Human beings make assumptions. We take information from the outside world that we can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste and process that through our context. This is all for the purpose of making sense of our surroundings.
When there are gaps in the information collected, we fill in those blanks to reconcile what we are experiencing with what we think is going on. We don’t even realize we do this.
The danger is, that what our senses are telling us, and what we think is happening, may not be reality.
As a leader it’s hard to not make assumptions. You’re busy, with possibly a lot of people to manage, and even more responsibilities on your plate. On a hectic day, it can sometimes feel like you're experiencing life through sound bites.
The good news is there is a remedy to avoid being an assumptive leader: conversations.
A simple conversation can quickly clear up a lot of assumptions made on either party’s part, and it can enrich the relationship.
Below are 3 easy tips for leaders to have the conversations needed to help them avoid being an assumptive leader.
1.) Survey Your Own Emotions.
Before you have the conversation with your employees or associates, take inventory of the data you’ve collected, and see how it’s informing how you feel. Having this emotional awareness as a leader is what makes others commit to you on a deep level. A quick rundown on what you’re seeing or hearing, and how you feel, can help your conversations be more successful. Maybe there is a bias you can spot beforehand, perhaps you're being too easy on someone, and this conversation needs to be different. No one can make you feel anything, so before the conversation, take responsibility for your emotions.
2.) Take the time to schedule one-on-ones with your employees and keep the appointment.
Just because you book it on your Outlook calendar doesn’t mean the appointment always happens. Here’s the truth: there’s never enough time in the day to get everything you need to get done; you have to prioritize. Prioritize your employees. These thirty minutes are invaluable. It’s a time to connect and share your perspective and see if it aligns with your employees’ realities.
3.) Get Curious.
Whether you’re in a meeting, or having the conversation in passing, become disciplined in the art of getting curious. In our Fierce Coaching training, we use a model called Mineral Rights. This method focuses on asking questions and then LISTENING to the response. You are only allowed to ask questions. It’s hard to hold onto assumptions when you engage with others this way.
As a leader you’re going to make assumptions. The key is to not stay in that space, and instead, take control of the situation by devoting time and energy with those who surround you. A simple conversation can mean the difference between an informed leader and an assumptive one.