Unlock Your Habits With Data

Posted Thursday, December 6, 2012

Allen Slade

Leaders are creatures of habit. We hit upon a successful approach to communication, planning, decision making or hiring and we stick with it. Habitual behavior is very sensible. What worked yesterday is likely to work today. Yet, habits can become handcuffs. Habits may be comfortable and easy, but disaster looms around the corner.

As a leader, how do you know when to change? How do you unlock your habit handcuffs?  You need data.

In the FIRST Lego League robotics competition, my sons’ team collected lots of data. They programed a wheeled robot to run a mission in 2 minutes and 30 seconds. The team spent months strategizing and reprogramming to beat the time limit. Data on the robot’s speed and reliability were key to continuous improvement.

As a leader, you need data to know when your habits are ineffective. I advise you to build your own leadership scorecard. Track data on at least four different outcomes. Use a mix of “soft” data (employee and customer satisfaction, 360 data) and “hard” data (sales, costs, productivity and quality).  If your organization produces reports for you, I encourage you to create your own leadership scorecard. If your organization doesn’t generate the data you need or if you are an entrepreneur, you may need to collect the data first.

You need to track these outcomes over time. Data from one point in time does not drive action nearly as well as trend data.

Once you have the data, build a spreadsheet or put it on a whiteboard. Avoid data overload by keeping your leadership scorecard focused. It should fit on a single sheet of paper or part of your whiteboard.

Once your scorecard is built, you are ready to start the cycle of intelligent change.

When your habits are not working, your scorecard will show it. Engage your team or your circle of trusted advisors in dialogue. Analyze the data and interpret the causes. Plan actions to fill the gaps and follow through. Then collect more data.

Bottom line: Leaders need to be data-driven. Create your own leadership scorecard to unlock the handcuffs of habit and reprogram your own behavior.

Create a virtuous cycle of intelligent change. Don’t wait for a crisis to look for numbers. Being data-driven should be your new habit.

2 comments on “Unlock Your Habits With Data

  1. Dr. Slade,
    Do you have any templates we can download and customize to get the scorecard going?

    – Edmund

    • Allen Slade on said:

      Edmund – I am happy to share a spreadsheet with a scorecard template. Contact me at allen@sladeresearch.com.

      Of course, every leader’s situation is different. It is key to contemplate the best data and the best format. I encourage you to work with your team, your circle of trusted advisors and your leadership coach to craft the scorecard that will work best for you.

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