Control Outcomes with Actions: Using Lead & Lag Measures to Accomplish Goals
Written By Connor Nellans
In their book The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals, authors Chris McChesney, Jim Huling, and Sean Covey discuss the importance of using Lead and Lag measures to identify and then track our progress towards a goal. I have found this concept to be extremely successful in helping me to achieve many goals I have set for myself, and I believe it can be extremely beneficial in helping you to achieve yours as well, inside and outside of the gym!
What are lead and lag measures?
Using Lag Measures
Lag measures are the results that you are striving to achieve. Things like back squatting a certain amount of weight, obtaining a certain body fat percentage, or running a mile under a certain amount of time. These are things that you can no longer influence at the time of measuring them.
Most of us are heavily focused on lag measures because they can be easily tracked. We can add up the amount of weight on our last successful back squat, we can see our body fat percentage from our dexa scan, or we can see our time on the stop watch for our mile time trial.
While lead measures are measures of activity take to influence the lag measure. Lead measures are the things we can control that will impact the lag measure at the time of measuring it. Examples of lead measures for a back squat lag measure would be the amount of times we back in a week.
As you can see, having lag measures is extremely important in order for us to have goals for us to pursue. But without the correct lead measures, our likelihood of reaching said lag measure is drastically reduced.
How to Use Lead and Lag Measures to Achieve Goals
Set a lag measure goal for yourself. Let’s say I want to gain 5lbs of muscles in the next 6 months. Next, find 2-3 lead measure goals that will directly impact your lag measure. For this example my three are: strength session in the gym at least 4x/week, eat my body weight in grams of protein each day, and sleep 8 hours each night.
Now for the next 6 months all I have to do is focus on my lead measures to reach the desired lag measure. We have given ourselves an easily digestible daily framework to use each day to ensure that we reach our goals. Sure, you may fall short of 100% success on your lag measure when measuring it in 6 months. But you will be much closer to your goal than if you had not used this lead measure framework. On top of that, you also now have strong habits built to continue to pursue your goal and make adjustments upon as you see fit to be sure you reach your goal the next time you measure your lag goal.
Control Outcomes with Actions
To summarize, lag measures are the outcomes we are after when setting a goal. Lead measures are the activities or actions we need to take each day, week, or month to achieve our lag measure. By implementing lead measures, we are giving ourselves the best chance of achieving our goals because we have tangible things to focus on each day, week, or month until we measure our lag measure again.
Give this concept a try with a goal you have set for yourself! It is a very powerful idea and can be used successfully with goals around your fitness but also professional and personal goals too! Here’s a FREE Goal Setting Guide to get you started!