I once met with a SVP to discuss coaching for one of his leaders. He stated that he always liked to ask this question at “interviews”: who would you most like to have dinner with on a deserted island? He was asking for a fun fact when he should have been looking for a pertinent fact.

My polite (but unnecessary) answer to his question was a famous modern Japanese novelist who committed suicide by seppuku.* The pertinent fact was that I was qualified to help his leader and had prior success with many other leaders.

People confuse fun facts with pertinent facts all the time. It is a bad habit.

  • Fun fact: The team does not get together socially.
  • Pertinent fact: There is no alignment among senior leaders on strategic focus.
  • Fun fact: The organization supplies leadership training to hundreds of “high potentials” every year.
  • Pertinent fact: Supervisors of said “high potentials” do not follow up on the application of the leadership training consistently.

Here’s another pertinent fact: the amount of time spent on pertinent facts versus fun facts is positively correlated with success.

*you get “fun fact points” for correctly naming this novelist