The Danger of Assumptions

“…if you extract the precious from the worthless, you will become My spokesman” (Jeremiah 15:19).

In the book “Jack: From the Gut,” Jack Welch lays forth principles that will do us all well to learn:

  1. Control your destiny, or someone else will.
  2. Don’t manage. Lead!
  3. Change before you have to.
  4. Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it were.

Each value rings true, but let’s spend some time and address the last axiom. It identifies a common enemy to leaders: assumption.

In the ministry of shepherding people, we learn to depend on such tools as insight, intuition, judgment, and discernment. Developing and honing these skills makes for great leaders, but if any of these tools are used poorly or left unrefined, it opens the door to false assumptions within the team. The pathway of ministry relationships is littered with broken expectations from wrong assumptions!

For fear of being rejected, people tend to rationalize the need for accountability (acquiring advice before making conclusions.) No one likes his or her ideas vetoed, so we adopt the old saying: “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.”

It might be an intriguing adage, but it tends to produce undependable leaders.

Defining reality correctly is the best starting point, and the great leaders will learn how to be objective enough to minimize false illusions. Any inability or refusal to clearly define things will ultimately hurt you and the team.

So how do we mitigate wrong assumptions that can lead us too far down the road toward undesirable regrets?

  1. Over Communicate
    Don’t make the mistake of thinking that things don’t change. Going off of old conclusions is like navigating off of obsolete maps. You think you’re headed in the right direction, but you’re going to end up in the wrong place. Stop. Check your bearings and recalibrate. The sooner … the better.
  2. Maintain Healthy Relationships
    Unhealthy relationships will damage communication more than anything else. Where you are affects what you hear. If you are in a broken relationship, you will receive a broken signal. Don’t depend on that signal. It breeds false assumptions. When friendships break down, we stop candid with one another. Honesty and openness decreases, and we place the responsibility to communicate on the other person rather than on us. Don’t assume. It makes for bad blood. Get your relationship repaired first. It’s one of the best things you can do for you, your team, and your future!
  3. Make Your Goal to Understand Clearly
    We are all prone to “selective hearing.” Don’t make the mistake of being afraid of the truth. You might learn that life is not as bad as it seems. Leadership finds it purest source in understanding, but locating that starting place takes time, energy, and most of all, courage. Without these qualities, we invite unrealistic assumptions that can lead to self–deception.
  4. Get On The Same Team!
    Assumptions make for good lunchroom gossip. This is where we “whine and dine.” We whine for an hour and then have lunch. Don’t do it. Stay on the same team at all costs. The devil is most active in the shadows, and when we unsure, the shadows can overtake the sunshine. Pull back all the drapes and open all the windows. “If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” –1 John 1:7
  5. Write It Down!
    I am only learning this now (which is far too late!) But I am realizing that although I may understand something, it doesn’t mean that others do. Everyone will have his or her own concept of what was said, and to them, it IS what was said! I always say that there’s one thing worse than a church without vision. It is a church with too many visions! Write it down. Summarize it. Then send it back to the other person in an email to be certain that what you heard was what was said!

These simple principles can diminish the danger of false assumptions that leaves only broken expectations and soiled friendships. Don’t ignore these principles. It just might save you months of following the wrong map only to find yourself in a desert instead of paradise.

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