Guest Post – Chris Wignall is the Executive Director of the Catalyst Foundation as well as a graduate of the Arrow Leadership Program’s Executive Stream.  When I first heard Chris teach this tool, I was very impressed by it’s simplicity and profound value.

Most leaders I know really value and enjoy stepping away from the day-to-day routine and responsibilities to focus attention on higher level leadership issues. Periodic retreats, annual planning sessions and check-ins with a mentor or executive team remind us of the importance of things that can easily get neglected in the fast pace and high pressure of ongoing leadership.

But, as good as these occasional reviews are, they usually only reveal issues after the fact. By this point, the problems have become big enough that they require significant and urgent attention. Instead, we need a quick and on-going way to monitor leadership level factors while they can still be easily addressed.

My car has a system like that and so does yours. A quick glance down from the windshield of my Subaru shows me instantly that I’m driving a little fast, getting low on fuel, or needing to check tire pressure.

In seconds my dashboard helps me receive data, I can decide how urgent the problem is and then I can choose how I want to react to it. There’s a big difference between the low fuel light coming on in town where I have my choice of gas stations and when it comes on during a lonely stretch of highway late at night.

To assist leaders and organizations in developing a dashboard, I’ve recently started using and training a simple tool that I call the REACTION Dashboard. I identified five key factors for which leaders are responsible.  Then I drew up a basic table where each of these five factors can be scored on a ten-point scale (10 being high/good).

I consider each factor from the perspective of myself as an individual, the team I work with, the organization as a whole, and our surrounding network or community. In less than three minutes I can use this dashboard to assess any areas of potential trouble and almost as quickly determine whether they need immediate response (lonely dark highways) or just the awareness to address it at some point in the future (driving around town).

Your criteria might be different, but my dashboard looks like this:

REACTION Dashboard

Leadership Elements

Individual

Organization

Network

Comments

Reason 1-10
Energy 1-10
Alignment 1-10
Clarity 1-10
Trust 1-10

 

Quick definitions:

Reason: Why we exist. How well do I/we know our purpose and how committed am I/are we to it?
Energy: The amount of effort I’m/we’re giving to our work.
Alignment: All the energy pulling in the same direction towards our Reason.
Clarity: Knowing with confidence what my/our part is, and how it relates to all the other parts.
Trust: Being able to work with minimal friction because I/we believe you/each other are reliable and have integrity.

 

Looking at the dashboard, what needs immediate attention (i.e. lower scores)? What must be done?

What needs eventual attention (i.e. scores trending downward over time or mid-range)? What must be done now to ensure it happens?

In sharing it over the last few months, this tool has received very positive response. I use short video clips to help explain each of the elements and make them memorable. More than anything else, the dashboard allows me to take a quick leadership level look at what’s happening in the organization and increases my confidence that I’m not missing things that could leave me stranded by the side of the road.

What would a useful dashboard look like for you?

What simple routines can you maintain to keep your attention on leadership issues in the midst of regular responsibilities?

I’d love to hear some feedback.