Discover who is taking your time and how to get it back


Time Machine

Who stole your time? Educator What was the issue? Runny Poo
What is the real cause of the time theft? The educators are afraid to call the parents and tell them they need to collect their sick child, so they involve me to:
  • Look at the poo
  • Make the decision - call the parents
  • Cop the abuse from the parents
What would it look like if it was different? The educator comes into my office and says: “Jackson is unwell. He has runny poo. I’ve double checked with Staying Healthy, found the parents’ contacts, and have backup numbers ready too. I’m about to make the phone call. Are you okay with that? I can see you are busy?”
How can you implement this? Double check the policies. Check the procedure for unwell children. Train all educators on how to use procedure. Train educators in dealing with abusive parents. Implement.


Who is stealing your time?


Your Time Is Your Life

Everyone gets 24 hours in a day, yet some people accomplish a great deal more in that day than others. Although most people rarely think of it this way, “time” is simply another word for “life.”It’s easy to see why good time management is critical. After all, you wouldn’t let your employees, families and friends shorten the days of your life, so why are you letting them steal your time? Time is your single most precious resource, and it’s one that only you can protect. The good news, however, is that learning to manage your time is like any other skill. All it takes is a little practice and a willingness to develop some new habits.

Who is stealing your time?

List below the top ten time consuming activities of your day.

  1. _________________________________________
  2. _________________________________________
  3. _________________________________________
  4. _________________________________________
  5. _________________________________________
  6. _________________________________________
  7. _________________________________________
  8. _________________________________________
  9. _________________________________________
  10. _________________________________________

Tracking the Flow of Your Day

The first step is to understand how you currently spend your time. Using the Daily Time Log templatein this booklet, you’re going to track the flow of your time by logging everything you do throughout every day for two weeks. Don’t be surprised if you find this tool so valuable you’ll want to continue using it as part of your ongoing time management system.

Activity Categories

Before you begin using the Daily Time Log, you’ll need to set up some categories to classify your activities (at least 6 categories but not more than 12). You’ll use these activity categories to filter the details from your Daily Time Logs which will help you see where you spend your time and lead you to new ideas for better time management. What categories should you choose? Choose the ones thatwork for you. For example, if you want to know what type of work you’re spending time doing you might select categories like “With Parents,” “Administration,” “Management,” “Fee Collection,” “Rosters,” “Operations” etc. Or you might wish to understand the interruptions that fill your day, so you might choose categories like “Telephone Calls,” “Meetings,” “Computer Problems,” “Educator Problems,” “Parent Problems”, “Email”etc.

Your activity categories should be:

  • Meaningful toyou(andothersifappropriate)andrelevanttowhatyou’retryingtoquantify
  • Self-defining-Use words that clearly define thecategory
  • Mutuallyexclusive with littleornooverlapamongdifferentcategories
  • Concise-Just a word or two.

The Daily Time Log

The Daily Time Log has five columns:

  1. Time-Exact time you begin anactivity.
  2. Duration-Amount of time you spend on theactivity.
  3. ActivityDescription-Afewwordsdescribingtheactivity.
  4. Category-Classification for the activity, according to categories you determinedearlier.
  5. Work Type-Strategic Work versus Tactical Work (ie work “on” the business versus work “in” the business).

When you begin your day, pull out a blank Daily Time Log and fill in your name and the date. Next, jot down the time, a brief description of the activity you’re performing, the category for that activity, and whether it’s Strategic or Tactical Work. Every time you change activities, enter the time, activity description, category, and work type for the new activity.

Be sure to fill out your Daily Time Log as you go, rather than after the work. You lose too much information if you wait. At the end of the day check your Daily Time Log to make sure it’s complete. Fill out the “Duration” column for every line-item, and add the column todetermine Total Duration.

Sample of a Daily Time Log

Time Duration Activity Description Category Work Type
7:00am 22 min Finding staff replacement Admin Tactical
7:22am 17 min Parent issue 'child went home dirty nappy' Complaints Tactical
7:39am 11 min Child crying went to room to see why Emergency Tactical
7:50am 9 min Chatting with parent Parent Tactical

Total Durations                 _________

Hint. Neat Daily Time Logs with all activities conveniently grouped in 30-minute and 60-minute increments are dead give-aways that you’re not tracking the actual flow of your day (or your time management skills are so well developed that you don’t need this Business Development Process).

Understanding Your Time Management: Skim, Summarise and Analyse

When you’ve completed Daily Time Logs for two weeks, you will have enough information to provide a reliable understanding of your time management patterns. The best way to go about the analysis is to “skim, summarise and analyse.”

First, skim through all your Daily Time Logs to get a feel for the flow of your days. These hints might help:

  1. Notice the number of line-items you completed each day as well as the average duration of your activities.
  2. Are there a lot of entries for less than 15 minutes?
  3. How many activities were uninterrupted for more than one hour?
  4. Are there any trends regarding mornings, lunchtime, afternoons, or certain days of the week?
  5. How much time do you spend on Strategic versus Tactical Work?
  6. How do your first Daily Time Logs compare to your last ones? You should notice two immediate results from skimming through your Daily Time Logs.

First, you’ll see specifically what you do during the day and how long everything takes. You can expect some surprises. For example, random phone calls may be eating up your day, or you might be spending too much time on work you could delegate. Your actual “productive” time is probably much less than you thought. Your day may be fragmented into tiny time segments with no long stretches for concentrated, efficient work.

Second, logging every activity you undertake will make you more conscious of your time, and that alone will begin to improve your time management.

The Time Log Summary

Using the Time Log Summary in this booklet, transfer the data from your Daily Time Logs into the activity categories you created earlier. This will help you see the big picture of how you spend your time and provide insights for better time management.

The Time Log Summary has three types of columns:

  1. Category – listthecategoriesusedinyourDailyTimeLogs.
  2. Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 etc – sort by category and enter the data from each Daily TimeLog.
  3. Average of items in each row. It’s almost a sure bet that you’ll find more surprises. For example, nominated supervisors often find they spend very little time managing the service and the majority of their time dealing with issues educators should be able to solve.
The Time Log Summary Example
Category Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Average
Parent Issues 65 60 267 0 51 88.6
12% 17% 55% 0% 9% 19%
Fees 179 60 124 0 199 112.4
34% 17% 25% 0% 35% 24%
Admin 61 35 25 2 0 24.6
12% 10% 5% 1% 0% 5%
Rosters 0 0 0 0 75 15
0% 0% 0% 0% 13% 3%
Directing 0 192 0 70 0 52.4
0% 55% 0% 19% 0% 11%
Supporting Educators 217 0 72 0 0 57.8
42% 0% 15% 0% 0% 13%
Emergency 0 0 0 297 251 109.6
0% 0% 0% 80% 44% 24%
Total: 522 347 488 369 576 460.4
100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Creating Your Daily Routine

Let’s take what you’ve learned so far and create a tool to help you establish all these new habits- your Daily Routine. The Daily Routine is a pre-defined schedule for your typical workday that maximises the time you spend on productive work by:

  • Conforming to the natural flow of yourday
  • Corresponding with your natural rhythms taking into consideration when you’re at your best for certaintasks
  • Batching like tasks for greaterefficiency
  • Setting aside dedicated time for uninterrupted Business Development work “on” the business.

What if you’re one of those people whose business is so irregular that it’s impossible to stick to a daily routine? Create a Daily Routine anyway. It’s always possible to create routine in your day, if only for some fraction of the day. And it’s worth doing. For those completely unpredictable periods of the day, create an “ideal” routine, knowing that you’ll have to be flexible, but also knowing that keeping the “ideal” day in mind will bias you toward productive, rather than random, use of your time.

Prioritising the Flow of Your Day

The Daily Priorities Template is a prioritisation tool. It has five sections:

  1. HighPriorities-Thoseitemsthatabsolutelymustbedonetoday.
  2. Secondary Priorities -Proceed with these items only when you have completed all of your highpriorities.
  3. People -Any individuals you need tocontact.
  4. Telephone Calls -Any calls you want toremember.
  5. Schedule-Aplacetoplanhowandwhenyouwillaccomplishyourprioritiesfortheday.

You should start using this tool immediately as part of your Daily Routine.

Monitoring Your Time Management

You should periodically re-evaluate how you’re spending your time, especially in the early months when you’re breaking old habits and establishing new ones. You simply resume filling out the Daily Time Logs as before. After you’ve done this for a few days, fill in your Daily Time Logs and compare them to your original results. It’s an objective way to gauge your progress, and you should see significant, long-term improvements in your time management.

Eliminating Your Time Bandits

A Time Bandit is anything that steals your time-a new employee, a talkative vendor, the telephone, your mother-in-law, broken office equipment, an older computer with too little memory, even yourself. The first step to managing your time better is understanding who or what is stealing it from you. Take a moment now to identify your Time Bandits.

Daily Time Log Template

Name:                                     Day:                               Date:

Time Duration Activity Description Category Work Type

Complete over a two week period

Daily Priorities Template

Name: Period:
High Priorities Hours Schedule
Secondary Priorities 9:30
People 12:30
Phone Calls 3:30


Get to know yourself and use this to lead others


Look at each of the self-knowledge statements below.  Think about yourself and where your own attitudes and behaviours fall on the five-part scale, then check the score that best indicates where you are at the present time.  Total your scores.  (Remember to make copies of the worksheet before you begin, so you can complete this self-evaluation every so often.)

Self-evaluation requires you to be completely honest with yourself.  The only right answers are honest answers.  The more honest and objective you can be, the more you’ll be contributing to your own self-development and leadership skills.

Self-Knowledge Statement Completely Very Much Somewhat Hardly Not at All
I’m aware of my values. 5 4 3 2 1
I’ve created a set of values I want to be most important to me. 5 4 3 2 1
I’m aware of my beliefs. 5 4 3 2 1
I’ve created a set of beliefs that I want to guide my life. 5 4 3 2 1
I can identify the difference between an assumption and a fact. 5 4 3 2 1
I understand the pervasiveness of assumptions in day-to-day situations. 5 4 3 2 1
I’m aware of my own assumptions in daily situations. 5 4 3 2 1
I make it a practice to “check out” my assumptions. 5 4 3 2 1
I’m aware of the different ways I impact other people. 5 4 3 2 1
I discuss with people the impact we have on each other. 5 4 3 2 1
I consciously try to minimise the negative impact I have on other people. 5 4 3 2 1
I know that I avoid certain things that are hard for me. 5 4 3 2 1
I can identify those things that I avoid. 5 4 3 2 1
I can identify why I avoid those things. 5 4 3 2 1
I consciously try to learn ways to make hard things easier and not avoid them. 5 4 3 2 1
I know my feelings about being in unknown or uncertain situations. 5 4 3 2 1
I can identify specific situations that are unknown or uncertain situations for me. 5 4 3 2 1
I know what I give up by avoiding the unknown. 5 4 3 2 1
I consciously welcome being in unknown or uncertain situations. 5 4 3 2 1
I embrace the idea that self-knowledge is vital for effective leadership. 5 4 3 2 1


84 to 100 Outstanding!  You have a deep and true understanding of yourself that enhances your leadership abilities.

68 to 83 Very good.  You’re well on your way to understanding yourself.

52 to 67 Above average.  But there’s lots of room for growth.

36 to 51 You have a lot of exciting self-discovery ahead!

20 to 35 Don’t be discouraged.  It’s never too late to start learning about yourself.


How to get your time back


Guidelines for “Time Bandit Busting”

To help you eliminate your Time Bandits try the “Bandit Busters” listed below.

The heart of good time management is setting goals and priorities that enable us to get results, not just stay busy. It’s a lot to learn and a lot to think about. There are a lot of new habits to form. But if time is life, then isn’t time management a way to, literally, get more life? Where else could you find a better payoff for your efforts?

If you’re typical, you’ll find that that many, if not most of the Bandit Busters are applicable to you. Actively work to replace your unproductive old habits with productive new ones. It’s virtually impossible to internalise and implement all of these ideas at once, so you should select only a couple of guidelines at first. Choose the most impactful ones and post them someplace where you see them every day. As you master each Bandit Buster, select another one and repeat the process. The trick is to internalise them as new habits and make them second nature.

The bottom line comes down to your willingness and commitment to establish the habits that will give you more control over both the expected and the unexpected things that happen every day.

Organisation & Planning Take “One Bite at a Time”

Identify work items that could possibly be done today. Break down long activities and projects into interim tasks. Remember the old adage, “The easiest way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.”

Prioritise and Stay Focused

Evaluate your list and prioritise items on the Daily Priorities Template.

Ask yourself:

If nothing else gets done today, what are the one or two items that absolutely must be done? (The most successful leaders only focus on one or two priorities for a given day.)

Hold Five-Minute Priority Meetings

Hold a five-minute priority-setting meeting early in the day with yourself and your key people.

Don’t Overbook

Don’t overbook your time. Allow for interruptions. Basic rule: Leave two hours of time unscheduled every day. It will fill itself!


Delegate whatever items you can to your people.


Set up a fixed Daily Routine wherever possible. Schedule definite times for routine matters such as meetings, going through mail, communicating with your educators.

Share Time-Saving Ideas

Use ten minutes of your staff meetings each month to exchange time-saving ideas.

Avoid “Quicksand” Issues

Don’t get mired in issues that can’t be quickly resolved. Form ad hoc committees and hold meetings when topics come up that need more investigation. Do not take up people’s time talking about an item nobody can adequately address.

Set Deadlines

Set reasonable deadlines for all jobs and stick to them. It’s true: Work expands to fill the available time.

Divide and Conquer Big Jobs

To complete long-term projects, divide the activity into manageable tasks and distribute the tasks among others. Have them participate in setting deadlines to ensure greater commitment to completing the work in a timely manner.

Stop Fragmentation

When you start a piece of work, finish it if possible. If you split it up too much, you lose your work rhythm and waste time warming up each time you start again.

Take Natural Breaks

Take your breaks at times when your workflow is broken. For instance, when the people you have to talk with are not available, when the material you need is not ready etc.

Set “Do Not Disturb” Periods

Plan a definite time each day when you can have a meeting with yourself.Put a “Please Do Not Disturb” sign on your door with a note showing when you are available. Ask someone else to take care of any visitors or telephone calls. (If you don’t have an office, use a high movable partition.)

Use “Gatekeepers”

When possible, have your telephone calls screened by a person or even voicemail. Use Gatekeepers for unexpected visitors too.

Consolidate Telephone Time

Set aside certain periods each day to accept, initiate and return calls. The best time to accept incoming calls is just before lunch or at the end of the work day. The best time to contact hard to- reach people is early in the morning, just before/after lunch, or late in the day.

Plan Phone Calls

Plan your telephone calls. Make a brief note of what you want to say and what you want to find out. It saves time for everybody and makes for better communication. Remember: “chit-chat” costs.

You can also use the technique of saying at the beginning of the call, “I have 10 minutes to spend with you now. If we don’t finish, we can schedule another time.”

Institute a “Closed-Door, Open-Calendar” Policy

Use an appointment system as much as possible. Put a time limit on visits. When someone calls for an appointment, ask how long it will take. Meet visitors outside your office and talk with them standing up if you wish the consultation to be brief. Another way to reduce interruptions is to establish “office hours,” which is the same as “open door,” but only for limited, scheduled times of yourchoosing.

Don’t Postpone “Bitter Pills”

Take care of important matters that are unpleasant immediately. If you keep postponing them, they will hauntyou and waste precious time reminding you they’re still around.

Maximise “Idle” Time

Get the most out of your already-committed time. For example, use travel time to listen to important material contained on tapes, or carry reading material with you at all times. Use waiting time to read.

Eat Lunch, but Eat “Light”

Take time for lunch whenever possible. When a day’s work is taxing, get out of the office for lunch. But eat a light lunch. This prevents the usual “sleepy” time in the afternoon.

Don’t Work at Home

Don’t take work home unless you’re certain you will get to it. It is much better to work longer at the office until you are finished. Setting time limits will help keep you on track. Then you can enjoy your leisure time more.

Don’t Be a Perfectionist

Let go of your need to be a perfectionist. For some things, “good enough” really is enough.

Use Prime Time for Prime Tasks

Capitalise on your “prime time.” When are you at your best? Do important things that require lots of brain energy at that time. When your brain is frazzled, attend to minor things that don’t take a lot of thought.

Capture Great Ideas

Collect all your ideas in one place (eg on your Daily Diary as you carry it around with you). Record your inspirations as you go through your day. That way you won’t lose any great ideas.

Think. Then Act

Avoid the “Fire, Ready, Aim” phenomenon. Think first, then act. Nothing is so urgent that there is no time to consider the decision-making process. But when the goal is clear and the means obvious, do something NOW. Effective people have one thing in common: The ability to shorten the distance between thought and action.

Don’t Over Commit

Beware of over commitment, remembering that you’re the only one who can protect your time. Learn the art of the polite “NO.” To what can you rightfully say “NO”?

Teach Time Management

Take the time to teach your people to use these time management techniques. Never underestimate the impact your good time management can have on those around you, so lead by example. Remember, the more effective those around you, the easier it makes your job.

Audit Time Management

Check your calendar and Daily Diary weekly for an overview of how effectively you are spending your time. Reinstitute the Daily Time Log whenever you find you or yourpeople falling into old habits of poor time management.


Why are you running out of time?


Why are you running out of time?

William Oncken Jr. and Donald L. Wass thought about this in 1974 and ended up using the analogy of monkeysto describe what happens to your time. They observed that many problems arise because staff don’t know howto deal with their problem and then they decide to throw their problem (or monkey) onto others. Imagine allthe problems you are given as time wasting, wriggling, demanding monkeys on your back that were never yourmonkeys but which you need to do something about it. These monkeys come in all different breeds.

For example, you get a call from the preschool room as a child’s behaviour has become a monkey ready to bethrown onto your back. In you go and out you come with a little monkey named Jackson. You are now a monkeyentertainer which leaves you no time to do what you need to do as Jackson the monkey is in your office. Thenyou may make the mistake of going into the toddlers’ room where the room leader says “we have a problem.”They describe this problem in great detail and want you to do something about it. This is the trainee breed ofmonkey who doesn’t have the skills to do anything. They can’t interact with children, can’t do a nappy changeand don’t have the skills for early childhood.

Now you have two time wasting, wriggling, demanding monkeys on your back, but wait, a parent is now ringingto give you another monkey in the form of a lost item of clothing. You put the phone down, turn around and aneducator is in tears at your door as she throws you her monkey before walking out the door. This is a magical,just appeared, sickness breed of monkey.

See how Oncken and Wass describe the monkey plague that becomes your management chaos so beautifully.Let us suppose that ten educators are so thoughtful and considerate that they let two monkeys leap from eachof their backs to yours in any one day. In a five-day week, the Nominated Supervisor will have picked up 100screaming monkeys—far too many to do anything about individually. So you spend your precious time jugglingeducators’ issues (monkeys) while leaving no time at all to do what a Nominated Supervisor has to do. Welcometo the world of early childhood.

 What should have happened?

Educators in the preschool room needed to step up and increase their skills in building relationships withchildren and managing challenging behaviour. In my experience most, if not all, behaviour problems come fromdisengaged educators who can’t build relationships with families, which in turn means they can’t buildrelationships with children. These educators are then unable to create curriculum that is meaningful to thechild. What they create is something that is easy for them eg getting activities out of the storeroom andplonking them on tables without engaging with children. The child becomes bored out of their brain anddisengaged. Through their behaviour (which is the only way many can communicate this type of problem) theytell educators that the rubbish from the storeroom doesn’t interest them and they’ll behave this way until theyget another form of attention.

The trainee problem comes from the room leader not having enough structure in the room for educators andtrainees, and not taking the time to show rather than just tell them exactly what is required as part of their job.The phone call is an extension of this problem, in that educators are not being held accountable to their job androom leaders are not managing their room and children.

The sickness problem comes from not effectively managing educators’ sick leave (eg allowing excessive sickleave to be taken) or not enforcing sick leave policies.

Start identifying the monkeys and when people throw their monkey onto your back.


Recognise the things that are “hard” for you and how to avoid them


If you’re honest with yourself, you know that there are some things that are just plain “hard” for you, and you’ve probably become expert at avoiding them. You may be so good at avoiding them that you don’t even realise you’re doing so. You could call them weaknesses, inabilities, tendencies, your “nature,” or you could put a positive spin on them and call them opportunities. But whatever you call them, it’s important to be aware of what they are for you.

What kinds of things are we talking about? People avoid things like:

  • Delegating work to others and continue to do things that others could and should be doing
  • Telling educatorsthey’re unhappy with their performance and exactly why, and just gently coax, drop hints, offer “suggestions,” or transfer them
  • Speaking in front of large groups of people, and instead write memos or have somebody else do their talking for them.

There’s an endless list of what people avoid, and everyone’s list is different.

What’s wrong with not doing the things you don’t like to do?

You can’t possibly do everything anyway, so why not focus on what you like to do and what’s easy for you, and not worry about those things that are hard?

First, not addressing those “hard” things almost always prevents you from getting what you really want. For example, a Nominated Supervisor who avoids telling educators when their work is not up to par is compromising and not getting the best results possible. (Not to mention the ripple effect it has on other educators and the families.)

Second, a lot of energy and attention is “sucked up” – wasted really by these avoidance techniques.

Third, when avoidance becomes habitual and unconscious – when you don’t even realise that the avoidance has become automatic – you lose the ability to choose which is fundamental, not only to leadership, but to life. When you give up your ability to choose how you’ll act in any situation, you’ve relinquished your ability to make decisions, to take the “right action,” and, thereby, damaged your effectiveness.

When you continually avoid those things that are hard for you, you deny yourself the opportunity to make them easy. You deny yourself the fullest of what’s possible.

Identify those things that are hard for you, the underlying beliefs you have about them, how you avoid them, what you gain by avoiding them, what you would gain by not having to avoid them, and whether or not you want to change.

Consider the following questions:

  1. What are the things that are hard for you?
  2. What are your underlying beliefs?
  3. How do you avoid the hard things?
  4. What do you gain by avoiding the hard things?
  5. What would you gain by having the choice to avoid or not avoid?
  6. Do you want to change it?


Why you need to know the impact you have on others


The impact you have on others can dramatically affect your ability to function effectively as a leader. The vast majority of people have no idea of their impact other people – absolutely no idea.

Your impact is how you make other people feel.It’s  created by the way you look, by the way you talk and listen, by the way you respond, by your physical presence, even by what people have heard about you. You can impact people when you’re standing next to them, when you’re talking to them on the phone, or when you’re a thousand kilometres away. Impact happens in a million subtle and not-so subtle ways.

That’s only half the story. Half of how you impact other people resides within the other people themselves. You impact different people in different ways, even though you, yourself, are the same. One person may find you dynamic and inspiring, while the next may find those same qualities intimidating and insincere. By trying to understand how you impact others, you will learn much about yourself and about relationships that will make you a better leader – and a better person.

Most people have a picture of themselves that is quite unlike the picture that other people have of them. You might not believe this is true for you, but you need to check it out. What kind of an impact do you think you have on other people? How does this compare with the kind of impact you’d like to have? And, finally, how do you really impact other people from their perspective?

Consider your responses to the following:

  1. What kind of impact would you like to have on other people?
  2. List3 people you’d like to have a better understanding of your impact on. As a guideline, select one person from your personal life, one from your work life that you have “satisfactory or better” relationship with, and one from your work life that you have “less than satisfactory” relationship with.
  3. For each person, first describe how you think you impact them and why.

To answer the next questions, you can’t just think about it. You can’t imagine what people think or feel, or “put yourself in their shoes.” You have to actually ask people what they think. You have to make it safe for them to tell you what they truly feel. This may take some time, so be patient. And, perhaps the most difficult thing of all, you must be willing to hear things you don’t want to hear.

You may be shocked by what some people tell you. You may feel hurt, or angry, or completely misunderstood. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you. You can’t ask people what they really feel, and then get angry or defensive when they tell you. The goal here is simply “information gathering.” Remember, you’ll hear a lot of positive things that you may not have known about yourself too. Consider what people tell you as objective information that you will collect, consider and use to get a better understanding of how people see you and why they react to you the way they do.

  1. Ask each person to describe for you how you actually impact them. Write down what they say, using their exact words.  Don’t argue with them or try to explain why they’re impressions are wrong or what your real intentions are.  Just gather information.
  2. How does your actual impact on others compare with what you imagined it was?
  3. What did you discover about yourself?
  4. What impacts were you satisfied with?
  5. What impacts were you not satisfied with ?

How will you use what you’ve discovered so that your impact on others is the way you really want it to be?  Create a plan for how you will improve your impact.Here are three techniques you can use:

1.Ask people to tell you the impact you’re having on them “in the moment.”

2.When you sense other people’s discomfort, ask them how they’re feeling and why.

3.Explain to people why you’re thinking, feeling and behaving the way you are.


Challenge your assumptions and become a more effective leader


When you learn to check out your assumptions, you’ll also be amazed at how differently you see other people and how much more competent and compassionate you become in your everyday dealings – a very important skills for all leaders.

An assumption is something taken for granted. It’s like a belief where something is taken as true, even though it’s not known for certain that it’s true. While beliefs are usually broad and far reaching, assumptions can be specific to a particular situation. We’re often not aware of the assumptions we’re operating under in a given situation.

Take an example involving two educators: Liz invites Alison out for a fun Friday night drink with her other friends. Alison politely refuses. Liz might accept Alison’s refusal at face value, or she might assume any number of things, for example that Alison doesn’t like her other friends, that Alison’s busy, or that Alison doesn’t like her. Whatever Liz’s assumption is, it will more than likely affect what she does next.

If Liz assumes Alison doesn’t like her friends, Liz might suggest anther time where they won’t be present.If Liz assumes Alison is busy she might leave her alone for now and ask her out again another time.If Liz assumes Alison doesn’t like her, she might feel hurt and never talk to her again.

What happens when your assumption is wrong? Sometimes it’s harmless enough, but too often acting on an inaccurate assumption sets off a chain of events that causes problems, misunderstandings, wasted time and bad feelings. The ramifications, usually negative ones, can last far into the future. Acting on assumptions leaves people ‘in the dark’ instead of ‘in the know.’ And being ‘in the dark’ is not where you ever want to be.

Your challenge is to learn to notice when your action or reaction is the result of an assumption you’ve made – and then be willing to find out if your assumption is correct. Learn to tell the difference between what you assume to be true and what you know to be true. You’ll be amazed at how often your assumptions areincorrect.

In this section we’ll consider a real situation to help you become aware of your assumptions.  Think of a situation where you made a significant decision. A recent decision works best so that you can recall the situation clearly.


Consider your responses to the following:

  1. Briefly describe a decision you made and the circumstances surrounding it.
  2. As you reflect on these, identify the assumptions you held and how they affected your thinking, feelings and behavior.
  3. Identify the main subject of this decision or situation.
  4. Identify all the assumptions you have about this subject.
  5. Who else was involved in the decision? If no-one else was involved, think of another person(s) you know who is interested in this subject. List their name(s).
  6. What do you think this person’s assumptions are about the same subject? List them.
  7. Have a conversation with this person to discuss your assumptions with one another.
  8. Re-read your original description of the decision. Did the discussions with others change your perceptions of the situation? How?
  9. What did you learn about yourself?
  10. How will this new information affect how you think, feel and act in the future?