Leadership Lesson #2: Make a plan; don’t assume


Leadership Lesson #2: Make a plan; don’t assume

Tags :

Category : communication , leadership

Before I reached the point of being okay with my son and I hiking The Pass Mountain Trail on Usery Mountain in Arizona at our own very distinct paces, I was angry. Very angry.

Angry that I couldn’t keep up with him.

Angry that he wasn’t waiting for me.

Angry that we weren’t having a mother-son bonding moment on the mountain.

Angry that his flight back to Minneapolis was leaving in just a few hours.

Angry that we technically didn’t have time to do the full 7.1 mile hike.

And most of all, angry that we hadn’t made a plan before we set out.

How many times has it happened that you assumed the other person was of like mind about a situation when, in fact, you had very different ideas about how things would go?

I assumed there was no need to make a plan because we would be together. And, based on our speed and the time of day, we would together decide when to turn back.

If I was with my best friend or my mom, that would have been the case indeed. But there are very few others who can read my mind.

And so, we set off without an agenda.

Without a plan, my assumptions took hold and ran the dialogue that played in my head: “I’m the parent here, I should be in charge. I am the responsible one and I need to make sure we get to the airport on time.  He’s flying Spirit so I’ll need to feed him before he gets on the flight. How can I be in charge if he’s a half-mile ahead of me?”

A simple plan – before we set out – would have alleviated a great deal of angst for me (and eventually for him after he summited and reached the bottom, wondering where I was and whether he’d catch his flight).

A simple plan would have taken just under a minute to hash out in the form of a few simple if/then statements.

If we get separated, then A.

If it is noon and we aren’t at the summit, then B.

This simple, straightforward plan would have saved me 30 minutes of agony. Fortunately, it was only 30 minutes of agony. Given that he is my son, I’m predisposed toward forgiveness. Given that I quickly realized I didn’t want to waste the day being upset (30 minutes is pretty fast, at least for me), I found peace with our varying paces. And in my shift away from anger and toward the mountain experience, I assumed positive intent: he was just enjoying himself and the climb.

It is easy to waste an entire day to frustration with our colleagues and clients over assumptions we are making in the absence of a well-communicated plan.

Here are three steps for turning it around:

  1. Assume positive intent.
  2. Lean toward forgiveness.
  3. Vow never to spend an entire day (or even an hour) upset about something.


Catch the full series of blog posts of my Lessons on Leadership from the Side of a Mountain.

  • 0

  • Leave a Reply