A leadership team member pulled me aside after a heated meeting. She voiced her concern about the apparent divisiveness of the team. She went on to cite two things about the meeting to support her concern.

She felt one of the leaders was frustrated with her. According to her, his body language spoke volumes. She also told me she felt purposely excluded from a side meeting. She felt the side meeting impacted her department and she should have been there.

I asked her what assumptions she is holding about the other team members.

The story of an assumption

An assumption is something you accept as true or certain. When you have an assumption, you do not have absolute proof of it being true. Despite the lack of evidence you will then start behaving as if the assumption is fact.

The problem with assumptions is that the longer you hold onto it, the more entrenched it will become. The problem is once the story is established I am subconsciously changing my behaviours.

I know how wrong my assumptions usually are. The key is that its just a story I’m making up. Often, the other person isn’t even aware I’m holding on to an assumption.

Letting go of my assumptions

One of the best ways to strengthen a relationship is to clear your assumptions out of the way. Take action which will cause the story you’re telling yourself to shift.

There are different ways to clear an assumption:

  • Tell the other person of your assumption. Approach the conversation with curiosity and turn that assumption into fact.
  • Let go of the assumption. Yes, it can be as simple as telling yourself you’re done operating with this assumption. Simply let go of the need to hang on.

Take our leader from the start of the story. She went to her colleagues and said “During the meeting when I noticed you looked displeased at one point. I assume it was something I said has upset you. Is that true?”

Through this simple conversation, she found out their concerns had nothing to do with her. In fact, as a result of this conversation, she went on to help them with resolving a big problem.

Leading with and without assumptions

We, humans, are assumption machines. The problem is assumptions will dampen the strength of your leadership and relationships.

Spot assumptions when they emerge and let go of them. You’ll find it much easier to operate and lead with facts.