On Leadership, Management and Effectively Using Data

Hammering Employees

Every leader needs the right set of business tools to do their job well. The be effective, they also need to be well-trained and well-versed on how to use their tools.

However, always remember that tools, in and of themselves, are only a means to an end. The “hammer is not the house.”

Understanding the Bigger Picture

Simply obtaining, having, or effectively using the next fancy gadget or process is not an actual outcome or result; this is just part of the recipe for success.

Unfortunately, many leaders lose sight of this and feel like using a tool somehow equates to producing results.

I have seen many leaders and businesses stick to the idea that introducing or expanding the technology, materials, software and hardware will automatically lead to improved customer satisfaction, employee engagement or similar benefits.

To be fair, in some instances there is a direct correlation between tools, data and outcomes. However this is rarely the case when people are involved. People are not commodities and “crunching the numbers” on them has many flaws. Unlike things and processes, people are dynamic, they have emotions, and they connect with each other in many ways.

What you will get, with absolute certainty, is more information and data. Is that valuable? Well that depends on how it is used.

Connecting With People

How we connect with our teams and provide opportunity for them to contribute is a key factor in engaging our employees. This type of data – the type that allows us to understand each team member as a person is the most valuable information.

But, it is also often the most difficult to collect.

Trust, skill in building relationships, various leadership attributes, and other capabilities all provide a base to understand others

But these are challenging to build and develop.

Getting Deeper with People

I recently read a blog written by Mary-Jo Asmus titled, Go Beyond First Impressions To Better Understand Others.

Mary Jo wrote this:

Many of you rely on facts and data to make your decisions. Relying on facts is a natural outcome of the times we live in and what kind of knowledge we appreciate. Yet, there are times when facts and data can’t tell a full story — perhaps we don’t have the right facts, or we are unable to obtain enough data.

People are like that. True “data” about their motivations, inspiration, values and emotions (to name but a few things that aren’t immediately apparent or predictable) aren’t always visible.

Deciphering Data

There are two related yet clearly defined points I am making here. One, is the reference to business data – customer satisfaction scores, conversion rates, profit etc. There are numerous tools, software, roles and programs designed to collect this type of information.

Then, there is the data about people.

As Mary Jo acknowledged, understanding the motivations, values and beliefs of each employee is a different level of data again.

The perceived need to seek ‘all’ the right information before making decisions can lead to paralysis by analysis, where the feeling of being overwhelmed becomes so great that the brain simply stops functioning with clarity.

The risk we have in our modern world is:

  • The proliferation of data
  • Availability and accessibility of information
  • The emergence of Big Data

All of this may actually do the opposite of what is intended. More information does not automatically lead to greater success. The tools we use to gather and collect information are just that, tools. The information and data in itself is just information.

People are People

This is made even more complex by the fact that human beings are quite unpredictable and are certainly not static like most business data. We have emotional and psychological needs, wants, highs, lows and complexity. There are various aspects of our world today that seemingly conspire against consistency and predictability, but that is what makes leadership so exciting.

To meet the challenges head-on and succeed is very rewarding.

The highlights of my career and life have been those times where great impact has been felt through my relationships. This is often most powerful when ‘turning around’ a difficult or failing situation.

I take the view that the tools in themselves assist to reach the end goal…how they are applied and used to advantage is the critical point. Hence, my ‘hammer is not a house’ statement.

Breaking It Down

This is not an attempt at being cryptic, rather a statement that reflects a strong view that I have based on previous experiences.

Knowledge management and our ability as leaders to dissect the vast amount of data available, so that we are able to break it down into the key one or two points or insights, is critical to effectiveness.

Confusing and overwhelming our team members with enormous amounts of un-collated and indiscriminate data adds little value. In fact, it is a key source of frustration for many employees, adding to the risk of  disengagement and reduced discretionary effort.

Self-awareness and knowing our strengths and limitations is critical here. Taking the time and making the effort to genuinely develop yourself and those in your circle of influence is rewarding and a core component of your role as a leader.

Using Your Tools Effectively

Finding other people who can support this growth and assist where there are gaps is effective time-management and allows you to focus on the key priorities.

There’s an old saying that when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem tends to look like a nail.

Fight that kind of thinking as much as you can. Your plan may call for expertise you don’t have, or actions you aren’t very good at. So make some room in your plan to partner with someone else.

If you’re great at connecting with customers but lousy at technology, find a partner whose strengths and weaknesses perfectly complement yours. Believe me, that person is out there and wants desperately to work with you. ~ Copyblogger

Don’t get caught up in the numbers, excessive information and data. If it is not easily translated, of use and easy to articulate to your team, then forget it.

A hammer is not a house! So don’t pretend that the hammer you currently own is the only tool you need.

So, how many tools in your toolbox do you know how to use effectively? How many of them are used by you as a hammer when they are not designed to be used like one? How can you use your current and future tools in ways that help you best optimize your organizational health? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Steve Riddle

Steve Riddle is the owner of CoachStation
He is making a difference by focusing on leadership & people development
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Skype: steve.riddle36

Image Sources: californiaslapplaw.com

3 responses to “On Leadership, Management and Effectively Using Data

  1. Reblogged this on Leadership Advantage and commented:
    Interestingly, data is a more reliable predictor of probability than our human intuitive thoughts. We may think that we are basing our decisions about people based on ‘data’, but it’s actually based on our own perception and interpretation of the behaviours we (choose) to observe. So we need more ‘tools’ indeed. Tools to help leaders observe fully and actually use their logical brain to deliberately search and check our ‘intuitive’ thinking. Most of all, it requires effort to use the most powerful tool we all already have…. our brain.


  2. Great post. While one can overdo the use of tools in measuring people, that seems to give some people license not to measure anything. Simple measures like satisfaction and engagement can be very effective ways of understanding employees’ reactions to the work environment.


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