There are no facts, only interpretations Friederich Nietzsche
One of the biggest challenges to leadership is where we have all been at one point or another where you start to believe that your followers must be idiots. Especially when you can show them, and often do, that the change you propose will not only save money for the company, but allow future growth, or efficiency or whatever. It might even be that the business case behind your change initiative is so strong that it should “go without saying” that it’s an important move to make.
The problem is that “facts” never constitute the whole of a successful change process, small or large. For me to change as a result of facts means that I have to care about the facts. Just because you can measure something and show me a result doesn’t mean that I have any interest whatsoever in making the change happen. And if you simply keep repeating the facts, it will soon feel to me as your follower that you believe the problem is that I’m just too stupid to understand.
The problem is a little more complex than that. It’s not even that I need to care. Of course I care about the wellbeing of the company or team with which I work. But as we’ve talked about in this blog several times, for me to be a truly engaged employee, I need to not only understand the vision and direction of the organization, I need to be a part of the team. I need to be willing to go above and beyond the task list that you’ve given me, not because I’m afraid of you, but because I want to.
If your change initiative or idea is driven only by facts, you have to take the time to consider the relational and emotional aspects as well. What kind of impact will the change make on me, or our customers or the culture of our organization? What does the change represent in the comparison of who we are versus who we want to be?
Facts by themselves never drive action. My response to the facts is what will drive action. For all of you “numbers people” out there, you have to keep providing the data. And ultimately to be successful, taking off on a change process because of a belief, without that data, is usually a mistake. But understand that it’s the heart, not the head, that will eventually make your change process a success.