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How to Use the Lead and Lag Measures to Achieve Your Goals

lead and lag measures

Do you always fail to follow through when it comes to setting and achieving your goals? Well, that is because you are focusing on the wrong thing. You are focusing on the lag measure rather than the lead measure.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution is one of my favorite books on setting and achieving your goals. I strongly recommend anyone who wants to achieve great success in life read this book.

The authors, Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling explain it in the book that most people fail to reach their goals because they are trying to focus on the lag measures and not the lead measures.

What are Lag Measures and Lead Measures?

Lag measures are indicators that usually measure the ultimate goals you want to achieve.

Here are some common examples of lag measures:

  • To increase 20% sales
  • To make an addition of $100,000 in profit
  • To lose 10 pounds in 3 months

Take a look at the above targets. They the common goals that people set.

And according to the book, these measures are lag measures. They are measures that you cannot act upon.

“No matter what you are trying to achieve, your success will be based on two kinds of measures: Lag and Lead. Lag measures track the success of your wildly important goal. Lags are measures you spend time losing sleep over. They are things like revenue, profit, quality, and customer satisfaction. They are called lags because by the time you see them, the performance that drove them is already passed. You can’t do anything to fix them, they are history.”

Lag measures are important, but they are lagging behind. And when you receive the results, there is nothing you can do anymore.

For instance, when you receive your sales report for the month, you find that you are way behind your projected target, but is there anything that you can do? No, nothing, because it will be too late when you received the report.

Thus, you must focus on another measure, which is called the lead measure.

A lead measure is something that you can act upon and something that is influenceable.

Here are some examples of lead measures:

  • Number of hours working out in the gym
  • Number of content published on the website
  • Number of out of stock items in a retail store

“Lead measures track the critical activities that drive, or lead to the lag measure. They predict success of the lag measure and are influenced directly by the person or the team.”

In other words, lead measures are influenceable, something you can work on, and they can be predictive of the results that you are going to get.

How to Use the Lead and Lag Measures in Harmony with Your Goals

In my opinion, the principle of lag and lead measures is powerful.

First, when we set our goals, we tend to focus on the goal itself, not the process. And when we talk about the lead and lag measures, it forces us to focus on the process and not the ultimate goal anymore.

Let me give you a clear example. Say if you want to lose weight.

Most people set the goal as to lose X pounds by Y. The problem is that this is a lag measure.

A lot of people focus on the goal, “to lose X pounds by Y”, thus, they consistently measure their weight. However, this is not helping at all.

You can’t lose weight by focusing and consistently thinking about losing weight. You need actions.

And this is where lead measures come into the pictures. So what can you do to lose weight?

Diet and exercise. These are the 2 lead measures you should focus on, not on the goal (lag measure) itself.

So if you focus on exercising (lead measure), say you exercise 3 times a week in the gym for an hour, eventually, you will lose weight (lag measure).

Lead measures are measures that you can act on and they can influence the ultimate results you desire.

Building a successful blog is a lag measure. Writing and publishing quality content is lead measure.

Earning money from your blog is a lag measure. Publishing guest articles on other people’s blog to build your online presence is a lead measure.

Publishing a book is a lag measure. Writing 1,000 words a day is the lead measure that you should focus on.

Do you get it now?

Lead Measures Allow You to Focus on the Actions that Matter

Imagine my target is to collect 10,000 email subscribers from this blog. And if I focus on this goal, what I will do on a daily basis is to log on to my autoresponder account and check how many leads I get.

The problem is that focusing on this goal is not going to help me get the number of subscribers that I want.

The lag measure does not tell me what to do. After a few weeks when I don’t see the results I want, highly likely, I will have given up and set another new goal.

Now, imagine if I focus on a lead measure such as to write and publish a blog post on every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, guess what will happen?

Well, all I do is to make sure that I publish 3 blog posts a week. And I don’t really care about the number of email subscribers I’m going to get.

Say after a month or two, my blog started to grow and the traffic increased. I become a believer that my goal is possible. So I continue to work harder and continue to publish quality content.

After a year, I have over a hundred quality content on my blog. And these contents are the pillars that built my blog. As a result, my blog receives a lot of traffic.

And highly likely, by the end of the year, I may achieve my goal of getting 10,000 email subscribers.

Do you get that?

Lead measures allow you to focus on the progress, not the destination. It tells you what you need to do to get there.

So stop focusing on the lag measure and switch your attention to the lead measures.

Identify Your Lead Measures

Yes, what you need to do right now is to identify your lead measures.

Spend some time to brainstorm your lead measures. You need to come up with at least one or two lead measures to focus on.

Remember, your lead measure will directly influence the results you get. And you don’t want to spread yourself too thin by coming up with too many lead measures.

The key is to identify the actions that will give you the results you want, and then get busy working on them day-in and day-out.

Get the Book – The 4 Disciplines of Execution

Finally, get the book. I strongly suggest you read this book because it can be life-changing.

This book will show you the 4 disciplines you need to follow to set and achieve the goals that you truly desire in life.

Go here and get this book from Amazon.

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About Shawn Lim

I'm a blogger, writer, and also an internet entrepreneur. If you want to learn more about me, kindly go to the About page. By the way, have you downloaded your FREE copy of Active Goal Setting? Don't forget to do so. :)

3 Replies

  1. Fewdays

    Hi man I want to thank u so much for this article coz often we forget to concentrate more on the gaol instead of the process, big up bro thanks

  2. Mohammed Thameem

    This is pure gold.

    1. Shawn Lim

      Hello Mohammed, yes, many people know goal setting, but most of them have no idea about the lead and lag measure. Cheers 🙂

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