Assumption Potholes


As leaders, it is easy to make assumptions… and whether we recognize them as such or not, they can cause jarring aggravation for you and the people you hope to lead. Almost like the abrupt jolt of an unseen pothole. While the list of expectations that can trip you up is long, I would offer the following as perhaps among the most common assumption potholes:

You assume that if something seems logical to you, it will seem logical to everyone else.

Nope. Not even close. Each one of us sees the world through the lens of our lived experiences. So for people who have lived experiences similar to yours, perhaps what seems logical to you may also make common sense to them. For everyone else, this may not be the case. How do you keep this notion of what is logical from tripping you up? Explicitly state the frame of reference from which you are working — your logic — so that a) people understand where you are coming from and/or b) they have the opportunity to share their frame of reference, if it is different from yours, so that everyone can get on the same page.

You assume that just because something is easy for you, that means it is easy.

Some leaders have a tendency to downplay their unique gifts and graces and the wealth of experience they bring to the table. As a result, you may overestimate others’ ability to, for example, develop a comprehensive plan that takes into account a wide range of strategic variables. Just because that may be YOUR gift, that does not mean that a staff member, who has other gifts and graces, is going to be able to complete the project with the same ease and enthusiasm that you do. Easy is in the eye of the beholder, so be intentional in learning about what is “easy” for your staff and, when possible, let them take the lead in those things rather than assuming your easy is the same as theirs.

You assume because you understood the point you were trying to make, you were clear.

Of course you think you clearly communicated your point — you know what you were trying to say! The intended recipients of your profound message likely had fifty-seven other things on their mind, which means they may only have heard half of it, or filtered it through a lens you hadn’t considered or that you don’t feel is inaccurate. Perhaps the best way to combat this type of assumption (both for you and your staff) is to start with your intent. What do you intend to accomplish or convey with the message you are about to share? Lead with that, rather than assume people can read your mind.

What would you add to the list? Like any pothole, you have to see your assumptions before you can patch them… and ultimately pave the way to a smoother journey.





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