"We need to make smarter decisions based on data."
How many times have you heard that sentence? Only on a very small number of occurrences does someone deliver that statement in an effort to focus a team, and the context of that direction is clear if it is based on what on the work at hand. The majority of time, however, that sentence is used by a leader who is not prepared to make a decision and would rather kill the conversation.
Any announcement without a clear ask will send teams working without a direction and detract from a common goal. When it comes to leadership, our approach is different:
Think about the “WHAT” before you tell your team the “HOW.”
If you are working for a leader who is unknowingly breaking this rule, don’t revolt. Understand, plan, and help! Here are some other things that may be useful to you in that journey whether you hold a position of leadership or not.
- Data will never tell you what to decide. Your gut will. Data will inform your decision, but don’t kill the process because the data is not perfect. It will never be perfect.
- The same data can be used to tell two contradicting stories. Don’t let go of your judgement because somebody else has told a story different than yours. The challenge is yours to tell your story in a convincing manner.
- There is a difference between data that can be used for creating models that will predict an outcome with perfect accuracy, and models that will guess. While one can calculate the exact point at which a projectile will touch the ground based on a general knowledge of physics, one can only guess what a student might prefer based on his or her characteristics. Know the difference and use your data properly.
- If you are not ready to make a decision, tell your team that you are not prepared to act. They will respect the approach and follow your lead, as long as they know you will not waste their time.