We all know the dangers that come from making assumptions. Most of us probably think we guard ourselves effectively from that kind of thinking. Unfortunately, there is sometimes a significant difference between what we think we know as leaders and what we actually know. Let’s look at a couple of examples.
The Big Picture: As a leader, you’re responsible for the big picture within your company. It’s part of your job description (or should be) to make sure you keep guiding your corporate ship in the right direction. But do your employees really get the big picture?
Maybe you review your corporate vision statement regularly with your staff. You might even have your vision and mission statement printed out and posted in various places around the office. And you may assume that because you spent hours laboring over it your employees get it. Bad assumption.
Unless your employees can give it back to you in their own words (not your finely crafter masterpiece of a vision statement)—and can tell you how it affects what they do on a daily basis—they probably don’t really have a good grasp of the big picture. You can’t assume everyone “gets it”.
The Front Lines: Another area in which leadership often makes erroneous assumptions is with regard to what their employees are going through. Everything looks good and clean on an organizational flow chart, but we all know that business doesn’t work that way. Your employees may be facing challenges that you know nothing about. There may be market forces at work that aren’t represented in your thinking and planning. Or there could simply be personnel issues that are keeping them from performing the way you want (and expect) them to.
Even if you “came up through the ranks” yourself and once did what they’re doing now, that doesn’t mean you get what they’re going through now. The business world is constantly changing. Yes, there are new opportunities and new technologies out there, but there are also new challenges. The only way you’ll understand what those are—and how they might impact your business—is to hear it from those on the front lines: in their words, from their perspective.
Don’t automatically assume your employees get the big picture. And don’t automatically assume you understand the challenges they face. Take the time to make sure you really know!