People tend to be much better at telling, directing and instructing others particularly if we are a leader in an organisation.  People can have a fear of questioning people, facts and information.  This is why quite often we tend to make assumptions around where things or people are at.

On a recent infrastructure project that I was working on, I made assumptions around people’s level of knowledge, commitment to programs and their appetite for change to drive the project.  The assumptions proved to be misguided or just plain wrong, which have meant many lessons learnt along the way and correction actions required to ensure that we continue on the path towards high performance on the project.

Some of the common areas where leaders can make assumptions that can be proven to be incorrect include:

  •  Big Picture and role clarity – Leaders have spoken to their team about key initiatives, developments and big picture information important to their roles;
  • Scoping – Business cases and needs analysis scoping’s have been done and evaluated before spending significant sums of money
  • Communication – Difficult conversations have been had, people do what they say that they are going to do, and people will speak up if they need help;
  • Capability – The actual capability of people in terms of current and potential skills and experience;
  • Systems – The systems that are currently used are going to work effectively for the task at hand;


By not asking the right questions of people, we are also making assumptions as we don’t get a true understanding of where a person or situation is at.   This can mean that decisions, judgements and conclusions are made from the wrong base line or by not understanding how deep the issue is.

As the late Stephen Covey said “seek first to understand before being understood”.  Do this through listening well and asking great questions.