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Habit Metrics: A Better Option Than Psychometrics For Leadership Performance

Habit Metrics: A Better Option Than Psychometrics For Leadership Performance

Have you ever completed a psychometric test? Did it actually help you to accelerate your performance and fulfill your potential?

According to neuroscientist Professor Lisa Feldman Barrett (in her book Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain), these types of tests “have no more scientific validity than horoscopes.”

There is a myriad of leadership psychometrics available. Over the past 20 years, I have tried and tested this approach with my clients and myself. I have not been impressed by the results!

They are very deterministic about people’s abilities (which Professor Carol Dweck’s work has shown time and again can be extremely damaging). In other words, they can negatively reinforce the idea that you are born a leader or you’re not. And if you are not, you never will be. 

Not A Scientific Approach 

Because of advances in neuroscience and behavioral science, I presumed that leadership psychometrics would consider what is going on inside people’s brains. But when you look closely, they don’t. 

They are largely based on outdated black-box theories (which means examining or testing a complex system or process—e.g., how your brain works—without actually understanding what is going on inside it) that were created before we really understood how brains work. They do not capitalize on what cutting-edge science tells us about what leaders need to do to be at their best. In fact, some of these tools are over 100 years old. 

Developing Outstanding Leaders

So how can we use a scientific approach to help leaders do better? First, we must answer the question “What is leadership?” In very simple terms, leadership is about influence. Outstanding leaders must first get good at influencing their own behavior so that they can be at their best more often. Next, they must focus on becoming excellent at “positively influencing” other people’s behavior.

I deliberately make the point about “positive influence” because leaders can influence people’s behavior in a positive way (think Nelson Mandela) or in a negative way (think Darth Vader—the evil Dark Lord from Star Wars movies).

One of the greatest myths about leadership is that it’s just the people with formal titles who are leaders. That is not correct. We all influence each other, all the time. Within any group or any team, influence is shared among everybody.

Some people who have many helpful habits might have a major, positive influence. Some people who have many unhelpful habits might have a really negative influence. But everybody has some degree of influence because everything that everybody says and does (their behavior, which is driven by their habits) influences everyone else’s behavior and habits.

To truly become an outstanding leader, you must learn how to deliberately and positively influence other people’s behavior.

The good news is that we can all learn how to do this better.

A New Approach: Habit Metrics 

The basic measurable unit of leadership is habits. Our brain runs us, and our brain runs on mindless habits (some estimate that 98% to 100% of what we think and do is unconscious, or habit). 

I have helped thousands of leaders build better habits using the science-based Habit Mechanic Coaching and Change System. It breaks leadership into four distinct groups of habits: 

  1. Role Model Habits: Habits that help leaders “lead by example” and do what they expect others to do.
  2. SWAP Coach Habits: Habits that help leaders to coach others to develop better habits. (“SWAP” stands for “Self-Watch Aim Plan.”)
  3. Cultural Architect Habits: Habits that help leaders lead the team’s strategy and culture and use leadership science to help their team fulfil their potential and complete their mission.
  4. Action Communicator Habits: Habits that help leaders communicate in a way that builds trust and gets their people to take positive action.

I have designed a range of proprietary “Habit Metrics” tools to help leaders measure and improve their habits across all four of these areas. These tools break leadership down into about 100 distinct habits. (I cover all of these in my best-selling book The Habit Mechanic).

To begin thinking about your leadership habits, start with the following four questions: 

Q1: Rank your current performance as a Role Model out of 100: ___ / 100 (100 = the best you can be)

Based on your reflections, write down one simple and practical thing you can do to improve your performance as a Role Model.

Q2: Rank your current performance as a SWAP Coach out of 100: ___ / 100

Based on your reflections, write down one simple and practical thing you can do to improve your performance as a SWAP Coach.

Q3: Rank your current performance as a Cultural Architect out of 100: ___ / 100

Based on your reflections, write down one simple and practical thing you can do to improve your performance as a Cultural Architect.

Q4: Rank your current performance as an Action Communicator out of 100: ___ / 100

Based on your reflections, write down one simple and practical thing you can do to improve your performance as an Action Communicator.

Your Total: Combine the above scores and rank your current performance as a leader out of 400: ___ / 400

Nature Plus Nurture 

Walter Mischel wrote, “Environments [nurture] can be deterministic as we once believed only genes could be… and the genome [nature] can be as malleable as we once believed only environments could be.”

The new science of performance and leadership is clear: Whatever you want to get better at, you can with practiceincluding leadership. 

Psychometrics are failing leaders because their fundamental message contradicts cutting-edge science (i.e., they promote the antiquated idea that you are either capable or you are not). 

I am convinced that Habit Metrics offers an exciting new way forward to help leaders fulfill their potential.

Leaders are driven by habits. So helping leaders build better ones is essential for their success today and in the future. 


Dr Jon Finn is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council. This article originally appeared on Forbes.com. To read that, click here.
Learn how to Improve Your Peoples’ and Team’s Happiness and Performance by Over 25% in 90 Days Using A NEW Science-Based 5-Step Framework with Dr Jon Finn’s leadership coaching.

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