What assumptions are you making as a Leader?

One of the biggest traps many of us make as leaders is by making assumptions. We do it all the time, often without knowing we’re doing it. In some cases, assumptions help us make decisions effectively (I assume the sun will rise tomorrow, so I will plan on going into work). Often, however, assumptions hold us back. We often confuse assumptions with fact and allow the stories we tell ourselves to become truth, impacting decision making, our behaviors and, ultimately, our relationship with others. Here are a few common examples:

  • “I know this person clearly doesn’t like me”
  • “This person will definitely never go for that”
  • “Obviously, this person knows what I meant…”
  • “The client (peer, boss, friend, etc.) obviously wants…”

Notice that assumptions have everything to do with what we believe and often have little to do with what is in the mind of the other individual. Here are 3 ways to improve your leadership skills as it relates to assumptions going forward:

  • Notice: As you work others, reflect on what assumptions you are making. What stories are you making up about their intentions, beliefs, motivations or actions? What evidence or data do you have to support these assumptions? Document these assumptions.
  • Validate: Intentionally “check in” with your team member(s) and articulate your assumptions in order to validate what is actually true. Indicate what led to your assumptions. Here are a couple of approaches you might try:
    • “I’ve got an assumption that I wanted to run by you…”
    • “I’ve got a story I’ve made up about an issue that I wanted to validate with you”
  • Adjust: often, based on the validation phase, we will learn that some part of our assumptions (story) need to be updated. Using this new information, adjust your perspective incorporating the new data.

Assumptions, while helpful in some cases, can often get us into trouble. Take your time to notice, validate & adjust as you move forward. This will lead to improved decision making, efficiency and improved trust in your relationships.

Stephen Kohler is CEO & Founder of Audira Labs, a leader in executive coaching & leadership development. Audira empowers Leaders, Teams and Organizations to become better listeners, enabling unleashed leadership potential and maximizing fulfillment.