Assumptions — They Can Make or Break Team Respect

We cause problems when we judge or give feedback on other people’s decisions or actions based on assumptions. As a leader, your judgments and feedback carry heavy weight for team members. Sometimes, they will carry this weight on their shoulders for weeks, unable to shake it off and leave it at work, taking it home with them as well.

We have a great responsibility as leaders to empower our team members and colleagues with real responsibility and real decisions. This responsibility also includes when they take action or make decisions that do not make sense to us or align with the plan, to find out their thought process or reasoning before jumping to conclusions.

Here are 4 tips to help you actively ask questions to deepen your understanding and not make assumptions before jumping to conclusions:

  1. While you might disagree with a decision or an effort, approach your interaction with the other person with the mindset that he or she wants to do the right thing. A strong majority of people are always trying to do the right thing.
  2. Do not start your questions with, “Why?” This puts the other person on the defensive.  Instead, you can start with, “What were your ideas or thoughts for…?” Or, you can use the phrase, “Explain some of your thoughts behind your decision….”  This allows the person to explain.
  3. Use a tone of voice that shows the person you genuinely want to understand.
  4. When possible, have these conversations in person or over the phone.  Email leaves way too much to interpretation.

Everyone has a need to feel valued and appreciated. Most people want to do the right thing and achieve the same goals you do. When we lose sight of these two things and make assumptions, we wound our relationships with others. When we follow the four steps above, we give others the freedom to make decisions, share ideas and genuinely contribute to the team.