Assumptions: Why Leaders Should Let Them Go

By Linda DeLuca, Executive Coach 

challenge_assumptionsSusan and Ron often experienced friction in their conversations and this time was no different. She walked into the room with her jaw clenched and a determination to get her way at all costs. Ron, already seated, didn’t acknowledge Susan as she entered, but rather, was engrossed in the quality reports.

Susan dropped her notebook on the table and sat down. Ron looked up for a brief moment and then went back to his reports. The rest of the team arrived and the meeting was underway.

It was clear to the rest of the team that Ron and Susan would continue to disagree on almost every discussion point on the agenda. The meeting ended as usual – with frustration and very little resolution on the problems they faced as a team.

Walking out of the meeting, Susan recognized the need to somehow put an end to this stalemate and immediately called her coach, Jill.

Over lunch, Jill listened carefully to Susan’s recount of the meeting. There was something missing in the description Susan provided and Jill was sure it was important.

“Susan, what were you doing right before you went into the meeting?”

“I was in my office reviewing the reports and the email exchanges I’d had with Ron. I swear he just wants to make my team look bad.”

“Really?”

Your Worst Enemy Might Be Inside Your Own Head

As they dove deeper into the events just before the meeting, Jill and Susan discovered something. Susan wasn’t aware that her worst enemy wasn’t in the meeting room, but was inside her own head.

Susan realized she carries with her expectations and assumptions about her interactions with Ron. As she read the email exchanges her mind was busy looking for signs and signals to support her assumptions, reinforcing them and making it difficult to notice if there were any conflicting signs.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Your worst enemy might not be sitting across the table from you…he might be inside your head. ” quote=”Your worst enemy might not be sitting across the table from you…he might be inside your head. “]

She wanted to be open to the possibility that Ron wasn’t out to get her, but somehow she couldn’t change how she entered the room and that seemed to set the tone for how Ron responded to her.

Jill asked Susan to notice her thoughts before each meetings with Ron and ask herself a few questions:
-What was she thinking when she was preparing for the meeting?
-What were her thoughts as she made her way to the meeting?
-What thoughts came up as she saw Ron?
-What was she assuming about Ron? About the situation? About herself?

That simple change, observing her thoughts, helped Susan to recognize that she was bringing her own resistance into the meeting with Ron.

Shift Your Thoughts to Challenge Assumptions

Jill and Susan continued to work on shifting her thought leading up to her interactions with Ron and other team members.

Susan began to reframe her relationship with Ron from one of judgement to one of curiosity. As her thoughts changed, her behavior changed and she began to ask more questions than give answers when discussing the quality reports with Ron and the team.

By changing her thoughts and the questions that were inside her head, she changed the trajectory of the conversation and the relationship.

We all bring assumptions and expectations into our business interactions. The question is: how are those assumptions affecting your impact as a leader?