Sometimes we need to pause and put things under further review.

Hard to believe, but football season is around the corner. I am looking forward to the excitement of great games and great plays.  The great plays are almost always reviewed, especially when the big games are on the line.  I’m glad they do it—it’s important to get the facts right by reviewing what really happened.  Leaders need that discipline too.  As much as possible we need to put facts under review and go back “to the tape” to get the right decision.

Here’s a couple ideas to consider:

  • Don’t rely on descriptions as fact. A newscaster may describe a twitter post as a “rant.” Read it yourself and decide.  I recently found a boring news network.  It was refreshingly non-sensational (boring) like news used to be: x happened and here are the details. At work that means going deeper than a description (like they are poor team leader) to examples of specific behaviors (like they shoot people’s ideas down without helping them develop them).
  • Be a great premise popper. People make assertions all the time. Sit in any meeting and you can see them flying fast and thick: “All millennials just want XYZ” or “clients will never go for that” or “our company is just not good at that.” Maybe the person saying it is right, but what’s the proof? Good leaders should always be asking “what makes you say that?” If no answer or if the answer given is of poor quality, then the premise is popped. If good answers are given, then you no have some real data points to consider.
  • Don’t rely of hearsay. The legal professional casts a dim view on hearsay as evidence. You should too. Go to the source. If you hear “Asia operations is a mess” or “Quality has no idea what they are doing” then go to the source and do your best to check the facts on the ground.
  • Don’t take “who” as a root cause. Blame is the lazy man’s root cause. Someone may certainly have the responsibility for a failure, but if you really want to solve a problem, you need to know what that person did or did not do that affected the success of the activity.

As leaders we are surrounded with data and are trusted to make great decisions.  As much as possible we need to go back to the source to really understand the data and boost the quality of those decisions. In football, people may not like the calls the referees make, but they should be glad that somebody is trying to get the facts straight.