Assumptions and Accountability

Whenever I assume, I make an ass out of you and me             (Ass-U-Me)

What’s great about getting out in the world and interacting with people is the opportunity to learn.  After all, life is a contact sport. And it seems that nearly every day I get a chance to learn something. And it seems that sometimes I have to learn the same lesson over and over. Hard headed is what my mom used to say!

Anyway, here’s the most recent lesson:

First of all, the alarm clock got messed up and I woke up late.  Seems we had a minor power failure during the night, so I jumped out of bed and hit the shower with only 30 minutes before my breakfast meeting.  I was already grumbling because it was a meeting set up by one of my partners with someone I had never met but who, in their words, “you really should meet, you’ll get along great!”  Ugh!  Anyway, out the door, briskly walking several blocks and arriving at the little restaurant with 1 minute to spare.  7:59am.

The place is nearly empty and of the three people at tables no one looked like they were waiting for someone.  I am usually pretty good at spotting people I don’t know and am supposed to meet, but no lingering eye contact.  I sit down, order coffee, pull out my iPad and scan my messages, nothing.  I scan my iPhone as well.  Nothing.  So I wait.  At 8:20 I make a call to my partner in order to get the phone number of my missing breakfast guest.

We’ve all been in a similar situation and I am not shy in saying that I was feeling annoyed.  After all, I had to rush and now I’m sitting here waiting.  My mind starts to play through various scenarios, mostly about how this person is being rude or that they just don’t care about time commitments, etc.  As a result my annoyance is growing.

So I get the phone number, call and she answers on the 4th ring (I probably woke her up my mind says).  Even the coffee in this restaurant is lousy.

I put on my best “I’m not annoyed” voice, say hello and introduce myself. And here’s where the lesson comes home, big time.

“Oh, John, I’m so glad you called.  Did you get my phone message last evening?  I have a little medical emergency and have been waiting at the hospital intake for the past two hours to see the doctor.  I am so sorry as I really did want to meet up with you.”

Assumptions are the termites of relationships.  Henry Winkler

Not just one lesson, but two!  First, I tend to let my subconscious mind play dirty tricks on me and fill in the missing information with mostly negative thoughts.  And I know (but  not well enough, yet) that thoughts create our emotional reality.  And my unconscious thoughts had been creating a very negative reality and negative feelings in me.  It wasn’t the situation, that she hadn’t shown up yet, it was my thinking about that situation.  Thoughts create our inner reality – need to keep learning that one.  As soon as I heard her explanation, my thinking changed and as a result, my annoyance disappeared to be replaced with concern (because now I was thinking about her welfare).

Every time you point the finger at someone, remember there are three pointing back at you!

Lesson number two:  accountability.  I have been meaning to call my mobile carrier and complain that my voice mail messages arrive late, nearly all the time, and that I have a hard time getting into my voice mailbox.  I have also been meaning to record a new message on my voicemail saying that I don’t always get messages on time so please either text or email me if it’s important.  I really have been meaning to do these things, for several weeks now, but alas, haven’t quite made the effort.  So, in actual fact, it’s my accountability for not getting her message, the result of the choices I have made, or in this case, not made (same difference!).

Next time you find yourself getting angry or annoyed, check your thinking.  You will be surprised at what negative thoughts (and assumptions) your subconscious mind is dwelling on. Thoughts become reality (our emotional reality).

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

E |      T | +44 207 584 3774      M | +44 7833 493 999

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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4 Responses to Assumptions and Accountability

  1. beldenmenkus says:

    Great post. It’s exactly those sorts of learnings one can always take another lesson in.


  2. SCMG says:

    Excellent! And if you’re really good at making assumptions, you’ll still be wrong more than 50% of the time. Not very good odds.


  3. Our natural assumption is always that the other person is wrong. More often than not, I find it is me that is in the wrong. It is always easier to apologize before I make an ass out of myself. Great post John.


  4. says:

    I genuinely enjoy reading through on this internet site, it has got great content.


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