I was recently fortunate to spend some time brushing up on my leadership skills with one of the top leadership and coaching businesses in the world. Not a bad way to spend some time, I think you’ll agree.

And there are plenty of ways that traditional, top-down leadership can modernize for leaders to get the best out of their teams and selves. 

The course I was on is not your typical course – four individual weeks take place over the space of a year. Last week was the second of the four retreats, where along with 21 other people who are working towards a leadership certification, we spend a week at a retreat center in Sonoma and got put through our leadership paces.

Learning is Growing

I won’t lie to you – I went into this whole experience thinking “what the heck am I getting into.” Some leadership manuals and seminars can be a load of garbage, with advice that isn’t relevant or applicable. I’m sure you’ve come across a few yourselves.

However, I’m now halfway through my program, so I’ve been to 2 retreats and spent a total of 10 days enhancing my leadership skills. Already, I’m looking at myself in an entirely different way, challenging my preconceptions, finding new perspectives and thinking whoa, my life will never be the same again.

What an incredible experience!

assumptions

Practical Assumption Guidance

A small part of our leadership experience was about teaching us how, by nature as humans, we regularly make assumptions about others. Think about when you meet someone for the first time, all you have to go on is an assumption, before you learn more about a person and start to confirm or disprove your initial thoughts.

So what goes into an assumption is fascinating – the split-second judgments we make are lightning quick and often wholly unfounded.

We learn that assumptions can be dangerous to live by and within – they’re based on untruths, rather than anything tangible. In the process of making assumptions, we are also receiving assumptions around us all the time from others. This is uncontrolled and learning to realize where they are coming from can be a compelling step towards living a better life as a leader and as a human.

Making decisions based on guess-work and instant judgments regarding people and their intentions isn’t a sound framework for making leadership decisions. Learning how to make considered long-term conclusions based on objectivity is recommended.

How to Avoid Assumptions

During the course, we were taught some great insight and discovered how to challenge the assumptions we often make:

• Approach others with what we “make-up about them” and accept that it’s an assumption that can fall very quickly.

• Create the space for conversations to happen and to understand that assumptions are not often about other people, and they reflect something about ourselves instead.

• Learn to let go when others make assumptions of us. Like your assumptions, the assumptions you receive are not really about you, and it’s about the other person making them.

• Learning that when you hear the same assumptions over and over (more than three times), it may be more than conjecture and something you need to work on. Lots of assumptions become reinforced by each other and can be seen as patterns of behavior instead.

• Developing the skill set to finally let go of the people who are constant assumption-makers and instantly judgmental, often to someone’s detriment.

Final Thoughts

We should be challenging our value systems and assumptions all of the time. By testing them, we make our perceptions stronger and learn that we need to gather evidence and share ideas with people to determine who they are.

Challenging the assumptions you often make of others and learning how to work through assumptions others may have about you will make you a better leader and friend.

Relying on assumptions doesn’t make a good leader (or friend) and acknowledging this is the first step towards enhancing your skills.

There are lots more insights and practical advice I could share from my time on The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) course, but I thought this was particularly useful and something you can start working on today within your own community or at work.