Course correcting your leadership journey with people analytics

How can people analytics help you become a better leader? Using data from multiple sources to create a leadership intelligence dashboard with access to your strengths and areas of improvement to keep you on the right track towards your true leadership north.

As a leadership coach, I was drawn to this Leading with People Analytics class because it seemed contradictory to think of using cold data to affect the type of behavior that seemed accessible only through the warmth touch of personal coaching. It seemed to me that intuition and judgement were reserved for the one-on-one interaction and would come from personal experience and from coaching others. However, after witnessing the potential of what the right interpretation and use of ethically and effectively collected data can do, I am fascinated by how empowered I would feel to have the right information to make decisions in my leadership development and the fact that it could become accessible to more than those who can afford a leadership coach makes it even better.

So now my question is, how could I use people analytics to improve my leadership development journey?

After listening to Ben Waber’s interview ( ) about why the insights gained from analytics, specifically on organizational network analysis and time management, can help improve develop effective leaders and are critical for team development, I realized those are only 2 dimensions of information I would want to help build my leadership journey.

The very first step in the coaching process is to go through a variety of leadership and personality assessments with the goal of creating a baseline and identifying the most actionable traits, talents or gaps to address. This data, either from self-assessments or the organization’s 360-degree assessment, relies heavily on the subjectivity of the respondent and doesn’t necessarily paint the full picture.

The next step is to figure out what to do with that information. Knowing about yourself and which are your strengths or in what areas you need to improve is not enough. As Stanford’s Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton state in “The Knowing-Doing Gap” and as proven in Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve already in 1885, there is a steep decline in information retention if there’s no effort to remember it; therefore, without reminders and continuous action, there is no learning or developing.

This is where people analytics comes in.

Leadership development should be empowered by the organization, but driven by the employee. Being coachable, that is, being open to feedback and having the desire to push through the discomfort of growth, is essential in the formation of a leader. And that drive to grow and develop could be nourished by the right information at the right time.

Welcome to my leadership intelligence world.

In the same way as pilots use all the data available on their dashboards to constantly course correct their airplane journey because they are off course 99% of the time, leaders need to have continuous access to the metrics they care about regarding their leadership journey in order to grow and make the necessary corrections to stay on their path towards their true north.

Here’s what I want on my ideal personalized leadership dashboard:

It would start with an aggregate of the results of multiple assessments including the OCEAN, Enneagram, StrengthsFinder, Emotional Intelligence (EQ), DISC, Insights Discovery, among others, to provide a comprehensive snapshot of where my strengths and areas of improvement lie. Further close examination and discussions with my coach (yes, there will still be leadership coaches in the future) or manager, my dashboard would have a section with my current top 3 strengths to continue developing and my top 3 areas of improvement, updated to show the latest yearly rankings coming from either self-assessments, 360s, performance reviews or any other type of feedback received.

As suggested by Ben Waber on the podcast, my leadership intelligence dashboard would also have network mapping of my recent communications and activities within my organization, similar to what Polinode does. This information, for instance, would provide insights into my level of collaboration, which are also analyzed in other assessments such as the 360.

It would also have access to communications intelligence similar to what Qualified Communications does. I would record every important meeting, speech or keynote of my choice and would be able to show how effective my communication was compared to my baseline or previous recordings. This data would feed my dashboard in the areas regarding communication I would be tracking.

This quarter’s KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) or performance goals agreed with my manager? On the dashboard. Employee engagement survey results from my team? On the dashboard. Maybe even the organization’s version of the 10 Oxygen behaviors of Google’s best managers as a reminder.

In addition, and in support of what Ben Waber mentioned on the podcast, I would want to make sure that I have a way to track and be nudged to achieve efficient time management, as well as communications. Beyond leadership academies, data collected on employee communications can prompt nudges to both improve on an area already identified in an assessment, for instance, lack of inclusivity, to make sure the manager includes all the necessary people in the meeting. Or a reminder to schedule some time to debrief with his team if he or she needs to improve on communications accessibility. Or a nudge to respond to an email if taking longer than expected. By creating hyper-personalized nudging strategies, the development goes beyond the diagnosis of a strength or area of improvement, to the awareness of it and the ultimate constant incorporation into the daily practice until it becomes a habit.

The goal would never be to have a mold for what a leader should look like. The goal would be to empower the employee to take action towards his or her growth using valuable information to course correct.

Data is the new currency and I want to have as much of it to serve not only my leadership development journey but also my organization’s leadership pipeline. By giving access to people to useful leadership data, we are democratizing coaching and making it accessible to all.

I’m ready to create this dashboard, so if you are a techy and can help me build it, you get 50% equity. Promise :).


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Student comments on Course correcting your leadership journey with people analytics

  1. Ana, thank you for pulling all the resources we covered and making an interesting note about them “democratizing coaching” and making it accessible to all. I think your coaching services would still be needed 🙂 because of the “The Knowing-Doing Gap” research that you mentioned here as well as the quote from it goes individuals and organizations “know WHAT to do, know HOW to do it but DON’T do it”. This is where despite availability of these tools, an external accountability and motivating factors to get to know yourself as a leader are important.

    I also, think you raise an important point here about these tools helping our identity as leaders. What I keep hearing at Harvard leadership courses is how, time and again, leaders place huge importance on being able to turn to their core values in the critical moments for the organizations they lead, whether it’s a pivot of a start-up or a transformation of a large corporation. They keep suggesting to ask yourself what you stand for, to define your leadership philosophy, and thereby, influencing their vision and building organization’s cultures and strategy. Identity is an important tool to build confidence for personal resilience during tough and trying times and decision-making for anyone but particularly important for leaders, whose identity has a ripple effect on the stakeholders, under their direct and indirect influence.

    PS: I am not a tech person but would love to help you brainstorm your potential dashboard venture!

    1. Let’s do it, Aliya! 🙂

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