Your Assumptions Determine Your Path. Choose Wisely.

Leadership (and life) is a series of stimuli and responses. Something occurs, then we RE-act… based on the meaning we place on what just happened. Ideally, we make mindful decisions that lead us towards success, but we also rely on our “muscle-memory,” at times inadvertently setting us on a course that may keep us  (and our organizations) “stuck” professionally.

Regardless of which path we take, there is a split second moment during which we make an assumption about the “thing” that just happened. We place a judgment or value on the initial fact.

It’s in this split second where we can set ourselves up for disappointment, failure, or feelings of frustration, OR create a breakthrough that leads to further success and momentum.


Let’s look at some practical examples of initial facts:

  • An employee shows up late
  • A Search committee re-posts a job you are a finalist for
  • Individual donations are not increasing in your organization
  • You’re not able to attract millennials to work in your non-profit
  • You are told you need additional education or experience to take a next step

Using the examples above, your reasonable assumptions might look like best practices, industry standards, and appear as obvious. For example:

  • The employee is irresponsible and doesn’t respect me
  • The Search Committee must not think I’m not a strong candidate
  • Unlike larger non-profits, the communities my organization serves don’t have the means to make significant donations
  • Millennials aren’t the right fit for my organization due to work-life balance and salary expectations
  • I shouldn’t apply for a big promotion until I stay in my current job longer

And then, you would take reasonable actions based upon those assumptions. Using the above, examples might include initiating a disciplinary process, not engaging in your interview process, and reducing your programming or overhead budget, etc.


What if the assumptions you’ve made about those initial facts were completely incorrect?

Stop and think about this.

What might the impact be – to you, to the other person, or to your organization if your assumption was false? Or there was more to the story? Or you couldn’t ACTUALLY know what someone was thinking?  What if the complete opposite of your assumption was true? How would the chain RE-actions change, knowing what you know now?

This past week there have been multiple opportunities to help my clients test the assumptions they were making about a “fact.” Our processes revealed some interesting insights, and created transformational shifts in mindset, approach, strategies, and a deeper understanding of patterns that, as leaders, we may repeat over and over – even when they can look a lot like best practices, being practical, and issues having nothing to do with us!

The importance of noticing, observing and testing the assumptions you place on the “facts” cannot be overstated.


Over the next seven days, I invite you to look for ways you can challenge your own assumptions, both at the macro level – perhaps in planning meetings or when attending conferences – and at your split-second day-to-day encounters and decision-making.

Here’s how it works:

  1. WHAT IF…?  Any time you hear yourself making an Assumption Statement ask yourself “What if… the complete opposite is true?  Or “What if… I am wrong about xx?” “What if…what I think is not possible, IS?”
  2. BE SHERLOCK.  What evidence can you find to support this re-frame?   (This is not just “positive thinking”)
  3. PAUSE. Think of the resulting RE-actions that you would take now that you know this new information to be true.  How would you feel and act differently? What would the impact be and to whom?
  4. CHOOSE WELL. Now, mindfully and with intentionality, chose how you RE-act to the facts, (only) choose the path that will create the possibility for you to have the impact you (and your organization) are meant to have.

Challenging ourselves as leaders in this way can create deeper insights, learning, and clarity in our areas of focus and purpose.  It can create increased confidence, be an exhilarating practice, and an important tool for transformation.  It can also be a temporarily unsettling process, with feelings of vulnerability, humility, and un-groundedness, as new thoughts and perspectives are noticed and assessed.  The guidance of a coach or “third eye” helps create a structured process and objective lens to re-view any limiting assumptions.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Leadership Intensive, and how this process can support YOUR leadership goals, let’s get on the phone!

To your success,


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