As business leaders, we can’t simply set the vision, start running, and hope that others follow. If you are changing course – even shepherding a subtle adjustment – you sometimes need to slow down, switch to teaching mode, and ensure employees not only have the will, but the skill to follow.
Nowhere is this as broadly apparent than in the desire for employees to use verifiable data to make fact-based decisions. With many support functions clamoring to demonstrate value, executives are perfectly positioned to influence the adoption of this approach. The following five tips can help shorten the learning curve and in turn, drive business results.
- Clarify the Business Case: As leaders, we are not interested in data for data’s sake. We covet the story it allows us to tell. Make it easy on your staff by explaining the business case you want to validate and your personal motivations behind the project.
- Be Wary of a Quick Turnaround:In an attempt to dazzle, employees are sometimes tempted to trade speed for quality. This can play into a leader’s need for “ballpark estimates”. Trouble is, big-picture views are only possible after detailed analysis, so make sure you have a healthy dose of facts before moving forward.
- Accept Caveats…But Don’t Let Employees Hide Behind Them: Variables exist and should be accounted for, but insist your staff take a stand on what should be done. Anyone can present statistics. Data however, only becomes valuable when transformed through analysis into directional indicators and accompanying actions.
- Strive for Balance: The science of data collection is meaningless without the art of interpretation. Make sure your employees present a series of options and a recommendation that they are prepared to stand behind.
- Mind the Money: Having a sound, data-backed business case is not enough. Leaders must think beyond their individual initiative and evaluate the opportunity cost, associated risks, and project interdependencies before taking action.
The best leaders are as much teachers as they are doers, often more so. Let your actions set the example, then build a learning organization so people can quickly get to where you need them to be.
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