There are vast amount of data collected in organizations and companies these days. As a data nerd myself, I have spent a fair amount of time pouring over spreadsheets and analytics. 

As I wrote about way back in dot #111None of the numbers mean anything unless they are put into context by contrasting them with something else. Knowing that headcount is X means little unless you understand how that compares to budget projections and how that number contrasts with last year. Having the enrollment-by-major is just data; it doesn’t become information until there is something to put it into context with another comparable statistic. Too many times reports are presented that only have one number without a reference point, and it does little to advance understanding.

The real key is how you react to the data you review. When you see a variance, do you prudently wait to see if things change, intentionally formulate a response or verbally panic and demand immediate action? It is an art to know which reaction is called for, and what the difference is between numbers. For some data points, a small movement is a big deal. For others, there is great fluctuation. A true leader knows what that difference is.

Learn as much as you can about the trends and patterns of your data to help you know what to do. There is a time to be prudent, proactive or to panic, but a mismatched response is more likely to do damage than move the data in the direction you desire.

— beth triplett

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

Dr. beth triplett is the owner of leadership dots, offering coaching, training and consulting for new supervisors. She also shares daily lessons on her leadershipdots blog. Her work is based on the leadership dots philosophy that change happens through the intentional connecting of small steps in the short term to the big picture in the long term.

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