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Assumptions and Their Impact on Your Team's Success

There’s an old saying about when we assume things… anyone remember it?

It is prevalent for us to make assumptions about our employees and their work. These assumptions save time and benefit people from the doubt. While this sounds like a good reason for this behavior, the result is usually much less productive. It is essential to clearly understand the capabilities of your team so that you can task them appropriately.

Managing assumptions is a crucial leadership behavior that often gets overlooked. In general, we make assumptions in our lives all day long. The merits of this behavior can be debated separately, but when it comes to its impact on how we lead our teams, the adverse effects are not difficult to observe.

Consider a team leader who does not communicate the instructions clearly to a project to the team. The leader assumes that because the team has worked together on other projects, they know all the details that should be addressed. The leader assumes that the team will provide the same type of deliverable, despite this project’s submission to a different department than in the past.

Assumptions are made up and down the chain of command here. While the result may be acceptable, many elements are more likely to set them back. Will the format be the same, or will the product need to be tweaked and adjusted for a different audience? What is the timeline for the project, the same as always? Does the team have all the information needed to complete the project? If a team member is unsure of any aspect of the task, will they ask questions to clarify?

A somewhat dramatic example, but you can quickly see how the assumptions compound and create potential failure points for the leader and the team. How much time is gained by not providing all of the specific details of the project to the team? What positive impacts on the team morale and confidence does this behavior provide if the project works out without error or delay and what adverse effects on the team morale and confidence should they face correcting errors, project challenges, and avoidable rework?

Clear, concise, and complete communication strategies are a best practice when working with others, regardless of how much or little we know about their abilities. Confirming that no misunderstandings or assumptions are made about the work or assignments with others demonstrates respect for them. Our communication style comes into effect here and deserves consideration for how it impacts the message shared; however, when we show respect for others’ time and efforts and offer growth opportunities, we build stronger teams.

Keep an eye out over the next few weeks as my new book launches. In the book, we will dive deeper into this and other leadership behaviors that will help you cultivate your highest-performing teams. To ensure you don’t miss any updates, click the bell for notifications in my profile header section!

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