Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Archive for June, 2007


I walked up to a counter at a pharmacy, this morning, after processing digital photos. I had one order of 19 photos, which I had distributed between two envelopes. The service representative spoke courteously. “That’s just 19, right?” he said.

For whatever reason—probably because I was in a hurry and didn’t take the time to listen—I understood him to mean that I owed 19 dollars. “No,” I said, “it’s only $5.50.”

He replied, “Yes, but I see 19 here.”

Again, I thought he was quoting the price. I was getting slightly annoyed when I realized the miscommunication. The man was simply confirming that I had processed 19 photos, which, of course, was correct. I apologized, he was gracious, and we moved on.

This brief experience reminds me of how we make assumptions every day, many times a day. Assumptions are made frequently in lieu of actually probing for accurate information or communicating directly with another person. This is particularly true in the workplace, where, for whatever reason, we’re conditioned to be careful about being too honest. Go figure.

I facilitated a series of workshops years ago where we asked coworkers to pair up and share one assumption one had of the other based on behaviors at work. I was amazed, as were the participants, how often people misunderstood a behavior based on their own assumptions.

So how do we avoid making inaccurate assumptions that may negatively affect our relationships at work? Be honest, respectful, and have a conversation!

Just be once in awhile

It’s been a while since my last entry. Life has been full, and I’ve been extremely busy with work. I’ve been meaning to write this particular entry for several days. It’s about how all of us experience a high level of stress from time-to-time. It’s about how stress can affect our ability to lead effectively—to be happy in our work. It’s about walking away from that meeting, or that conversation with a person on your team, or a client, and realizing that you lost it on some level—whether it was simply that you knew you weren’t at your best, or you demonstrated some behavior that you were less than proud of.

Stress got the best of me just last week. It’s humbling. And it reminds me to be more compassionate when others are stressed. It also reminds me that although we’re professionals, more significantly, we’re human. It’s this reminder more than anything else that I find rich, because it’s good to get snapped back to the basics of being human—of the importance of simply being once and a while. Simply being is something many of us aren’t taking the time to do while we’re striving to keep up in this high-tech, fast-moving, 24/7 business environment.

If you’re experiencing a high level of stress and you’re not feeling at your best, you’re probably not at your best. So plan some time to do something that helps you simply be. Take some time to regroup, even if it’s just for an afternoon. It’s a great preventative practice as well. You’ll feel the difference, and so will those that you lead.