A successful leader once shared that he constantly asks himself one question: “What am I not seeing?”
Assumptions are one of the areas that may be a blind spot, and leadership requires us to challenge them repeatedly.
What used to work yesterday may no longer apply today, and it’s important for leaders to question and challenge those assumptions. The hardest part about challenging assumptions is identifying them in the first place.
The process of examining and challenging assumptions about your market, customers, shareholders, people, goals, and strategies can make a huge difference in your results, especially when those assumptions limit you.
How can you take action on this?
- Take a moment to write down a list of assumptions or things you think are true about your business and your organization no matter how “obvious” you think they may be.
- Do the same with your team.
- Challenge the assumptions one by one:
- Is it really true?
- Could it be different?
- What if you dropped the idea altogether?
When you challenge assumptions, you can come up with better solutions to problems, identify efficiencies, and create new ideas.
Mei’s team had a big challenge ahead of them. Their government administration was mandating significant budget cuts, and the team advised Mei that they would have to cut back on services as a result.
In her next coaching session, Mei was consumed with this problem and didn’t see a way out of it. “We don’t have enough people as it is,” she told me. “I just don’t see any other way.” We talked about challenging her assumptions that the only way to reduce the budget was by reducing services.
She thought about it and was willing to challenge her team as well. We started with the department’s processes. Did each process connect to the current vision, strategy, and goals? Mei asked which managers felt like they were the most bogged down by bureaucracy and paperwork. “Let’s start there!” she said.
In reviewing their processes, we were able to find some that no longer applied. They were put in place as part of another strategy and no one ever questioned them. Mei and her team found the efficiencies they needed to cut the budget and even uncovered some opportunities to increase services too.
EXECUTIVE LEADER ACTION PLAN
What are your assumptions?
How will you challenge your assumptions?
How will you encourage others to challenge their assumptions?
“A desk is a dangerous place
from which to view the world.”
~ John Le Caré