Why Pretty Excel Charts are Pretty Silly
I was 28 years old and working in Banking Operations at the Royal bank of Scotland, one of the biggest Banks in the world.
We had some executives coming from the US and they wanted to discuss the progress of projects my team was on. This was my time to shine so I told my manager, let me pull something together, so I spent the best part of a week, mostly in my spare time on creating a Dashboard.
I wanted this to be the baddest ‘mo fo’ of a dashboard ever seen.
I even researched and found a way to do some micro charts (sparklines), some dynamic moving graphics and more awesome functionality. I mean if this Dashboard was a car it would a Lamborghini or Mazerati.
Now eventually, when our US execs came in, I managed to get 15 minutes of their time and when I first showed them, I’ll never forget the reaction of the most senior of them.
He smiled in amusement.
He looked at the Dashboard and said “Okay”, thanks then changed the topic.
What on Earth just happened?
I felt so rejected, I put all my heart and soul in to this and it became the source of amusement?!
I felt like the time in school, when I was 7 years old, and told Samantha Johnson that I loved her and wanted to marry her. She laughed and then told the WHOLE class, who proceeded to laugh at me.
So what went wrong?
Ultimately it comes down to this and pay very close attention my friends, because this lesson is one that goes beyond Excel.
Senior people who are concerned about business problems don’t care about your pretty charts. IF they do, they WILL get fired at some point because they possess a personality that doesn’t lend itself to leadership i.e. they’re worried about the style and not the substance.
Good leaders need the right amount of information to help make good decisions, they care about not being distracted from making the wrong decisions with ‘style over substance’ reports. Make your charts neat but NOT fancy, they need to be useful.
That particular executive laughed because he’s trying to run a business, he expects people around him to get that, remain focused on business critical activities and support his ability to run the business.
So when I rocked up with an overly fancy Jackson Pollock clown chart, I just looked like a child trying to impress the big kids.
I looked amateur and in that split second the executive lost ALL respect for me.
Some people, some Excel ‘experts’ will say, there’s nothing wrong with making your charts a little fancy.
DO NOT listen to them, they don’t work in the real world.
In the real world, you need to give the impression that the every aspect of the work you do adds value, NOT wastes time.
In a corporate environment, you will NEVER go wrong with simple, basic Dashboards and reports.
Now there’s other things your reports and dashboards MUST do that WILL ensure you are taken very seriously as someone who ‘gets’ it but since its is a big topic, I’ll cover it at some point in future.
In the mean time, if you want to improve your offering as a professional by improving your Excel skills and getting powerful Career insights that I’ve developed over the last 10 years working in the biggest and best organisations, then sign up!