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Assumptions… Leadership’s Saboteur. (#95)

The Confident Leader

John’s largest client cancelled their contract. In a panic, John made a slew of assumption as to why. The resulting story he told himself prevented him from communicating effectively by initially failing to address the situation. When we are triggered, we’re prone to make assumptions. This may be bad for business.  

Jumping to conclusions is not actually exercise.
— Robin Pou, Inc. (Leadership Development Firm)

This Week’s Edition

To overcome the temptation to make assumptions and see the world from new and different perspectives, great communicators ask themselves, “what else could be true?”

Clarify Your Thinking

John was devastated because he had spent years cultivating his biggest client. Convinced he knew why they had left, he rattled off his assumptions: 

  • Our biggest competitor plays dirty. They stole them.

  • Our client services guy hasn’t been calling on them like he should. He lost it for us.

  • Their new CFO doesn’t like us. I’m sure he convinced them to make the switch.

“Really, how do you know these are the reasons? What else could be true?” I asked. I could see he was a bit puzzled. I continued. “How many possible reasons are there for why your client canceled the contract?” 

 “A bunch,” he said hesitantly. “Probably infinity,” he confessed.

“John, while you are super smart, what makes you think you are smart enough to pick, out of the vastness of infinity, the one reason why your client canceled the contract?”

“Good point. You got me there. I guess I don’t really know.” John said with a smile recognizing his folly in making a series of assumptions. “I guess I need to find out.” 

Old Thinking: Even though I don’t have all the facts, I know exactly what happened! 

New Thinking: I’m really frustrated, but I’m going to resist the urge to make an assumption. I’m going to seek another perspective and additional information.

Thoughts Lead to Actions

Our mind is powerful. The brain is designed to search for patterns to make a more efficient mental machine. As a result, assumptions are shortcuts our brain creates when we lack firsthand information.

But this can cause a problem. These shortcuts prevent us from seeing different perspectives or learning new information, because we think we already know what we need to know. We only see the tip of the iceberg and fail to go deeper to understand the full extent of the situation.

Incorrect assumptions can lead to:

  • Misunderstandings (assumptions about people)

  • Needless worry (concern about things that don’t exist)

  • Unnecessary stress (creating extra work)

  • Missed opportunities (overlooking options)

  • Reduced self-confidence (feeling underequipped)

These incorrect assumptions result in leaders experiencing significant doubt about their leadership. Take these steps to ward off the urge to assume.

Step One: When tempted to make an assumption slow down and ask yourself:

What else could be true?

Step Two: Presume positive intent while you pursue new perspectives and additional facts. 

Step Three: Go directly to the source. Ask questions to broaden your perspective, deepen your understanding and lengthen the list of facts you 

currently have. 

John reevaluated his assumptions and called his client to gain additional insight. The conversation produced a customer-centric perspective and new information. John addressed his client’s needs and ended up with a win.

Boost Your Performance

Find out more about John’s successful conversation in this week’s video. Discover what questions he asked to gain a new perspective and get the information to move past his assumptions and improve his leadership of the situation.

What’s Your Opinion?

What’s your approach to ward off assumptions? Share with me at:

Don’t let doubt count you out. Have a confident week!

Robin Pou, Chief Advisor and Strategist

If this was helpful, feel free to share it with another leader who needs to defeat doubt and complete their confidence.

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What is “The Confident Leader”?

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, I began a video series called “Panic or Plan?” It was designed to equip leaders to navigate the doubt they experienced and to rise in the confidence they needed to lead during turbulent times. It took off. I then started this newsletter to equip leaders in the same fashion each week for the doubt that crashes across the bow of their leaderSHIP.

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