Assume At Your Own Peril


Assume At Your Own Peril

July 13, 2014

Scott Schimmel Chief Guide, YouSchool

Scott Schimmel is the President and Chief Guide of YouSchool. He’s insanely focused on helping young people reach their potential.


Can you think of a time when you discovered that your assumptions didn’t match reality? A time when you found out that the real story was very different than the story you were telling (and actually believing)?

This has happened to many of us, many times.

I remember finding out that a couple young guys I was supervising weren’t doing their jobs. At all. For months.

I remember the time I found out through a performance review that someone under me didn’t feel supported or cared for by me.

I remember the meeting when I heard that one of my long-time coworkers was deeply unsatisfied with his job and was leaving for another position.

I remember reading an email from a potential client, turning down my proposal because he didn’t trust our company’s motivations.

People have the innate ability to see the world the way they want to see it. We wear personalized lenses that filter what we want to see (or are persuaded to see), and filter out what we don’t want to see. And most of the time, we don’t even know the filters are there.

I recently read an article describing the brain’s Reticular Activating System. It’s the part of the brain that regulates sleep, filtering stimuli and the information that goes to our conscious level of thinking. As a result, each person has their own unique filter for what they see, hear and feel, and it’s preset to a certain degree—but it can be modified and changed.

We see what we’re able to see and miss what we can’t see (or won’t).

A company’s culture is dynamic—it’s constantly in development and frustratingly autonomous. Unfortunately, most leaders think they’re setting culture by hosting birthday lunches and posting the company’s core values in the hallway. They don’t hear their employees complain about their bosses or listen to conversations between clients. They don’t spend enough time or energy engaged, listening, learning, and influencing their employees.

What if you need to see what you don’t want to see? How do you change or expand your personal filter? What if you need to know what your customers really think? What if you need to know if your employees are in agreement with the new goals? What if you want to know how people feel about you?

Consider adding a few UNCOMMON SENSE tools to your toolbox, and practices to your management rhythm:

  • Ask the question in meetings: “What else are we missing or not seeing?”
  • Listen to conversations from an emotional perspective
  • Read all of the comments to your posts
  • Survey your Yelp account and engage for more feedback
  • Google your company’s name
  • Determine new metrics that uncover the full story
  • Enlist colleagues with distinctly different personalities to help listen to hidden scripts
  • Ask folks around you if they have what they need to do their jobs well and enjoy their jobs
  • Ask people to share stories that illustrate employees understand your company’s values and priorities

A company culture requires ownership. Never assume it’s working perfectly. Constantly, curiously seek ways to learn and refine.

Scott Schimmel Chief Guide, YouSchool

Scott Schimmel is the President and Chief Guide of YouSchool. He’s insanely focused on helping young people reach their potential.


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“Get off your assets.” #UncommonSense