A Catchy Saying
We have heard the catchy saying, “Never assume, because when you ASSUME, you make an ASS of U and ME.” But there’s a lot of evidence that people don’t follow this maxim! In our fast-moving world, it can be difficult to slow down and make sure we have our facts straight. In order to keep pace, we tell ourselves, it’s OK to cut a few corners in fact-checking because in our convenience-food, streaming-video, instant-gratification world, we crave getting to answers fast, and we pride ourselves on being right about the conclusions we reach with our quick observations. Right?
Your Orientation to the Future
This is important, because as a business leader, you are creating the future of your business based largely upon your assessments of the people and things in and around your business. Your personal judgements and opinions will orient you toward or away from future actions or results.
Read on to see how assessments create your future and how you can avoid making assumptions that will put you at risk.
Assertions and Assessments
Here are a few distinctions that describe what’s going on when we observe things and make judgements. First, it’s important to understand that there’s a difference between an “assertion” and an “assessment”. The dictionary gives the following definitions:
Assertion – a confident and forceful statement of fact or belief.
Assessment – the evaluation or estimation of the nature, quality, or ability of someone or something.
Here are some examples:
Assertion – Robin is 5’10” and ran 2 miles this morning.
Assessment – Robin is a rock star!
Assertion – About Present and Past
Notice that the Assertion is a statement of verifiable, quantifiable information. I can get out a tape measure and validate that Robin is a certain height and check out her Strava feed to see the route she took for her workout today. Also notice that an assertion tends to be oriented to the present and the past. Robin is 5’10” right now, and she ran 2 miles just this morning. Assertions are facts of life. They “belong” to the person or thing being observed.
Assessment – About the Future
Now notice that the Assessment is an evaluation about the quality or abilities of Robin. If Robin meets the standard of “Rock Star”, I must have some notion of what it takes to measure up to rock star status. Also notice that assessments have a strong orientation toward the future, that is they orient us toward or away from future actions or results. If I’ve heard or made the assessment that Robin is a “rock star”, I’ll want her on my next project much more than if I’ve heard or made the assessment that Robin is “flaky”. Also notice that an assessment belongs to the observer. In fact, an assessment may say more about the observer than the person or thing being observed. Assessments are linked with the mood or emotions of the observer.
Grounded vs. Ungrounded
Here’s the point. Assumptions and Assessments are close cousins. The difference is that some assessments are grounded and some are ungrounded.
Grounded Assessments – made with awareness of standards and assertions, meaning specific criteria coupled with observable behavior
Ungrounded Assessments – Made with no standard and no observable behavior. Lots of assumptions fit in this category.
Making a bunch of ungrounded assessments could indeed put you at risk for making an ASS out of U and Me. Borrowing an assessment from someone else can also be risky; We sometimes refer to this as gossip.
5 Ways To Avoid Risky Assumptions
Here are five things you can do to make more grounded assessments, enabling you to speak about and create the best future for your business:
- Ask Why. Clarify why you are making an assessment in the first place. If you can’t say why you’re making it, there’s a good chance it’s a “recreational” assessment and cannot be grounded.
- Standards. Be clear about the standards you’re using to assess. If you say someone is “reliable”, then what are the standards you are using to judge this? What are your standards for “Rock Star”, “excellence”, “laziness”, “flaky”. This step asks us to be conscious of whether we have set standards to reach the conclusions we are coming to in our assessment.
- Facts, Actions, Behaviors. What are the observable things you can point to (assertions) that support your assessment? Do you have firsthand information or are you borrowing the assessment someone else has made?
- Seek the opposite. If your assessment seems to be pointing a certain direction, can you find any evidence that would point you the opposite direction? This helps you overcome confirmation bias … the idea that it’s easy to see what we’re looking for and ignore everything else.
- Share and Ask. Tell someone how you went from observation to assessment and see what their feedback is. This is open, sincere inquiry, not a campaign to get someone to see it your way.
EOS Gets You There Naturally
In my coaching of companies that are serious about their growth and performance, I teach tools and disciplines that help leaders live these five assessment tips in the normal cadence of their business operation.
- We clearly articulate Core Values, the standard for how a company does what it does.
- A tool called the “People Analyzer” helps answer why we make assessments about our people. We want to know how well they are living the Core Values of the company and the impact this has on their culture fit.
- I teach leaders a concept we refer to as LMA… Essentially that Leadership plus Management equals Accountability. When a leader does good LMA, they Lead with standards, vision and expectations and they Manage by inspecting what they expect. In frequent one-to-one and quarterly conversations, leaders review facts, actions and behaviors – both to give accolades and to hold people Accountable as they coach for growth.
- In weekly Leadership team meetings, an item on the agenda is “Employee Headlines”. This is a good place to share your assessment and ask for feedback about whether your assessment seems to be on track.
It’s great to see that implementing the Entrepreneurial Operating System naturally helps leaders to make better grounded assessments and avoid the assumptions that might make an ASS out of U and Me!
Reply with examples of the ways assumptions have impacted your business. Can you think of examples of the ways assessments have impacted your orientation toward the future?
Contact me for more information about the tools and disciplines I mention above that will help all leaders in your business to make better assessments that will powerfully orient and lead your team and customers into the future you envision for your business!
Source information: Check out the book “Language and the Pursuit of Happiness” by Chalmers Brothers for more detail on Assertions and Assessments.
Coach, Facilitator, Speaker
Professional EOS Implementer