7 Ways to Lead Like An Ass(umer)

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Assumptions. We all make them, all the time. Or at least I assume you do because I do.

“When you assume you make an ass out of you and me.” You’ve heard that expression a thousand times.

The ever-practical Ellen DeGeneres explains the expression: “You should never assume. You know what happens when you assume. You make an ass out of you and me because that’s how it’s spelled.” Got it, Ellen, funny.

How often do you lead like an ass(umer)?

Assumptions can be dangerous.

If you don’t realize how dangerous assumptions can be, look no further than Lemony Snicket’s guidance:

Assumptions are dangerous things to make, and like all dangerous things to make — bombs, for instance, or strawberry shortcake — if you make even the tiniest mistake you can find yourself in terrible trouble.” -Lemony Snicket, The Austere Academy

Think about the last assumption you made. Was it the strawberry shortcake variety of assumption where you landed in a sticky little, lopsided mess? Or, did you make a whopper assumption, the bomb kind where something really threatening happened?

Leaders may assume employees know exactly what they want. Family members may believe that others in the family innately know what behavior is expected. Romantic partners may believe that with love, they ‘know each other’s minds.’ All of this assuming, this mind-reading, is dangerous.

Here are 7 common ways leaders settle into assumption-mode:

You want to treat everyone the same, that’s fair. “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” Abraham Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being

You need to work harder than everyone else. “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” Isaac Asimov

You need to show you know more than anyone in the room. “Intelligence people are no different from anybody else. They have preconceptions, and when they see them in real life, it reinforces how brilliant they think they are.” Tom Clancy, Debt of Honor

You hire people just like you. “When you’re surrounded by people who share the same set of assumptions as you, you start to think that’s reality.” Emily Levine

You’re sure everyone sees things as you do, you’re the leader after all. “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.” Anais Nin

You don’t want to rock the boat. “How can you test whether something’s an assumption? Try this: switch things around, and check how bananas everybody goes.” Annabel Crabb, The Wife Drought

You believe that since it’s always worked, it will always work. “Assume a virtue, if you have it not. That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat; Of habits devil, is angel yet in this.” William Shakespeare

Stop Being An Ass(umer)

Miguel Angel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements offers us sparkling, concise guidance on assumptions.

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Leaders, you can stop leading like an ass(umer) by building this simple question into your daily routine, “Are there any assumptions I’m making?”

Ask yourself. Ask others you trust. Ask others you rely on for dissent. Use it during your self-reflection time. Reducing assumptions will transform your leadership and as Don Ruiz says, your life.

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