Assumptions Good And Bad

February 17, 2011 | Comments Off

I always hear about the horrors of assuming things. Everyone has heard the phrase about assuming makes an ass out of you and me. In general, I can’t disagree with that statement because we should always be as sure as possible about things in our lives.

Yet, we all assume every single day. We assume when we wake up that we’re going to get out of bed. We assume when we take our shower that we’re not going to ingest water into our lungs. We assume while we’re driving to work, or wherever, that the drivers in front of us aren’t going to stop suddenly and that the drivers coming up behind us are paying attention to our presence. We assume that we’re the best worker in the office, and everyone else is a distant second. We assume that the food we eat is sustaining us at least as far as our next meal, and that good taste means it’s bad for us, bad taste means it’s good for us. We assume that our water is at least safe enough for us to drink. We assume that we can trust our friends to be there for us whenever we need them, and that not all of our co-workers are out to get us. We assume that our mothers and children love us, whether they tell us or not, that our spouses are true to us, and that waitresses who’ve seen us time and time again for over five years, and know we always order the same exact thing each and every time, are going to remember that the next time we go there and treat us with courtesy and respect. Okay, that last one was a rant; sorry about that.

There’s a good reason to allow for some assumptions. If we didn’t assume some things, we’d be worried about everything all the time. For instance, I assume that there will be a tomorrow when I go to bed, whether it comes if I wake up or not. I assume that I’ll remember how to breathe because it’s something I do subconsciously. I assume that I’ll always remember how to eat and swallow. I assume that when I’m walking down the street and am paying some kind of attention that the money in my wallet is safe. I assume while I’m driving my car that the people who built it have taken precautions that it’s not going to explode on me unless it’s hit just right. I assume, because I live in the northeast, away from the coast, that I don’t have many worries from hurricanes or wildfires, though we have our share of snow. I assume, because I’m reasonably self reliant and have some bit of intellect, that I’ll always be able to figure out the next step along the way so that I can survive and take care of my family in some fashion. And I assume that each and every person who subscribes to this newsletter reads it, studies it, and lives it, even if I don’t hear from most of you all that often.

When it comes to other people, though, the only assumption I make is that they are physically around, and that I need to always be diligent in paying attention. I tend to believe in the ultimate goodness of people; I don’t trust them enough to not keep alert, though. And this is the difference between being a good and effective leader and one who might have problems down the road.

As a leader, if you just assume that the people who work with you and for you are going to give you their all without follow up, goals, proper training, or paying attention to their needs, you’re going to fail. History shows us that very few people, unless they work for themselves, are going to just give you everything they’ve got without incentives or assistance of some sort. Employees are not looking for friends or enemies at work; they’re looking for satisfaction. Satisfaction means something different to each one of them, just as it does to you and your friends. As a leader and employer, you can offer certain things to everyone, and then you might have to specialize for each individual later on.

Don’t assume that people will work well if you pay them enough money; that wears out quick. Don’t assume people will easily roll with the changes if you have never allowed them to think outside of the box. Don’t assume that employees will all try to learn more on their own just because they’re supposed to know the job they do. Don’t assume that, because you’re nice to them, that they’ll always be nice to you. Don’t assume that, because they may be scared of you, that they might not be out to get you.

Let’s go back to those good reasons for assumptions now. Pretty much like anything else, if you use some assumptions you might have towards positive thinking actions and thoughts, then you can benefit from those assumptions in ways you might not have conceived before. Here are three big assumptions you can be allowed to make:

1. Assume that things are going to change. This is the most important assumption every person should have, whether it’s in their professional or personal lives. Every day there’s a new experience, a new product, a new challenge, a new problem, whether it’s occurred yet or not. Not only should you be ready for changes, but you should be thinking about ways to change, or at least stay ahead of the curve, even if everything seems to be going along fine. Think about products you purchase weekly. At some point, every single one of them throws on a sticker that says “new and improved”. Sometimes we believe it, sometimes we don’t, but the point is that those companies that make the products know that they can’t just rest on their laurels and expect to crank out the same exact and singular thing in perpetuity. The same with your personal and work environments. You can’t believe that, without changes, your marriage will be the same at least 20 as it was on day one; just doesn’t happen. You also can’t believe that you can train someone to do a job once and that they’ll actually be doing that same job the same exact way 4 or 5 years from now.

2. Assume that every person you work with or who works for you has the capability to learn, wants to learn, and wants to be productive. That’s important because you never want anyone you work with to stagnate and not be ready for the change that’s going to come. You also don’t want to work with people who don’t ultimately have your businesses interests in mind. Always work on providing the tools they need to consistently learn new things about their jobs. Always be ready to ask them if they understand what it is they’re doing, because many aren’t going to own up to it unless you do. Always make sure they understand their roles in the organization, as well as the productivity standards expected of them by the organization. And always make sure that the standards you set up are fair to everyone, so that everyone has an equal chance to be whatever it is they can be.

3. Assume that the other person’s dreams, aspirations, and goals are not the same as yours. Some employees have a vision of being more than just a regular employee; some of them may want your job or career. Some employees just want to come to work, get their money, and go home. Some employees come to work for the camaraderie, to escape the boredom that can come from being home all the time. Some employees really do want to give you their all because they crave the recognition and attention. But some employees are poison, could care less about you or the job or anyone else. They love misery because they’re miserable, and they don’t want to see anyone else being more, or having more, than themselves. This is where, after you’ve set up fair standards, you then need to dissect the different types of people you have, based on whatever criteria you determine you want to use.

I’m going to assume that I’ve made some points here that will be agreed and disagreed with. I’m going to assume I’m okay with that also.


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