Do you have a “context-rich” or “assumption-rich” culture?
1) When you change a deadline for your people, do you give them sufficient context on the rationale for the change or let them make assumptions about your intentions?
2) When you ask one of your reports to not join the exec meeting they were formerly invited to, is it just a meeting canceled note or do you provide information on what changed?
3) When your mood is significantly different in a 1:1 do you just leave your direct reports in a lurch to guess or assume that you are unhappy with their performance?
Oftentimes times as managers, things are often in flux, change is constant and decisions need to be made quickly. All of this makes it even more important to provide “context” so that people aren’t left to “assume” why they were excluded, why the energy in a meeting feels different, or why a deadline may have been changed.
Providing context doesn’t mean not you need to have all the answers. Sometimes you don’t have all the context yourself. That’s okay and you can still say – “ I don’t know what changed and I am looking to get more information but I just got a note from the SVP’s admin informing me that only VPs are going to attend that meeting.”
Providing context doesn’t mean you don’t account for boundaries. If you are having a hard day because of your challenges with your teenage son, you can just mention to your direct that “I am not my usual self today as I am navigating some challenges in my personal life. I hope to be better tomorrow.”
Especially in our current environment where expectations are higher, people are expected to do more with fewer resources and job security is less available today, the absence of context means people are more likely to get fearful, defensive, and insecure which means this will impact their sense of belonging, trust and productivity for the task at hand.
And finally, a BONUS TIP: Notice when you go into assumption mode and practice asking for context. It can sometimes feel vulnerable but chances are you will both strengthen trust and also protect yourself emotionally from feeling excluded, rejected, and disappointed.
Lately, these two little humans have been calling me out a lot – Mumma, you just made an “assumption” about why I entered the TV room, I wasn’t going to ask you for more screen time. I just wanted to sit on the couch.
I am learning too to not let past behavior cloud my own judgment, embrace a beginner’s mind, and ask for context!
I’d love to hear from you, What do you do to create a context-rich culture around you?
Pic Credit: Jéan Béller