Just the Facts

 Fact Based Decision Making

One of the best known, iconic lines in entertainment history, apparently was never actually spoken. At least not by the character to whom credit was assigned.

Many Baby Boomers remember the original Dragnet television series which aired from 1967 to 1970. It was a police drama built around actual cases drawn from the files of the Los Angeles Police Department. Actual cases, but don’t worry, “…the names have been changed to protect the innocent.”

Series creator, Jack Webb, also played Detective Sgt. Joe Friday in the series. Sgt. Friday, a pragmatic, no-nonsense cop, was known by viewers for his famous monotone catchphrase, “just the facts, ma’am.”

The only problem? The Joe Friday character never actually spoke those words. The line, “just the facts, ma’am,” comes from a parody of Dragnet that was created by a rather anonymous actor named Stan Freberg.

Apparently, most people simply haven’t checked the facts. So let’s consider the importance of facts and how leaders use — or even ignore — them.

Fact Based Decision Making

Kathleeen T., is a recognized leader in higher education in the state of Florida. Recently she expressed to me a concern that leaders should exercise greater care in making fact based decisions — not decisions based on initial impressions or personal assumptions.

Kathleen contends that unnecessary problems are created when leaders, in her words, “create what they fear and then when faced with contrary facts, stick with their (initial) beliefs.”

She goes on to say when leaders’ preconceived ideas are not validated regularly, the lens through which leaders view their world and make decisions gets unnecessarily cloudy.

I think Kathleen is absolutely right.

Admittedly, leadership can be an inexact science. Even the best leaders must regularly act without perfect knowledge of the future.

But great leaders are never, repeat never, fact averse. They are critically aware of the long and short term benefits of getting decisions right the first time. And facts help them do that.

Fact Based Decision Making vs. Assumptions


Facts are persuasive. Initial impressions and personal assumptions are not.

Facts can be seen, heard and measured. Initial impressions and personal assumptions can not.

Facts can serve as great foundations for constructive conversations. Initial impressions and personal assumptions will not.

But despite each of these red flags, it’s unbelievably easy to get sucked into the trap of convenience that initial impressions and personal assumptions afford. After all, it takes absolutely no time, effort or research to jump to conclusions.

But to build leadership trust, stature and authority requires a solid, unshakable, irrefutable foundation anchored on fact based conclusions and their related decisions.

So before making your next significant leadership decision, take time to ask — and answer — the following question:

What facts — what hard evidence — do I have to support the position I’m about to take or the decision I’m about to make?

And here’s the kicker. If you can’t answer that question with great clarity, you need to recall Kathleen T.’s earlier statement.

“When leaders’ preconceived ideas are not validated regularly, the lens through which leaders view their world and make decisions, gets unnecessarily cloudy.”

Your followers will certainly appreciate your commitment to fact-finding. You might say they want the facts — just the facts.

Fact Based Decision Making Questions

Are preconceived ideas or assumptions influencing your next major decision? What facts do you need to gather before making the decision?

#decisionmaking #factbaseddecisions #decisions

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