How to Avoid Fueling the Fires of Misinformation

The ease of access to information today is a great public utility. However, this means there is also greater access to misinformation.

When business leaders are sharing anything with their teams, they have to be sure the information is accurate and fact-based. Otherwise, something may be interpreted incorrectly and the rumor mill may start turning at your organization.

To help leaders ensure they’re not contributing to the spread of misinformation, 15 members of Newsweek Expert Forum shared their best tips for businesses.

1. Encourage People to Express Differing Viewpoints

As a leader, your words—including the words of others that you share—carry weight. Foster an environment that promotes the expression of differing viewpoints and gather input from diverse sources to avoid echo chambers. Lastly, openly address misinformation when you become aware of it. – Jennifer Grayeb, The Nimble Co.

2. Think Critically About Any Claims Made

Before sharing an article, read it and consider whether the author distinguishes between fact and opinion and backs up factual claims with evidence. Perform a Google News search to verify how a news story is being reported by others. Do a reverse image search to help determine if an image appearing alongside an article is presented in proper context and with an accurate caption. – Joseph Steinberg, Joseph Steinberg, LLC

3. Evaluate the Source of Information

When leaders are given information, they should evaluate the source from which the information is coming. Is the source trustworthy and are the data sources reliable? If yes, leaders can trust the information to make good decisions. The side benefit of checking sources is that a leader’s team will know that asking questions is encouraged and working with sound information is expected. – Reed Deshler, AlignOrg Solutions

4. Guide and Empower Your Team to Continue Their Research

As we thread through this sea of information, it is imperative to evaluate the source(s) of such information. The information we provide those we guide should be transparent in a way so they can also continue their research or empower them to make their own decisions. Our lifesaver will be the clarity and transparency of sources and the continued integrity of the unfiltered truth. – Hugo Gonzalez, Core CPAs & Advisors

5. Don’t Publish Anything Without Fact-Checking

Double-check facts and figures before providing them in any written or verbal communications. As information has become readily available, it is important to use reliable sources when providing references and/or “fact-checking” prior to publishing. – Samantha McDermott, SaJo Advisors

6. Sharpen Your Qualifying Skills

How you perceive an issue impacts its outcome. This is an opportunity to sharpen your qualifying skills. Ask, “How do you know what you know?” Sales stars are highly skilled in qualifying their targets. It saves time, reduces waste and increases ROI on efforts. Savvy leaders qualify their knowledge before forwarding actions. Practicing the art of qualifying enrichens accountability and culture. – Jay Steven Levin, WinThinking

7. Ask Questions to Verify Information

Leaders can exercise a healthy dose of skepticism and curiosity. “Trust but verify” should be replaced with “question to verify.” Seeking evidence and facts can go a long way toward changing the tide. In addition, leaders should expect the same from their people. Require backup and proof before entertaining any idea, belief or suggestion. – Diane Helbig, Helbig Enterprises

8. Keep Your Finger on the Organization’s Pulse

Fighting misinformation may become a crucial skill for 21-century leaders—not just in politics but also in business. While it is impossible to identify every source of misinformation, leaders need to keep their fingers on the organization’s pulse. This includes talking to customers and team members and making sure that the organization’s direction is understood and positively reinforced. – Gregory Thomas, 375 Park Associates

9. Don’t Speak About Things You Don’t Know

I learned at a very early age not to speak about things I don’t know. I’ve taken this early lesson with me through life and it applies to all situations. Self-awareness triggers you to learn more about the subject or locate trustworthy resources for more information. You will then have confident and competent data. Stay curious and conscientious of what, where and how you’re communicating your data. – Joyel Crawford, Crawford Leadership Strategies, LLC

10. Be Upfront About the Dangers of Misinformation

A leader can state how quickly misinformation can spread through an organization. To prevent this, tell your team the company is starting a program where we will be asking weekly for people to anonymously submit a small note to their workgroup. It will state, “The facts as I know them that are relevant to my successfully performing and doing my job are X and the way they are affecting it is X.” – Mark Goulston, Mark Goulston, M.D., Inc.

11. Strive to Be Transparent and Vulnerable

Leaders should be more transparent and vulnerable to stop the spread of misinformation. If they don’t know something, they should acknowledge it. If they’re confused, they can ask for feedback from their team members. Figuring out known unknowns together leads to better results. This is the way to surface and battle misinformation internally and eternally. – Yuri Kruman, HR, Talent & Systems Consulting

12. Add ‘Rumor-Busting’ to Your Team’s Agendas

Misinformation can damage organizational morale and culture. To prevent it from taking root, add “rumor-busting” to your team’s agenda by inviting them to share their concerns. If they don’t readily share, then directly and supportively address any rumors out loud. Ensure that your front-line managers are equipped to do the same so transparency and truth permeate your culture at all levels. – Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC

13. Establish News Sources That Are Vetted and Authenticated

Ensure that your organization has a primary communication channel in which all information and news that comes out of this channel has been carefully vetted and authenticated. Not only will this help employees trust the authenticity of the information being shared but it also sets a standard for how information should be vetted for sharing in today’s digital world. – Jenna Hinrichsen, Advanced RPO

14. Actively Promote Trustworthy Sources

The ability to share misinformation has increased with the rise of social media algorithms that are built to promote sensational content. Businesses and leaders will never be able to fully stop misinformation but by actively promoting trustworthy articles and sources, they take the first step to help get the correct information into online conversations. – Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint

15. Create a Culture of Truth-Seeking

The way we combat misinformation is by making truth-seeking a part of our company culture. The number one value for our company is “we seek the truth” and we use that framing to approach nearly every system and process in our company. Creating a mental framework in which the goal isn’t to win but is to find the correct information will help leaders ensure they’re not adding fuel to the fire. – Chloe Alpert, Medinas

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