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Test your assumptions - often

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

Growing up, there was a quote my dad was fond of: When you ASSUME you make an ASS of U and ME.

Essentially, assumptions shouldn't be trusted.

This past weekend was a sobering reminder for me of the importance of testing my assumptions.

I spent this Labour Day weekend mostly on the couch. When I did have to get up, it was accompanied by a groan and me whining about how much my legs hurt. It was the muscular equivalent of sitting on a bed of cacti.

Why? Because on Friday I went to a lunchtime circuit workout. These workouts are quick (40 min max) and body weight only. But they pack a punch!

Thirty minutes of work caused 3 days of jelly legs. This was a sobering reality for me.

You see, I pride myself on being an athlete. I even had my own playing cards, proudly purchased by my parents and sent to aunts, uncles, and family friends.

I grew up competing in sports: karate, basketball, soccer, volleyball, track & field. But the pain I was feeling over Labour weekend wasn’t from a few rounds of sparring or a pickup game of basketball. I simply did a few repetitive leg workouts (squats, jump squats, lunges, wall sits) with cardio intervals. And I could barely walk!

What did this fact teach me, the 2002 MVP*?

*according to the Sports Cards my mom purchased

1. Recognise reality

I may have been a fit athlete a decade ago, but now I’m living in my memories. It’s been three years since I’ve been in a karate studio and four years since I’ve played a game of basketball. Even longer for other sports.

The only reality that matters is what’s happening now. Test and recheck your assumptions so you aren’t building off facts from a decade ago that don’t reflect the reality.

If you think your project or a process is built off old facts, data, or assumptions—test it.

  • Test customer expectations – Understand what they want now and how they want to interact with your product. Current technological advances rapidly shift these.

  • Test system capabilities What’s possible with the systems you have? What systems do you need to meet customer expectations?

2. Embrace productive pain

The pain in my legs was intense. Every stand up or sit down was tender. But it was a good pain in the sense that it was productive pain. It was caused by doing something helpful and will lead to better results. But it still hurts.

Just because you’re doing the right thing at work doesn’t mean it will be easy. Sometimes going through a better process takes longer or brings up more questions than answers. Sometimes it forces us to confront stark realities and have hard conversations.

As we think about new ways of working, breaking down silos, and putting people first – they’ll all come with some pain. Just because it’s the right way to work or engage, doesn’t mean it will be easy. It actually might be quite painful as you’re getting started. Productively painful: helpful and leads to better results in the long run.

3. Find your ‘Shane’

Shout out to Shane from The Treasury who runs these circuit workouts. Shane’s been organising and hosting these free workouts and Anderson Park since 2015. Ka pai tō mahi, e hoa!

On Friday, he warned me I’d be sore Saturday. He failed to mention the Sunday / Monday pain.

Shane doesn't bring equipment or gear with him. These workouts are completely accessible for people to do on their own during lunch breaks. But the reality is, most of us wouldn't without him making the space and time - and providing motivation with a smile.

Shane brings people together and provides the motivation, consistency, and encouragement to get us out and moving. You might have a Shane who is able to connect people across your organisation or connects leaders together.

You might channel your inner Shane and create the space and energy for people to come together. Just because people can do something, doesn't mean they will. Having a motivator and a mandate is extremely helpful! What encouragement can you provide?

Be match fit

We're currently watching Match Fit, a series about a group of former All Blacks who have challenged themselves to become fit enough to play a rugby match once again. Tuesday nights we've been tuning in to see the once feared athletes struggle to jog up and down the pitch.

There's humour and banter, but also a reminder of these three actions: recognise reality, embrace productive pain, and find your Shane.

The men have been vulnerable and publicly shared their health stats: weight, body fat, metabolic age, etc. They're far from where they want to be and they've drawn the line in the sand. They're pushing their bodies to the limit and embracing the soreness that comes as a result. And they're being guided by Graham Henry and Buck Shelford - their Shanes.

It's easy to see the mind is willing, but the body and capability isn't there. I remember this happening to me the last time I was in Cleveland. I stopped by my old karate school and got persuaded to jump into a sparring class. In my mind I was kicking my opponent in the head. In reality the kick landed on their bicep, was easily shoved away and I was counter-punched.

This happens at work all the time - great ideals, but the lack of systems, connections, and will to embrace the produce pain can result in a mismatch of intention and reality. We need our systems and processes to be as match fit as our ideals and missions.

How can you do this?

1) Recognise reality - do a stocktake of what you'd like to accomplish and what you actually are accomplishing. Identify what will stop you from reaching your goals and work to resolve it.

2) Embrace productive pain - Some of the resolutions might be hard work. Push through it - if it's the right thing and it will move the project/company forward, then lean into the pain.

3) Find your Shane - Identify the connectors and motivators amongst you and sell your ideas to them. Channel your inner Shane and create the space and time for what's needed to move forward.


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