To test whether the data you’re given by your employees is correct, try these techniques:
Trust but verify. Insist that all verifiable information come with hard evidence to back up the facts. Make sure your staff understands that you trust them but that it helps you to always analyze the source of their information. Armed not only with the facts that they’ve presented to you but also the material upon which they’ve based those facts, you’re in a far better position to assess to what extent the data is reliable.
Ask twice. If your intuition leads you to think that you’re receiving incomplete or faulty information, don’t ignore the effort, or worse, lash out or accuse the employee of sloppy work. Instead, ask the individual to prepare more facts or figures on the same subject. Say, “I have the first set of data you prepared for me, and I need more. Can you please dig a bit deeper and see what else you can find?” You may find that the additional information proves more conclusive.
Identify assumptions. When reviewing information, separate concrete, verifiable items from an employee’s recommendations, conclusions or opinions. Although a staffer’s insights can prove worthwhile, they also may hide or distort certain facts. For added safety, ask the employee to call your attention to any assumptions that underlie the apparent facts of the situation. Example: Taken on its own, a 12 percent reduction in the use of temporary workers can mean that the organization is operating in a more cost-conscious manner. But ask whether the employee has also investigated the number of part-time workers or other contract personnel on the payroll. Perhaps an increase in parttime hiring has accompanied the cut in temps.