COFFEE WITH MY CLEANER

My company’s cleaner plays a significant role in our company. He’s a good cleaner and also a good listener so I’ve found out. He was recently diagnosed with a potentially serious disease which led us to be at a local coffee shop talking about how he would manage his business whilst undergoing treatment.

Having assured him that we’d be fine with however he wanted to handle our office cleaning, we got to chatting, sitting in the sun and having a cuppa. He made some very insightful observations on what he hears and sees during his time with us early in the morning. Which brings me to the subject of this tête á tête – assumptions.

I assumed a different person from who sat in front of me. I learnt that he had been at university, been a promising actor, a wild child when he lived in London and was revising his film scripts whilst having treatment. Not what I assumed.

This encounter led me and the TT team to go a week without making any assumptions – in business, in life, with clients and the experience is interesting. How much do we let assumptions limit our lives and how dangerous can it be to assume?

Let’s take a walk on the global platform and review a couple of major game changers last year and ask ourselves ‘how’?

How did the Brexit outcome defy all the polls? Simply because of a string of assumptions. David Cameron assumed leading figures in his own party would vote to remain, and felt as he did. Wrong! The city made an assumption on behalf of its constituents that didn’t bother to question or give any regards to the disenfranchised areas of the UK. The markets, betting markets, U.K. Government and even media assumed a ‘remain’ vote. Strings of separate and connecting threads unravelled simultaneously, resulting in a tipping point of discontent.

On the other side of the globe, we witnessed and lived through one of the most unbelievable and bizarre political miracles the world has seen, due to a plethora of well publicized assumptions. It appears we all made assumptions on the outcome of the U. S Presidential elections and with disbelief we saw the impossible become possible.

The pundits, including media, have a gaggle of assumptions on why Trump won, which, whilst fascinating, are pure conjecture. We all have our own take. Our biases and assumptions were never far away during the whole unfortunate, hideously ugly episode. One assumption I feel confident to make is that the world made assumptions.

Staying on the world stage, I recently visited Singapore in transit to London for a family event. On the flight I read about Australia’s lack of performance in the school learning stakes and how we are behind other countries, with Singapore on top of the ladder. We assume so many things about our country – its wealth, the standard of living, health care and education. Travel helps us shrug off assumptions and look with fresh eyes on other culture’s religions and diversity. We see possibilities.

Driving with 3 different taxi providers I was surprised to learn that Uber has a half share of business. I was not surprised to learn that Singapore is safe and clean but lacking space, which is manifesting in a raft of building and high-rise activity.

I felt more at ease to ask crazy questions and felt humbled that everyone in Singapore speaks English to some degree, or makes an attempt at least. Australians assume that everyone in every country speaks English. They are correct but it seems unbalanced and unfair.

So what have I learned that will be helpful in the future? We have created an assumption-free zone at the office, which is proving to stimulate new activity and opening possibilities for creative thinking and purpose.

Understanding myself and how I operate is a work in progress. I acknowledge how important my leadership, vision, decisions, influence, prejudice and perspective affect the team and the future.

I believe we can make the future what we want if we open ourselves to a range of new experiences, people and collaboration. In isolation we can never know how good we can be. Just ask my cleaner.

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