3 Ways to Strengthen Your Leadership By Eliminating The Weakness of Assumptions

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This article is part of my Global Leadership series; Insights from more than a decade of leadership training around the world…

Leadership often requires the ability to make quick judgement calls. But when those quick assessments are based on weak assumptions, your leadership can be in trouble.

If you want to maximize your leadership, you must learn to minimize these assumptions.

I saw this played out during a leadership training trip in Fortaleza, Brazil. As I entered the venue for our conference, I quickly noticed a well-dressed gentleman seated at the back of the room, flanked by two austere-looking security men. I deduced immediately that this gentleman was a high-ranking official of some type; perhaps the mayor or even the state governor.

At the lunch break, I noticed that the security people had quickly whisked this gentleman out of the auditorium, prompting me to turn to my host and say, “I would have liked to have connected with that V.I.P. in the back of the  room.”

My host smiled and said, “Scott, that was no V.I.P. He was a prisoner.”

I would learn that this prisoner had been in leadership training while incarcerated, had demonstrated exemplary behavior, and had therefore been granted a special day-pass in order to attend this training event.

My assumption had been way off.

My incorrect assumption had been of little consequence, but often in leadership, assumptions can lead to significant problems.

1. You lash out at an employee when a report is late, assuming they were lazy.

  • You later learn that the employee had in fact been dealing with a family crisis.

2. You project overly-optimistic sales results for the year, assuming this month’s strong numbers would continue.

  • You later realize, this was a “blip”, not a trend.

3. You hire the first person you interview, assuming that their strong interview would translate into strong performance.

  • You later realize, they were a bad fit.

How can you avoid the pitfalls of such quick assumptions?

1. Keep asking questions

The better, and more persistent, your questions, the more likely you are to avoid a bad assumption.

2. Understand trends, not just data points

A single piece of information requires context, history and perspective. Learn the trends.

3. Gather perspectives

Be relentless in seeking the input of as many trusted advisors as possible.

Sometimes you must make quick, decisive decisions. Just remember the maxim that can save you grief down the road; To maximize your leadership, minimize your assumptions.

the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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