Humans are decision-making machines. We are wired to make decisions, and in the absence of full and complete information, we make assumptions to fill in the blanks.
This decision-making process is what helped us survive as hunter-gatherers as we learned to be more successful without having to experience every danger first-hand. (That saber-toothed tiger looks a lot like the one that ate Ted last week… I’ll just go around this way and avoid him…)
But making decisions for your bushiness that are based solely on assumptions can cost you.
A client, I’ll call her Mary, came to me recently for help automating the 90-day program that she has been offering successfully for 5 years.
The program currently consists of a content/teaching call on Tuesdays and a Q&A/Coaching call on Thursdays. This means that for a full 90-days, she has to be on the phone live 2x a week in order to deliver this program.
Although Mary said she wanted to automate this program, she was resistant to the changes that I suggested. She didn’t want to:
- Post the content/teaching recording on the website, she wanted to broadcast it at the same time that she has been delivering the material live.
- Use the recordings from the last time she delivered the program; she felt she needed to “freshen up” the content and improve it over what she delivered last time.
Her choices might seem reasonable to you, but they didn’t feel right to me, so I asked her for her reasoning behind these decisions.
Here are the “facts” that she was using in her decisions:
- She had shared her intentions to change this program with her previous students. They had told her that they valued her “presence on the calls and the safe place she created for them to do this work.”
- She had several past students who expressed a wish to retake the program. It was for them that she felt it was necessary to freshen up the material.
After a bit of digging, we uncovered these assumptions:
- Mary had assumed that the student’s comments about “her presence” applied to both calls; they didn’t. The Tuesday call included no interaction between the students and Mary. From their perspective, listening to a recording would be no different than listening to a live broadcast. Their comments were meant to protect the value that they received from the Thursday calls.
- Students who retake a class or program don’t do so expecting the class to be different than it was before, although this was Mary’s assumption. Students retake a class because they weren’t ready to tackle the material as it was presented the first time, much like when your child has to retake Algebra — it’s the same material, but he will hear and retain it differently because he’ll be better prepared the second time around. Mary’s students wanted to retake her program so they could again experience the Thursday calls with her, but this time, with their homework done.
Once Mary and I uncovered the assumptions that she was using as a basis for her decisions, she saw benefits of approaching this project differently:
- Using content that she had already recorded — with some minor editing — would save her a significant amount of time; 15 hours just in recorded calls alone, not to mention the time needed to revamp the content.
- Posting a recording of the material normally delivered on Tuesdays on Mondays instead, actually gave her students more time to complete the homework prior to Thursday’s call. This would help more of her students receive the full value of the program the first time through.
Initially, Mary was concerned that making ANY changes to her program would have a negative impact on her students. But by confronting her assumptions, she was able to see where her resistance to change was actually hurting the students, and her business as well. By automating part of her program, she was freeing up time that she could devote to creating a new program for these students, one that they are already anxious for and ready to buy.
It is easy to make assumptions about what our customers and clients want from us. Even when we ask them, and they tell us, we can still add interpretations to that information that are not accurate.
This is one of many reasons why it pays to have a coach to help you grow your business.
If you feel you aren’t ready for a regular coach, or don’t have the resources to devote to one, don’t let that stop you. There are lots of free resources at the Small Business Administration. Or find another business owner in the same boat and agree to coach each other. Or seek out a successful business person in your community and ask if he/she would mentor you. You might have to get creative to find a coach, but the search is worth it.
Our brains are so good at filling in a lack of information with assumptions that you may not be aware of how much you rely on assumptions in your daily decision-making process. Outside feedback is the only way to: 1: spot these assumptions, and then, 2: learn to see the situation without them. Mastering this skill will help uncover places where a slight change of perspective can open up whole new opportunities for you, your clients, and your business.