Every quarter is a 13-Week Race™. It goes by fast. Before you know it, the quarter is over. And then the year is over. You are left with the question, “Did we accomplish what we set out to accomplish?”
If you’ve read my book, Rhythm, this is the first paragraph of Chapter 7. Winning the 13-Week Race™ every quarter is critical to achieving your annual goals. To win the 13-Week Race™, you need to use leading indicators to help you make adjustments along the way.
In my keynote speeches, I like to use the quote by Mike Tyson “everyone has a strategy until I punch them in the mouth.” It usually gets a good laugh from the crowd, but it also reinforces the point that your plan can easily veer off track and that you need to be prepared to block the punches. A punch in the mouth is when something happens you didn’t expect or weren’t prepared for. If you can see it coming, you can block the punch or make an adjustment to your plan. Leading indicators help you to know when to make adjustments.
Leading Indicators are KPIs that you measure to help you achieve your goals. They help you to forecast and predict your results. Good leading indicators should answer the question, “Am I on track to achieving my goal?" People tend to confuse KPIs with priorities. A priority is something that you do whereas a KPI is something you measure.
Let’s consider how you would go about achieving the number of new sales for the quarter. In this case, your leading indicator would be a measurement for you to know if you are on track towards achieving those new sales. For example, you could measure the number of meetings with new prospects per week. If you are not having the number of meetings you need to have with new prospects, you can already predict that you won’t achieve your sales goal early in the quarter. You don’t have to wait until the end of the quarter to see the final result. Your leading indicator (the number of meetings with new prospects) tells you that you are not on track. That’s a punch in the mouth! Now, how are you going to react? What are you going to do? What adjustments can you make to your execution plan to get more meetings with prospects?
Think of leading indicators as levers that you can push on to get to you results. Meetings are low… what can you do to get more meetings? What can you adjust to help change your outcome? Many people freeze by staring at the goal without knowing what they can do to affect the goal. Staring at the goal does not help you achieve it. Instead, work your levers. What can you do to push on that leading indicator? Focusing on moving your leading indicators will help you to change your results faster and with less effort.
Want to practice using leading indicators? Consider having a 13-Week Race™ dashboard. Think of one thing you can do this quarter that will help you achieve a strong 13-Week Race™. Start with your KPI, and then set a leading indicator to measure it. Look for our next blog article on how to set the right success criteria for your KPIs.