[March 13, 2018] Like many “older” college students returning to school, there was a small group of us who were going back from the Army. As enlisted members of the U.S. military, we had been selected to complete a college degree toward commissioning as officers. But each of us had made crucial errors in our assumptions about the requirements for graduation.
“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.” – Henry Winkler, American actor, comedian, director, and producer
We were in a new Department of Defense program designed to improve leadership in the ranks of each military service and retain troops that showed promise as future leaders. Being a new program, each step was not always spelt out in black and white. My small group learned a valuable lesson that first year as we failed to properly navigate the bureaucracies of both our colleges and our military administrations.
Leaders don’t accept ideas without first thinking about them and trying to ferret out the thoughts that are underneath. Developing the skill set that allows a leader to look at things that most folks take for granted is both difficult and a long-term method to better leadership. Doing this takes creative and studied thinking.
I remember clearly our group talking about the problems we had encountered at college. One of my friends said that our failure to catch several assumptions that turned out wrong and delayed our graduation was the “mother of all screw-ups.”
He wasn’t very original in his assessment but it taught us a lesson that we would have for the rest of our careers in the military; question your assumptions or the price might just be more than you’re willing to pay.