When I was a kid, dinner was always a time for spirited discussion. Every now and then that spirited discussion would veer dangerously close to argument. But since the house rules included never questioning another person’s integrity, intelligence, or motives, things usually stayed within bounds.
Often, a difference of opinion hinged on a fact or two. My sister and I might start a vigorous game of “My Facts are Better Than Your Facts,” but just as things were getting tense, my mother would speak up. “That’s a fact,” she would say, “We don’t have to argue about it. We can look it up.”
Looking it up might involve pulling out any of the many reference works we kept around the house. It might involve calling the Reference Desk at the New York Public Library. The important lesson was that you based your arguments on facts and that you verified those facts.
When Harold Geneen was CEO of the old ITT, the company grew 2200 percent in nine years. His management style involved the search for what he called “the unshakeable facts.”
What you need is facts. They’re not always as easy to get as they were when we sat around my family dinner table. You have to seek them out. You have to verify them and test them. Then you have to use them to make wise decisions.
Boss’s Bottom Line
Facts are not always pleasant to hear. You have to be willing to admit them, face them, and run your business based on them.