“Something he says during every meeting he leads is ‘what assumptions have we left unchecked?’”
I was on a work call as someone shared the above comment about their new COO, remarking on a facet of how he leads meetings. Later I asked him to elaborate. He essentially explained how a key part of this person’s leadership strategy is to listen well, and then examine where the team might be making decisions or comments based on assumptions. They would then pull out those assumptions and look at the validity and health of those forward predictive opinions – maybe some assumptions were unfounded. Perhaps decisions were being made on less than solid theories. Such a great technique. It has stuck with me.
Proverbs echoes similar warnings…
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion (which are often attached to assumptions).” Proverbs 18:2
“Do not hastily (under assumption) bring into court, for what will you do in the end, when your neighbor puts you to shame (revealing the error in your assumption)?”
I took some time to try to pay attention to the assumptions I lean upon. I tried to notice when I was making predictions in a meeting, or guessing a motive. I strained to filter my thoughts as I read the news, pressing in to hear where my critique was based on assumptions.
Assumptions in and of themselves aren’t negative, nor are they actually avoidable. Part of how we process any given information is by piecing together predictive bits based on past experiences or understanding. I “assume” the letter “C” makes a “C” sound.
I believe assumptions are a component of wisdom, helping us to learn from previous streams of awareness. It is basing decisions and casting judgments based upon assumptions that have the potential to create errors and missed opportunities.
Jesus loved to shatter assumptions. People assumed how he should behave, how he should lead, why he did certain things, his motives.
It’s possible to summarize most of Jesus’ interactions with religious leaders with “don’t assume what I/my father/the Kingdom are up to/look like.” Time after time he is flipping the script on what is valued and who lands where.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” Mathew 7:21
It might not be who you assume.
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34 A whole crazy list of assumptions to challenge with this one. (we can unpack that later)
Challenging your assumptions does not require you to condone things that are in tension with your ideals, nor does it demand you change your mind, or release a prized opinion. It actually broadens your understanding and brings clarity. A validated assumption simply stands on more solid ground. Wisdom, boundaries, morals, ethics, these things are not threatened by a pause to examine your assumptions. However, neglecting to check in with the Holy Spirit and your own thought patterns could result in missed opportunities, staying stuck, ascribing someone false motives, or running ahead in your own tiny bubble – in a vacuum of your own ideas.
What would your meetings look like if you checked your assumptions?
What quick judgements might benefit from challenging your assumptions?
Do you know someone’s motive, or are you assuming?
After all, you know what they say about assumptions…No way I could post about the word assumptions without mentioning that cliche. 😉
Be sure to check back this week! I had a chance to record a conversation with the gentleman that sparked this post, Mitch Barnes. You won’t want to miss his insight.