Are You Using Data to Your Advantage?
Business Solutions An excerpt from “The Confidence Effect” illustrates the ways in which you have the power to change the way others perceive you.
Coming up in my career, I was not someone who typically used numbers, facts and figures to support my ideas. I am extremely relationship-oriented, so I worked mostly on instinct and gut feelings to forge my early career path. The more senior my roles, the more I was required to back up my instincts and feelings with hard facts.
When I began leading recruitment for a Fortune 50 company, I had to learn how to speak fluently in numbers and interpret data in ways that others could understand. For instance, what was the cost to the company—in dollars, time and productivity—of every new hire and every person we moved?
When I wanted to discuss the impact of high turnover on a specific group, I couldn’t just say it was a problem; I had to clearly articulate the costs, impact on productivity, and effect on service levels. The numbers were more important than a story about people leaving the company. It couldn’t just be: “bad;” costs and metrics had to be addressed. Not everyone has the same experiences and expertise as you. That’s why translating your ideas into the language of business—a language everyone can understand—becomes more of a critical leadership skill the higher you climb.
The more senior you become, the more costly your decisions—and the more challenging it is to talk about those decisions without data to support you. After all, we’re not talking about justifying a client lunch or filling out purchase orders for office supplies anymore. We’re talking about the ROI of key projects, about influencing people. Arguing passionately about the resources your team needs to meet objectives becomes more critical as you move up in an organization. Emotion and persuasion are not enough to sway opinions of decision makers.
We all tend to seek our own comfort levels. In my work, I’ve observed many women in senior roles, myself included, who feel more comfortable arguing emotionally rather than from a purely numbers point of view. They shy away from the metrics and don’t want to talk about numbers at all, leaving them at a distinct disadvantage when everyone else comes prepared to do just that. Instinct and emotion are a vital part of how we do our jobs, but it’s only one part.
Eventually, I learned that talking about metrics is a necessity. But even then, I didn’t jettison my gut feelings or instincts; I simply made sure I framed the conversation around metrics that supported my decision or request.
Supporting your story by using numbers and data to influence outcomes is a powerful skill—get comfortable with it to be a respected leader. Speak the language of your business.