Adopt a Mindset of Generous Assumptions To Lead Well
It's a good day to have a good day.
As you may be aware, Leadership is my passion and communication is my jam! Specifically tough conversations or as I call them Courageous Conversations.
At Made for More, I believe in the power of Courageous Conversations to transform workplace dynamics and drive growth. Today, I want to shine a spotlight on one of the underpinning pillars of the five-step Courageous Conversations framework: Generous Assumptions.
I mentioned the concept of generous assumptions in a recent article on Dealing with Difficult Personalities that certainly hit a nerve for many of you, so let’s dive into this extremely helpful reframing approach.
When I share and teach this framework, whether it’s to new leaders or seasoned leaders, the message is always the same because, at the end of the day, most people:
want to come to work to get along
want to make an effort and do their best
want to have a good time.
When actions and behaviours don’t match that (and honestly there are a few that slip through the gaps), then as a leader you're missing something.
It could be that expectations weren’t articulated clearly enough. It could be that there wasn’t a transfer of accountability. Perhaps you’re asking them to do something they simply don’t have the capability to do … yet. Or, my favourite, is understanding the definition of ‘done’ (I’ll share the 3-hour workshop on defining the topic of 'done' from my corporate years another time).
Generous assumptions mean giving people the benefit of the doubt. We understand that 'most' individuals genuinely strive to do the right thing, foster positive relationships, and excel in their roles.
By embracing generous assumptions, leaders choose to believe that difficult team members have good intentions, valuable contributions to offer, and may be grappling with personal challenges.
This is how we set the stage for highly productive conversations.
When you assume that someone is putting in their best effort, acting in good faith, and seeking harmony in the workplace, you create a safe space where you can focus on addressing specific behaviours instead of engaging in a blame game. Rather than jumping to negative conclusions, you can approach the situation with curiosity and look for root causes.
Is there a capability gap that requires training?
Could there be a lack of clarity or misinterpretation of expectations?
Is something external to work having an impact?
It's essential to pause and reflect the next time you find yourself frustrated, thinking that someone 'should know better'.
Take a moment to check if you're giving them a generous assumption. This shift in mindset can uncover valuable insights and lead to a more constructive dialogue. You can use what you’ve learned to offer support, development, constructive feedback, clarity and motivation.
To illustrate the power of generous assumptions, let me share a recent experience. I was speaking with a leader who was facing challenges with one of their staff members. They had reached a breaking point. It didn’t matter what this person asked their team member to do, it was ‘like banging their head against the wall’.
As we were working through the scenario, and how best to lead this person, I asked this leader if they’d checked in on this team member’s understanding of the task. Did this person have the tools and the knowledge to do what was expected of them? Had they spent time explaining/training the process? Did the leader themselves know what they were looking for? It turns out that no, they hadn’t. And their response of ‘well, they should just know’ isn’t going to change anything.
Here’s the thing, most people don’t just know. They need support, understanding and a big fat dose of generous assumptions so that they feel safe to put up their hand and say ‘I don’t know’.
By embracing generous assumptions, we create an environment that encourages understanding, growth, and collaboration. Let's strive to give our people the benefit of the doubt and explore what’s behind their behaviour.
Together, we can foster a culture of open communication, continuous improvement and a healthy dose of courage.
If you are a leader struggling to get the best out of your team, Made For More is here to help with tailored programs and frameworks that will build leadership capabilities, confidence and results. Please get in touch or schedule a chat to find out how we can work together.
Until next time Eat the Frog, Get the Worm, Be the Bird, and start leading with generous assumptions.
Ally Nitschke is a Leadership Expert, Courageous Conversation Specialist and Speaker. She has been working with leaders and as a Leader for over 15 years. She is on a mission to change the way we communicate at work, to lean into those uncomfortable conversations and lead with courage. Ally delivers Courageous Conversations Programs, Courageous Leadership programs, Coaching, Mentoring and Keynotes. To inquire about her working with you or your organisation please contact us here.