[July 19, 2014] Picking good daily habits for senior leaders is rather easy because there are so many to choose form. Today, selected is the good habit that most leaders actually violate regularly; making assumptions that turn out not to be true. People make assumptions in everything we do, otherwise nothing would get done but here the reference is to the important assumptions. Good habits number one is “never assume anything” of consequence.
Does this mean we should never trust anyone and anything? Of course not, we should be able to trust but we should also be able to verify our assumptions. In the military’s formalized decision making process, there is a place to make a list of facts and assumptions. An important task is to turn assumptions into facts as quickly as possible. When that is not achievable, contingencies are built around the unknowns, those pesky assumptions that we cannot verify as fact. This is a good methodology for not having an assumption we were counting on come back later and cause us fail.
An old saying that I heard repeatedly in the military was, “assumptions makes an ass out of you and me.” The drill sergeants actually drew it on the chalk board for us trainees: ass|u|me. They seared it into our brains … so to speak. The saying has been around for a while and the originator of the phrase is probably unknown. The point was that when people make assumptions, they are invariably wrong. In war when assumptions are made, and not verified, they are likely to get you killed. Those drill sergeants, with experience in Vietnam, knew what they were talking about because we heard the many stories of life and death.
For senior leaders, the best way to get to the truth and eliminate assumptions is to talk with many people about the same issue. That is what most of us do. We ask multiple people throughout the organization about their thoughts on a particular issue. Leaders would be amazed at the feedback when obtained from different levels in the organization.
The senior leader lesson today is to never assume anything; that is, never assume anything of importance without actively verifying its truth. Tomorrow, good habit number two will be, “walk around and talk with people.” Hmmmmm, these two are related … imagine that. [Don’t forget to “Like” the Leader Maker at our Facebook Page.]