Principle #1: Challenge Your Assumptions

We all make and carry with us a variety of assumptions about matters at work and the people with whom we work. We may question others’ motives, their willingness to listen to our ideas, or accept our offers. We may wonder if we can directly request things of others or be completely authentic in our interactions.

Challenging our assumptions opens new possibilities. 


One of my clients assumed a colleague didn’t trust her and was competing with her because the colleague consistently asked to be copied when my client emailed draft letters to the external affairs division.  I asked the client, “What are the other possibilities?  She at first struggled to come up with other possibilities.  After further exploration, she tentatively stated that maybe the colleague just wanted to be more informed so she could be of better service to her once external responses to letters started arriving.

I invited her to apply this new perspective in her future work with this colleague…and guess what?  She immediately felt less stress in the relationship.  She eventually talked with her colleague and realized her previous assumption was not true.  Their working relationship improved, as did their ability to better serve their clients.

Apply the Principle

I invite you to think of a work related matter or working relationship where you currently experience significant stress.  You can use something from your personal life as well.  Write it down and describe it well.  List the assumptions you have about the matter and/or the people involved.  Then write your answers to the following questions:

  1. What are the absolute known facts in this situation?
  2. Are my assumptions grounded in the facts?
  3. What are the other possibilities beyond my own assumptions?
  4. What action can I take to test other possibilities?

Take the action!

Once you’ve applied this principle, consider sharing your story and what you learned with others by posting a comment below.   Also, if you found this challenge helpful, share it with others!


Start a journal as part of your work on each Principle Challenge.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a paper notebook or in electronic format.  What matters is that you take the time to capture your reflections and write about the experiences you have as you apply each principle.

By Randall Thacker, Leadership Coach and Management Consultant

June 27, 2012 Posted by: Leave a comment - Permalink

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