As a leader, you're always trying to help people move from one place to another. (Otherwise, you're not leading... you're monitoring.) As a manager, you're always trying to figure out what is happening and how the process can be optimized.
Both require insight. You need to understand where you are and how things work and what should happen. But our natural wiring includes a short circuit.
We're wired to assume.
We naturally skip over that one link in the logic and assume, often unconsciously:
They know what I'm talking about.
They value the same things.
They work this way.
They think this way.
Some of the best critical thinking comes from a very simple practice: identifying assumptions. It may not seem brilliant, but it uncovers a remarkable number of insights. And when you've laid all assumptions on the table, you have a much clearer picture of the risks involved.
If the whole plan hinges on a questionable assumption, you've got more digging to do. If the assumptions are not in the critical path, or if you believe them to be sound, press on.
The key - with employees, customers, partners - is awareness. The more you practice identifying assumptions, the more you notice assumptions all around.