Leadership: Does Data & Objectivity Create Detachment?

The business world and the scientific community place great value on data and objectivity. They value clear-headed thinking and quantitative analysis to solve the puzzle and reach success.

When we extend data and objectivity’s gold star status to leadership, teamwork, and customer service, we come up short in all three areas.

Leadership, teamwork, and customer service require connecting objective data with the people involved. When we think the puzzle is solved because the data connects in our minds, do we resort to simply reporting the data and logic assuming that all will cheer?

For employee engagement and customer experience it’s important to ask …

Leadership: Don't Let Data & Objectivity Detach Your Success

Where and When Does Objectivity Create Detachment?

  1. When you don’t think engagement and connection is your job. There are people in diverse professions — from doctors to customer service reps — who believe their work is about the task at hand not about engagement. They are shocked when they get little or no response to their detached objectivity.
  2. When you hope you can get by without connection. Whether it is a particular group of people you find difficult or a general discomfort interacting with others, data and objectivity frequently offer an easy place to hide from connection.
  3. When data and objectivity are the source of your mojo. Some find it in data, others in creative problem solving, still others in communication. If your inspiration is data and objectivity, those you lead, collaborate with, or serve may feel detached when you are in your zone. Assuming that others are as moved by data and objectivity as you are can keep everyone from success.
  4. When objectivity is your sanctuary. Everyone needs and has an activity that is a haven from stress. What’s yours? For some people it’s learning, for some it’s sharing perspectives, and for others it’s blocking out emotion and seeing just the facts. If you are in that group, your retreat to the refuge of objective data may abandon customers, team members, and employees just when they need your connection.
  5. When you believe emotion and/or connection skews or dilutes results. If you have come to mistrust emotion through your formal education, work life, or negative personal experiences, you risk appearing detached as you exalt data and objectivity.
  6. If you were punished or demoted for your natural engagement ability. Were you ever told by your teachers or your boss that you focused too much on people or were too sensitive? You may swing too far to objectivity — all the way to detachment — as you try to find your opposite trait and win their approval.
  7. When you are being rewarded for impartiality. If in your work or personal life, you are regularly applauded, recognized, and even promoted for your objective view, you may be at risk for taking it to the extreme.
  8. When conflicted feelings or a skewed sense of fairness stops you from connecting with anyone. Think of a leader who claims there’s not enough performance data when team members repeatedly report that a top performer is not collaborating well. Consider a customer service rep who falters in service recovery when they don’t want to believe their team member treated a customer poorly. Retreating to the harbor of impartiality feels safe yet simultaneously risks employee engagement and customer loyalty.

Few would dispute that data and objectivity are valuable — as a first step. It’s what you do with that value that creates or blocks success.

If data and objectivity truly nourish you, ask how you can nourish others with the result of it. Many leaders have learned to tell stories with the data to bridge the gap. Yet if we want to truly engage employees, we must learn their stories in order to craft an effective story about the latest data or challenge.

If team members are struggling in difficult times, empathizing with them before tapping our objectivity uplifts them with a human connection while moving everyone toward success.

If we want to engage customers in experiences they will value and cheerfully tell others, greet them as people not as account numbers. Let us see their expectations as welcome diversions from repetitious routines not as difficult customers who mess up our metrics.

One who would be serene and pure needs but one thing, detachment. ~Meister Eckhart


One who wants to succeed must connect their mojo with others!

Are you ready to assess whether you are using valuable objectivity or getting stuck in the refuge of detachment? I can help you like I have so many others.

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Related Post: Avoid the 7 Common Causes of People Skills Mistakes

©2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish this post, please email info@katenasser.com. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

6 Responses to “Leadership: Does Data & Objectivity Create Detachment?”

  1. Anne Egros says:

    Hi Kate,
    You are absolutely right. When sales people have KPIs focused only on revenues they generate, they become less and less productive at creating long term relationships that make loyal clients and customers. I think great companies look at non-objective data such as great reviews or recommendations from existing clients especially on social media platforms. Customers usually complain more than they praise so take negative feedback from clients very seriously and apply corrective actions that involve not only front line customer service employees but the entire organization.Great post Kate.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Very true Anne. Great companies look at all insights — not just objective data — to make decisions. As you say, if you are going to take corrective actions, make sure you see the big picture.

      Thank you for the “zen” view of this issue.

      Warmest regards,

  2. This is a fascinating subject, Kate! I think your list of reasons why people use detachment through objectivity is pretty complete. Obviously you’ve been there!

    On the other side of this issue is another question, “Is there a way to use “objectivity” and “data” to actively increase engagement?” I think the answer to that is yes if you start from the premise that each person’s “subjective” views are vital to understand. For example, several times in my career I’ve been faced with helping set up agendas for management retreats where the best topics have been guessed at in advance, but don’t necessarily reflect the group’s true energy. In response, I’ve developed a simple, customized survey — NOT-anonymous — to help people collectively identify what they want to talk about and why. The process has both numerical outcomes and considerable disclosure, with the result that people can easily see where the hot discussions will be. Since in a sense they’ve already begun their conversation through this device they more quickly and fully engage. However, to your point, this isn’t really about how to “detach” through data. It’s about creating a mirror that helps people express themselves and see how others are feeling, too, and so it’s “subjective data as mirror” that stimulates the engagement.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Wow Dan. Great technique, fantastic illustration, and a truly valuable use of data to engage.

      I am so grateful to you for sharing such a clear and real life examples for all leaders and teams.

      Warmest wishes and regards,

  3. Dave Sena says:

    Awesome insight. As a fundraiser, we use data to help identify prospects but have to use the art if engagement to make friends.

    I would add that data and objectivity allow you to tie a bow and celebrate being done. Engagement means I can tie a bow and give it as a gift to the right person for the right reason.

    Thoughts from the sideline.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Dave,
      I love it when people bring personal examples from their work or life to the discussion of these topics. And your insight on the “art of engagement” to make friends and also reach the objective is tremendously helpful.

      Engagement as the bow clad gift is an image I will remember for quite a long time.

      Many thanks!!

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