Leading Blindfolded: The Importance of Data

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Bird Box is a book turned 2018 Netflix blockbuster reaching over 80 million views in the first month of its release. The movie takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where the main character, played by Sandra Bullock, must lead two young children downstream in a river boat. A seemingly simple task until you know they must do everything blind-folded as to not be killed by an ominous force that overtakes you when you look at it. As she navigates the new world, she has one early warning indicator; two birds she keeps in a small cardboard box. When the birds get anxious and active, she knows trouble is near, hence the title Bird Box.

Many of these themes are transferable to where leaders are today.  We aren’t post-apocalyptic, but we are probably as close to it as anything else we have ever experienced before. The dust is settling from the second quarter twister of change and we are starting to poke our heads out from our survival shelters. When we look around at our work environments, our business landscapes, our workforce, and our economy, we see remnants of the past and a whole lot of unknown for what the future holds.

Seeing clearly with data

There is an ominous force against us. It isn’t having to learn new ways to do business or engage our teams, it is the force of habits.  The ominous force is using “how we used to be” to dictate where we should be going. We need to accept the fact we are in societal limbo and we don’t know what the future holds. We are leading blindfolded. Think about what happens when you try to walk with a blindfold on. You stick your hands out to “see.” When one sense isn’t available, the others heighten and work in new ways. Your body is designed to do this naturally, and so should you as a leader. In this time where we can’t see ahead, it is important to take in information in different ways to start “seeing” more clearly.

Be intentional

As you navigate forward, be intentional about how you are “seeing” yourself, your business, and your strategy.


Tumultuous times call for emotionally intelligent, self-aware leadership. Emotional intelligence and self-awareness refine your gut as a leader. Much of leadership is having to make decisions with imperfect information, which is compounded in times of economic uncertainty. Clarifying what you know about yourself will help you as you take the next steps forward. Self-awareness helps to fine tune your leadership style. Emotional intelligence allows you to leverage your emotional data and the emotional data of others to be more effective. How does stress impact your decision making and impulse control? How does your self-perception affect how you interpret situations? This is invaluable information to have as a leader. When you see yourself more clearly, you can adapt more quickly to changing environments and more effectively respond to whatever is next.

Your Business

When seeing your business, watch out for the ominous force of solely relying on typical business metrics like revenue, profits and margins.  Those can be deceiving right now.

  • Business may be booming, but at what cost? Is your staff burning out or unhappy with your level of care and concern for their safety?
  • Perhaps revenue is down year over year, but team members are fully engaged and ready to help. How can you engage them differently to reverse the trend?
  • And what if business is down and so is staff engagement? There is certainly work to be done.

All three of these situations play out differently over time, and you need to know where to apply effort and resources.

No matter where you think you are, making assumptions about how your greatest asset is experiencing their current working environment is dangerous and costly. Your team is what separates your business strategy from your business results. To move forward, it’s imperative to get an intentional and accurate read, without assumption.

Your Strategy

Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.” Going into strategic planning sessions with the same information you have used in the past is to go into them blind. What new information, tools, or resources are you using this year to “see” differently? Is your senior team aligned on what the priorities are? Do the innate abilities of the team align with the actions needed to move the plan forward? Where is there diversity in key factors like risk-tolerance, action-orientation, and change-acceptance? Having information like this can amp up the productivity of the session, leading to a more effective strategy for the business.

If you revisit each of these areas — yourself, your business, and your strategy — there is a theme of knowing where you are at in the present to prepare you for the future. It is extremely difficult to move to a desired state, if you don’t know where you are currently. This is why ADVISA works with leaders and organizations to help provide accurate, relevant, and rich data to help them “see” as they navigate forward.

If you are leading blind in any or all of those areas, reach out.