When I was recently talking to a senior manager who was sorting out my Keynote speech for their virtual conference, I found myself listening to a lot of information and ideas about how their wider team was feeling, behaving and performing and it guided me down a rabbit hole of thinking about what happened to that company.
Deep in the hole, while in reflective mode for the last year and especially during the period of the pandemic, I noticed a characteristic that manifested itself more than I can remember coaching people, observing meetings , listened to broadcasts or read articles like this one – we tend to draw an awful lot from our assumptions!
Because assumptions don't need all the data to trigger from a response in us, it short-circuits what knowledge we have and bingo! You are right or wrong. Would you gamble with a life-changing event? Would you risk the future of your business and the safety of your employee families by gambling? Those are assumptions – they are unconscious bets on our brain data, but many of us rely on this far too often and can lose effectiveness in the process.
For those of you reading this, who are now saying, "I don't have to drop my assumptions, in fact assumptions are an essential part of strategic thinking," although you may be right, it is also another assumption.
] Let's see what they are and why we have them. Assumptions are all learned and come from past experiences and data we store in our brains. They can be influenced by our upbringing, beliefs and prejudices, so it's super important to have an open mindset and pay attention to them and not act without attention. If something is left off the field or happens unexpectedly, maybe if we are scared and don't know what to do next, we do appealing to our assumptions to help us close the gap in our understanding, it is also how our brains protect us and help us to rely on proven thinking practices and behaviors that the past may have come in handy.
plural noun: assumptions
1. something that is accepted as true or that it will certainly happen, without proof.
"they made certain assumptions about the market"
The problem here is that assumptions are often just wrong and they lead us to take action and create emotions based on incorrect information . In times of crisis, different assumptions can create a force that drives people away from each other instead of bringing them closer together. So as leaders, how do assumptions hold us and our teams back?
We can all chuckle bitterly when we mention the adage here, “when we assume that we are“ BUTTING YOU and ME ”, but the first is to recognize that there is an impact on the mindset, thinking and behavior. Results.
Assumptions often stop us from listening to other beliefs and opinions and can keep us from taking the right action because it supports our closed mindset, worse still, researchers have can lead to low energy consumption, bad mood and developing feelings or doubt and insecurity. More often than not, assumptions feed our mindset; it's the voice in our head that says things like: I can't do that because either everyone wants one of these or if this happens then it will, or I will gain a lot if it works this way ”etc.  Where assumptions can be useful in scenario making or to unlock creative ideas and thinking – this can certainly be a force for good, but those assumptions have yet to be evaluated.
Here's how to handles assumptions and makes them a good force in your life and work:
1) Watch when you "assume" You may have generalizations in your vocabulary like everyone else, always and every time. Generalizations are almost always incorrect. Look at it the next time someone says, "Anytime," ask how often?
2) Write them down. When you transcribe your assumptions, the solution often lies in the answer and if not, it will help put some great questions in hold row.
3) Research and question what you have written down. Here's the chance to search for the truth … the facts … is it true or false? Where is the evidence to back that up?
4) Turn it around. If you turn your thinking around you have a chance to change your perspective and this also helps validate if it's a real assumption or fake, and here's the thing – if it's fake – you can dump it! No more worries, thoughts or energy wasted on anything and this allows you to focus on what is true.
LEADERSHIP HACK – When researching and asking questions, don't ask questions that begin with WHY? The reason is that this is emotional and while it looks for reason it actually finds more assumptions because 'why' gets into the older emotional part of our brain. This is also where our unconscious thinking lurks. Instead, replace it with, "What's the reason?" This ends up in the Pre-frontal Cortex, often referred to as the executive brain, and will seek out logic, facts and information to help you validate your assumptions.
So as leaders, I ask you to pay close attention to the assumptions of your inner voice and your team; be free from suspicions, guesses, foreboding, theory and assumption about important decisions and be comfortable embracing uncertainty with more certainty.
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