Leadership 101: Don’t Make ASSumptions

What They Don't Tell You

I recently had a fellow leader recall a time when a team member of his who he assumed wanted to be promoted and move up within their organization. When they finally had the chance to sit down and chat about it together, she expressed to him that she had changed her vision of herself and her family, ultimately seeking a better work-life balance within her current role and staying put. He was shocked to realize that she hadn't wanted to be promoted, and his assumptions were wrong. By refocusing on her feedback and eliminating the push of moving her in a direction she didn't intend to go, he could meet her where she saw herself at. So each time they met thereafter, he made the choice to recalibrate his coaching methods, always making sure she was happy with what she was doing, which really allowed her to shine. He no longer led by making assumptions; he led by eliminating them. 

You know what they say about assumptions…

The dictionary definition of assume is 'suppose to be the case, without proof.'

Assumptions happen when you *think* you have all the information or you're pressed for time to make a quick decision, oftentimes lacking the facts. Maybe you feel like you know what's best for a team member or your team in general, like the story above. Unfortunately, life has a way of throwing us curve balls and creating change in the blink of an eye. A vision your employee once had for the future of their career may not necessarily be their end goal anymore. 

Meet Your People Where They're At

What are the best ways to work towards this change? Caring leadership cannot be maintained if you don't put forth the effort to address your people individually and often. Meet them where they're at with more than just one-on-one meetings to gather feedback. Sit with them regularly, whether that be daily or weekly. Dig deep into their outlooks and concerns by asking the right questions. Where do they see themselves within the next six months, year, or five years? Are they even prepared to conquer this week? Find out what it is that makes them happy within their position, what can be improved, and how you can guide them to their next success or opportunity.

Analyze Yourself 

Be aware of your company's core values and beliefs, as this will reflect how you present yourself as a leader. Be willing to analyze yourself and your behavior if you're quick to jump the gun or have made assumptions in the past. There's always room for self-improvement. Nobody is perfect! It can take some gut-level honesty to do this, but you must really get honest with yourself, perhaps uncomfortably so. What are your tendencies, biases, and preferences? These become the physical evidence of your mindset. In order to regularly act in accordance with your stated values, question your own mindset. Identify where your own thoughts and behaviors align, or don't, with your company values. Remember: you're identifying your deficiencies so you can work to overcome them.

Throughout this process, you can either ignore reality and assume or be inquisitive. Leadership doesn't have a 'one size fits all' option. Instead, ask open-ended questions and support each person in the best way for them. 

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