There was a time when leaders could say they were going to tackle something big, important, and game-changing, and the promise was enough to rally employees, clients, and shareholders around them. We’ve all experienced it.

The leader who…

Convenes their peers into the conference room to explain the initiative they are about to launch. They fire up the AMAZING PowerPoint, spew some inspirational quotes, and lead the group through a pump-up meeting that leaves everyone asking, “How soon can we start?!”

Takes center stage at a big corporate event and makes promises to their constituents. Walk on, walk off music pumps from the speakers. And everyone can’t wait to see what comes next.

Speaks with such conviction, gravitas, and emphasis (bonus points for gesticulation!) that you would follow them anywhere. Who they are, what they are saying, and how they say it is enough.

What they promise sounds amazing.

Disruptive marketing strategies. DEI as part of an organization DNA and not just a buzzword approach. Revolutionary product launches. Happy clients. The ultimate customer experience. Employee thriving. Revolutionary service models. Faster innovation cycles. Game-changing corporate events.

And to be fair, for years this was enough.

Strategy and execution were revered as leadership superpowers. A leader who had vision? Incredible. A leader who could also inspire their teams to execute? Doubly incredible.

But then we caught wind of the power of data.

We started to wake up to the fact that data is not just for the “techies.” As leaders, we began to wonder whether our words and actions were still enough. We began to consider that perhaps our promises and commitments were missing a critical element — validation and measurement through a data-driven lens.

The business world is in revolution in more ways than it ever has been. Companies are pushing out product in weeks, not months. The Great Recalibration continues to turn more than two years later. Leaders who were at the helm of their firm for decades are exiting their companies (or being asked to exit) at a rapid clip, with new leadership regimes taking the reins.

Digital innovation. Transformation. Tech-enabled. Frictionless. Hybrid. Digital. Artificial intelligence. Machine learning. Internet of Things. Robotics process automation. Concepts like these — and countless others — continue to dominate our daily work lives. The pace of technological advancement is showing no signs of slowing down.

And suddenly, what’s becoming incredibly clear to us is that of all the trends and all the fads, DATA is one that we can no longer ignore. In fact, it’s just the thing to prove that what we say, do and act is WORKING, is REAL, and is having a profound positive IMPACT on the communities we serve.

Related Read: The Pursuit of Data Excellence

In short, data is our shared responsibility… just as it’s our responsibility to co-create vision and inspire teams to execute. What’s more, it’s our ability to do all three that set us apart, enable us to do our best work, and ensure we are operating at our highest level of potential.

So where do you start? How do you start fueling your work through the lens of data? Here are three quick tips to get started:

  • Set Strategy: You already love strategy! Whether it’s building your sales, marketing, operations, HR strategy, etc. So stay in that zone, but apply that approach to how you can use data to fuel, augment, and accelerate your departmental/business strategy. Think of everything from how to use data to tell your story to what you need to collect data-wise to how your approach to people, process and technology will support your strategy. Understand your data ecosystem and consider how data can move from being simply information to instead being leveraged as insights that drive decisions.
  • Rethink KPIs: To be honest, a lot of us are measuring wrong. We’re measuring tried-and-true — revenue, marketing qualified leads, employee retention, Net Promoter Score, etc. Don’t get me wrong. We need tried-and-true. But they don’t tell the full picture in today’s business climate. Today, we also need to be able to measure things like pace of innovation, brand transparency, inclusion beyond HR policies, alignment to core values and so on. So as you make your promises, set your vision, and galvanize your team to drive forward, think about what progressive KPIs will best measure and align to your most important work. More on how to do that here.
  • Establish Baseline Literacy: Data literacy can no longer be confined to just our tech and IT friends. Rather, we all need to have a baseline understanding of data — from how we collect it to how we visualize/present it to how we analyze it. But the reality is that our data literacy baselines are still far too low for the world in which we live. Just consider that 90% of business leaders cite data literacy as key to company success, but only 25% of workers feel confident in their data skills. Invest in your team’s training and your own. Make sure you all can hang in data conversations and, more importantly, that you have a grasp on how to embrace a whole-of-organization approach to data.

So… gut check… what promise have you made recently? What big initiative did you just launch? And more importantly, what steps can you take tomorrow to ensure that data has your back as your number one teammate?

Want to grab quick tips from our Analytics team on how to jump-start your data initiatives? Click here and we will get a call scheduled to brainstorm a few immediate action items you can take.