Making assumptions when in a leadership position is not simply a rookie error. No matter how seasoned the manager, leading by assuming is commonplace and it can devastate the goals of an organisation. Jumping to conclusions and taking for granted that everybody is on board are risky moves. A safer bet? Have the conversations, listen and ask questions.
Ryan Jenkins of Next Generation Catalyst warns of the pitfalls for leaders who continue to make too many assumptions while engaging in too few conversations. “It’s easy to have a one-way conversation in your head that leads to a decision and then expect your peers or team to know exactly what your train of thought was on the decision. Assumptions rob others of the necessary clarity to get behind a decision, idea, or task,” explains Jenkins.
When key players are left out of the decision-making process, the holes that exist from missing information get filled in with assumptions. It’s human nature to seal those gaps with knowledge from our past or make guesses based on what we know and have learned. The problem with this strategy is that nobody has identical life and career experience. One person’s “common sense” assumption comes from a completely different set of circumstances, experiences and knowledge than those of another member of the team.
Take the guesswork out of leading Millennials.
Jenkins also points out that managing by making assumptions is especially perilous today as leaders struggle to bridge the generational gap. Millennials have grown up with entirely different communication methods than earlier generations. They have had the world at their fingertips digitally and thrive on information.
According to Jenkins, the most common assumptions leaders make about Millennials include:
- Assuming Millennials know how you prefer to communicate. You need to tell them, directly.
- Assuming Millennials who aren’t in the office aren’t working. Instead, start managing the results of a delegated project or responsibility.
- Assuming Millennials aren’t offering a lot or are unwilling to pitch in. Try increasing your expectations and communicating your thoughts.
- Assuming Millennials will figure it out. Start training and inspiring.
The Millennial generation has a lot to offer an organisation, including savvy tech skills and the ability to complete tasks on the go. Good leaders have succeeded with this generation by dropping the assumptions and picking up the art of conversation.
Speak with your team, not to your team.
When leaders begin making assumptions, it means there is a fundamental lack of communication. The obvious solution is to over-inform. Assumptions are made mostly for the sake of efficiency. Time, money and energy are thought to be saved if we don’t need to do the proverbial walk-through of every plan and decision with the whole team. Good leaders don’t avoid making conversation. They take time to listen and ask questions.
Of course, nobody has the time to examine at depth every single decision made throughout the day. Part of effective leadership is learning to identify decisions that will cause disruptions and make the most waves. It’s in these critical situations that a leader needs to explain what’s expected. Assumptions should never be made when changes are on the horizon that will cause big impact. These are the times when clear, concise communication is imperative.