Assumptions Can Lead to Failure

 In Change Management, Communication, Leaders

You share information and assume others will share it. You describe a new process that needs adopted and assume employees will adopt it. You think an idea is best for the business and assume others will think so too. When you assume, you are hoping for the best but should expect the worst. Assuming others will think and act like you do is a bad assumption. You should assume the opposite. They won’t share the information. They won’t adopt a new process just because you ask and they won’t agree that the idea is the best thing. Only when you assume the worst, can you take proper steps to impact communication and behavior change.

These are not bad people who ignore you or disagree. These are your friends, trusted colleagues, co-workers. In fact, it’s probably not even their fault. If you are trying to influence others, the onus is on you to provide the needed direction for that to happen. Maybe you didn’t hand them talking points and give them a deadline to share the information with their team. Maybe you didn’t provide support materials that describe how the process works and how it is different from the old process. Maybe you didn’t listen to what the other leaders think and offer your support to them.

To be successful implementing an idea or project, you must influence others. Nothing can be done alone.  “I assumed she would tell them,” my client said. I hear that a lot. I always reply with, “don’t assume” and “what can we do to make it as easy as possible for this person to support us.” Sometimes I get push back like, “those managers should know what to say,” or “those leaders should know what to do.” That’s not really the point. Maybe they should know what to say or what to do. The point is, in most cases, they aren’t saying what we want and they aren’t doing what we want.

Influencing others takes a thoughtful, proactive approach that requires effort. Your effort gets rewarded with results. When we assume, results usually aren’t achieved. When it comes to influencing others, providing the needed guidance and tools can make all the difference.

We have a tool called a “leadership involvement plan”. It’s a very simple idea. You have the leader’s name at the top. You have activities you’d like that leader to do – for example, 1) show up at a meeting and voice support (using talking points provided), 2) provide a resource by a certain date to help with process mapping, 3) talk to a peer leader that has concerns about the project. These are simple things that probably wouldn’t happen unless we explicitly asked and made it a plan. Leaders, if you can get in front of them, are usually receptive to this and even may add items to their lists. If you are trying to push positive change for the business, leaders should understand that their involvement is important.

So, next time you find yourself assuming someone will say something or do something to move your project along, don’t. Ask yourself, what can I do to help them support me?