepare for every single situation, if I if I can anticipate the unknown, then I can be better prepared to protect the company, protect the reputation, protect the work.

And you’re absolutely right.

So I think there needs to be another part of that anticipation, which is the context setting, which is the purpose of why you’re asking all of those anticipatory questions of someone because it can feel I get it, you know, being asked 100 questions on a Monday morning about something that you’re not even thinking about, but your manager is you’re like, would you just like settle down and have like, a little bit more coffee, just like just leave me alone for five minutes.

My God.

Christopher Penn 23:18

I think, you know, maybe maybe that’s the the first part of that framework, if you go, if you think about purpose, and then you anticipate based on the purpose, and then you communicate and then you evaluate, then you are effectively setting up the conditions you need to be successful for a situation where anticipation is a valuable tool.

And there are cases there there is situated playing situations, outside of work with anticipation isn’t.

And that kind of planning is not a useful tool, if you will, if it doesn’t fit with your style.

For example, if you’re the kind of person who, when you travel, you just want to go where things take you that anticipatory style is going to sort of your take away fun.

On the other hand, if you’re like my my father, and you want to plan everything down to the minute that anticipatory stuff is exactly what you need to be able to relax and enjoy your vacation even though it’s highly regimented.

Katie Robbert 24:10

Believe it or not, I’m not like this outside of work.

I know that’s a hard thing for people to believe, but I am not this regimented outside of my job,

Christopher Penn 24:21

which makes logical sense because you anticipate and you plan when you want to avoid negative outcomes, when you want to reduce negative outcomes, if you’re not that kind of person outside of work in a lot of situations is because you don’t expect negative outcomes to begin with.

So there isn’t a need to create the anticipatory planning or that when we when companies do annual planning and reviews and strategy, they are trying to gain a favorable outcome and also reduce unfavorable outcomes.

And the more you can do that, the the safer your job is obviously because you can say Well, here’s the plan.

You agreed to it and if just because it didn’t work out, that’s your fault, not mine.


But it also allows you to scenario plan and say like, Yeah, we had the plan.

It’s just that the circumstances went sideways on us.

Katie Robbert 25:13

Mm hmm.

That makes sense.

So if I say, so, I’m never gonna stop asking questions of you, Chris.

I’m because I’m trying to do that, you know, anticipation, research that conflict anticipation.

So if I start with, here’s what I’m doing with that make it more comfortable for you to start answering those questions now that you know why I’m asking so many.

Christopher Penn 25:42

I think, context setting purpose setting is always a good thing.

And with purpose comes intent to, and I think that’s an important thing is, is to be able to say, like, here’s why this is happening.

You know, I remember when, when I was managing people, I would sometimes have to start a meeting saying, You’re not in trouble.

Like, just to set that immediate context.

We have some questions, we, you know, some things you need to discuss, but you’re not in trouble.

Because that’s the first unasked question that a direct report has.

In any kind of situation where you’re like, hey, come into my office, I need to talk to you for a minute like, Oh, crap, am I in trouble.

So if you can start by setting that purpose and setting that intent, then the rest of the conversation is easier, because the person can go, Okay, I don’t have to be on my guard immediately.

I don’t have to you I’m not in a fight right now.

I have been in plenty of situations as a person being managed, where that intent was not clear.

And I went in ready for a fight.

And sure enough, it was a confrontation of some kind, and it did not go well.

Katie Robbert 26:49

It’s, you know, and I don’t want to get into the details of like us airing our laundry and whatnot.

But I can definitely think about some situations where I’ve asked questions that, in my mind are the questions I’ve always asked, but there are times where, you know, you have come across as more defensive.

And in my brain, I’m sort of like scratching my head, like, why is he so defensive? Right now? I’m just asking the same questions I always ask.

Because I

Christopher Penn 27:17

anticipate it’s back to where we started.

It’s right, it’s in time anticipating a fight.

Katie Robbert 27:22

Whereas in my, in my brain, I’m like, if you were in trouble, I would have told you already.

But I can see where have being asked a lot of questions, feels very micromanaging, and feels very, like I need to know exactly what you’re doing.

So you need to tell me right now, because otherwise, I’m gonna get really, really angry at you.

And by setting the intention, so if I’m thinking about some sort of a framework, you can’t just start with anticipate, because you still need to set that context because the other person on the other side of the conversation, could get freaked out of like, why are you asking me 20? Questions? Like, what the heck, why does what is happening? Whereas in my mind, I’m like, if you answer these questions, everything’s going to be fantastic.

You’re just going to be able to do your thing.

So I can definitely see where if we go back to the start of the conversation of frameworks, I feel like anticipate is often missing.

But to your point, Chris, the context or the purpose of the framework, in general, is often missing, much like with most things, people aren’t telling you why they’re asking the question.

So you got to start with that.

Christopher Penn 28:36


Or, and this is something that we say all the time, particularly with language models, and with people too.

In the absence of information people fill in their own and what they fill in may not be right, right.

So if you say, Hey, I got a bunch of questions for you.

And I don’t know why I will probably fill in the worst case scenario.

Katie Robbert 28:58

That makes sense to.

Whereas it’s interesting, and I can see why.

A lot of people choose to just interact with software versus interacting with people.

machines don’t fill in worst case scenario.

Christopher Penn 29:14

Right? They will actually say, I don’t have enough information.

Please give me more.

I have questions.

Or I’m sorry, I can’t discuss that.

Because it’s a violation of my internal ethics, please, let’s talk about a different topic instead.

Katie Robbert 29:31

I want to know what kind of questions you’re asking to get to that.

Christopher Penn 29:35

Show for like, a Saturday night at the bar.

Katie Robbert 29:40

Yeah, Chris.

Christopher Penn 29:41


So on that note, if you have questions about anticipation about predictive analytics are about how do I manage people to get great outcomes and you want to talk about that pop on over to our free slack group go to trust For markers, where you have over 3000 other marketers are asking and answering each other’s questions every single day.

And wherever it is you watch or listen to the show if there’s a challenge you’d rather have it on instead go to trust podcast.

You can find us on most channels and on the channel of your choice wherever you happen to be enjoying the show.

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Thanks for tuning in.

I will talk to you next time.

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