Ignoring Facts: Bad Decisions and Bad Reputations

Ignoring Facts: Bad Decisions and Bad Reputations

We credit John Adams, among others, for saying that you are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts. Many people are confused by this and demand that the “facts” are whatever they believe them to be. A politician recently said, “We chose truth over facts.” And some people seem to convey, “I’ve made up my mind. Don’t confuse me with the facts.”

Our History of Truth

In a sense, man has long accepted some things as true that are later proven false. It was a fact that the sun revolved around the earth. Until Copernicus. Then it was a fact that the sun was the center, not just of our solar system, but the entire universe. Man has always been quite self-centered.

Evidence must be Factual

In courts, we demand evidence. The evidence Is tested and some evidence is more persuasive than other evidence. An eyewitness might revel facts, but any good investigator knows that an accident on the corner where 10 people are waiting for a bus is not one accident with ten witnesses. It is ten accidents with one witness each. It is amazing how people who visually saw an event can differ in what their brains tell them they saw.

Any lawyer will tell you that the facts are whatever the judge or jury determines them to be. The truth might well be something else as we have seen with falsely convicted people being released from prison after years, sometimes decades of incarceration.

Technology Lies

Recordings, both audio and visual, are usually believed to be reliable. Today, technology allows us to edit things together so they seem continuous, yet are telling a complete lie. Even unedited videos can be very misleading by not showing what was out of the frame, or what came earlier or later in the video. Technology today can even create false videos that appear accurate. It becomes an issue of “Who can you trust?”

Seeking Facts

What are these things we call facts? In Sustained Leadership WBS, I note that a leader must deal with the facts with this definition:

WBS Dictionary: You are entitled to your opinions. You are not entitled to your facts. That thought has been variously attributed, and it is absolutely true. People are free to think whatever they choose, and their opinion may be an informed opinion or a completely uninformed opinion—or anything in between. Sustained leaders understand these vagaries in human nature and seek first to understand the facts.

No decision will ever be based on having 100% of the facts ( Nonetheless, you ignore facts at your own peril. Sustained leaders seek to understand the facts as best they are discernible. Sustained leaders test the facts that come to them to verify their veracity. While prevarication is often not present, mistakes, errors, misunderstandings, lack of understanding (intentional or situational), and other failures of communication are ubiquitous. They are unavoidable. The most successful leaders dig for the facts and sift opinion away. Managing by rumor or innuendo is damaging. Managing by fact is enlightening and fair. And while life has never promised that it will be totally fair, basing actions and decisions on provable facts tends to provide better decisions, greater acceptance, and more positive outcomes.

Leaders Seek Facts

Always make a sincere effort to understand the facts. Ask questions. Create timelines. The more facts you can mine, the more reliable your decisions will be. You will be perceived as fair and trustworthy. Stay away from rumor and try never to speak ill of another. Never falsely accuse anyone.

Willful Ignorance

It is also important that the sustained leader never disregard facts that have come to their attention or are otherwise reasonably accessible. The sustained leader never engages in willful ignorance. Never be afraid to ask a question, even if you suspect you will not like the answer. You cannot, in good conscience ever simply choose to disregard it. It can be fatal to your leadership journey

This material is derived from the book Sustained Leadership WBS and is found in section Fact-Based. Buy the book here. eBook: http://geni.us/SustainedLeadershipE; Print: http://geni.us/SustainedLeadershipP

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With an extensive career in government contracting, Tom has found many examples, both good and bad, of leadership. These posts are based on his latest book, Sustained Leadership WBS, published by Morgan James. Tom is available to speak to your team on the importance of developing sustained leaders.


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