Align facts to draw big conclusions

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

To explain his corporate strategy, Andrew Liveris likes to cite stark facts. In a recent speech, the chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical Co. said that the world's population will grow from 6.6 billion today to more than 8 billion by 2035. Then he said that each year, around 1.5 million people around the globe die because of water-related illnesses and 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes.

Liveris then tied these facts together and concluded, "[We see] these new global challenges as opportunities for Dow. In a real sense, they represent a vast sweet spot—here the world's most pressing challenges intersect with our ability to make a difference and make a profit."

This example shows that Liveris understands how to guide the audience to see what he sees. It's his way of showcasing his thought process and gaining collective buy-in.

If you want to persuade others to embrace your proposal, follow the same path: Provide a few simple, compelling facts and then integrate them into your bold conclusion.

When talking with the top brass at your organization, don't make the mistake of jumping right to your conclusion and then explaining how you arrived at it. You'll persuade more readily by trotting out the most revealing, hard-hitting numbers and then using seamless logic to carry you—and your listeners—to your undeniably sound action plan.

Citing facts works better than asserting claim after claim without proof. Just because you're passionate and convinced you're right doesn't mean everyone else will side with you. The sharpest, most critical thinkers look to you for actual evidence, not dogmatic assertions.

Like Liveris, adopt a "facts first" approach to introduce your argument. As each verifiable fact builds on the previous one, you'll begin to construct an airtight case. By the time you draw your conclusion, you'll win over even the most skeptical or resistant foes.

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