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In this weekly series, Todd Dewett, PhD, shares the tips respected and motivated managers use to improve rapport, navigate tricky situations, build better relationships, and drive the business forward. Each week, we'll release two tips ranging from avoiding the dreaded micromanagement to managing a multigenerational workforce, cultivating better listening skills, and developing an understanding of your organization's politics. Check back every Wednesday for more Management Tips.
Henry Winkler once said that assumptions are the termites of relationships. And I think he was absolutely right. Assumptions are cognitive shortcuts we use to draw quick conclusions, instead of actually thinking consciously and thoughtfully. They're also fast but they can be very dangerous. To be specific, consider these three very common but unproductive assumptions that all leaders should avoid. The first is that developing others isn't your job. Any leader worth their salt will observe opportunities to develop talent.
But will they do anything about it? At one end of the spectrum is the leader who feels beholden to no one other than himself. He works hard but expends no effort to help or develop others. He was hired to do his job, not yours. He feels that you're either great in developing yourself or you're not. At the other end of the spectrum are enlightened leaders who know that personal achievement is only part of what makes them a good person and what makes them promotable. Remember, in today's workplace, if you want to advance, one of the core skills demanded of you is the quality ability to build the talent around you.
Next, consider this common leadership assumption: because I work long hours, so should everyone else on the team. I've met more than one boss who sincerely believes that everyone should keep regular hours the same hours and long hours. If I'm here at 7 am, they should be here too. If I don't leave until 6 pm, no one else should leave either. In one way, I understand. You want others to follow your lead and work hard. However, the point that you need to understand is that people work in different ways at different times.
The goal isn't to make them work at a particular time or a certain number of hours. The goal is to lead them in a way that produces the awesome work products you need. Remember, the trick is to define great goals and expectations, instead of micromanaging their work process, which usually never helps. Finally, realize that what worked last year won't necessarily work this year. You see, we sometimes get so busy that we look at the current problem we're facing and overestimate how much it looks and feels like a problem we've dealt with before.
We overestimate the familiarity of the situation, and we assume we understand it. The problem is that we fail to see how novel and unique the current situation really is. Thus, we apply a solution that isn't a great fit. Overcome this tendency by making it a team norm for people to speak up and to talk about the unique needs of the current situation before applying a hasty and dated solution. That way, you slow down just a little and find an answer that really fits. There are many more assumptions like these, but these three will get you thinking.
Remember, it's your job to develop others. Remember to focus on your employees' work, not so much their hours. And remember that every new problem is unique and deserves to be viewed as such. When you do these things, you'll be avoiding a few common unproductive assumptions so you can make appropriate quality decisions.
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