Archive for October 2014

Order your copy of “Finding Purpose at the Intersection of Passion, Ability, and Opportunity”


Finding Purpose cover→ Order your copy of “Finding Purpose at the Intersection of Passion, Ability, and Opportunity,” available on Amazon (also available for Kindle). Click here to order a copy.

What is God’s purpose for you? What are you supposed to do with your life? These are difficult questions that we all wrestle with, often causing frustration, anxiety, or indecision. Using the concepts of passion, ability, and opportunity, Dr. Jeff McMaster presents a road map for identifying your individual purpose, and finding fulfillment in it. Based on principles from the Bible, these simple ideas can help you gain a better understanding of what God made you to do, and find fulfillment in it.2) You can get a free digital copy of my “Three Keys for Forming a Good Team” by signing up for email notices! On the Common Sense Leaders home page, enter your email address and first name (and I guarantee your information will not be shared with anyone else), and I will send you a free digital copy, containing three important factors to keep in mind when putting a team together.



Please and Thank You graphic

Would you please help spread the word?  My advertising budget pays for the cost of the free use of social media and nothing more; therefore I am relying entirely on “word of mouth” to make people aware of the contents of this blog and the availability of my recently published book.  If you find either or these resources to be helpful or valuable, would you help spread the word?



Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 1.03.32 PM→ You can get a free digital copy of “Three Keys for Forming a Good Team” by signing up for email notices! On the Common Sense Leaders home page, enter your email address and first name (and I guarantee your information will not be shared with anyone else), and I will send you a free digital copy, containing three important factors to keep in mind when putting a team together.



→ I am now available for professional consulting services! E.L.M. Consulting Services can provide professional services for analyzing and assessing your Educational organization, your Leadership, and/or your Ministry; for teaching and training those within your organization through workshops and seminars; and for assisting you in creating and communicating a plan and prescription for future growth, change, and development.

My experience and expertise in these areas, combined with my ability to make connections between an organization’s past, present, and future in a way that makes sense to people, can help you to identify, understand, and implement changes that will benefit the employees, the constituents, and the organization itself. Available services include:

Analyze and Assess: Identifying your story by observing, interviewing, surveying, studying, and interacting in order to provide an understanding of culture, strengths, and needs

Teach and Train: Growing your people through workshops and seminars that will provide professional development and training

Educational workshops and seminars –

  • Be-Attitudes of Better Teaching
  • A+ Education

Ministry workshops and seminars –

  • Teaching the Mind, Reaching the Heart
  • Build Your House on Solid Ground (Marriage Conference)
  • A Friend in Need (Lay Counseling Training)

Leadership workshops and seminars –

  • Be a Better Leader
  • Leadership University
  • Leadership Lessons from Ezra

Personal Development workshops and seminars –

  • Building Blocks for Personal Management
  • Things That Matter

Plan and Prescribe: Developing purpose by working with your leadership team to define, strategize, organize, connect, and communicate a vision and plan for growth and development


E.L.M. Consulting Services – Discovering Your Story, Developing Your People, Defining Your Purpose

Contact me at for more information.


Quotable (Dr. Jeff McMaster, on doing what works)

“Don’t change for the sake of change when what you have is working, and if what you have is not working, don’t keep doing it. Do what works. And keep doing it.”

Dr. Jeffrey S. McMaster

Do What Works

Do What Works

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly but expecting different results. Sometimes it seems this definition characterizes companies and organizations, because they will continue to do something even though it doesn’t work. Perhaps it is because it is tradition, or because it takes too much work to change, or even because the leadership doesn’t recognize that it doesn’t work, but they keep doing it.

Motorola is great example of this. In the late 80’s and early 90’s they were a leader in the analog phone business.   They were doing what worked at the time, but then something happened: digital technology was developed for cell phones, which completely changed the cell phone service industry. Analog phone technology would no longer be the technology that would drive cell phone production and use, but Motorola continued to invest in its analog technology, and as a result, ceased to be relevant in the cell phone business. They were no longer doing what worked, but continued to do it anyway.

Effectiveness depends on discovering what works and doing it. Often, it is at a micro-level within an organization that people figure this out. Schein describes it like this: “The general phenomenon of adapting the formal work process to the local situation and then normalizing the new process by teaching it to newcomers has been called ‘practical drift’ and is an important characteristic of all operator subcultures. It is the basic reason why sociologists who study how work is actually done in organizations always find sufficient variations from the formally designated procedures to talk of the ‘informal organization’ and to point out that without such innovative behavior on the part of the employees, the organization might not be as effective” (2010, p. 60). In simple words, the people who are on the ground floor tend to figure out how to adjust formal process and procedure in a way that works best, and they then teach it to new employees, which helps the organization to function better. In spite of what may be the written procedures, they do what works. An effective leader pays attention to this and maintains awareness and understanding of what is working and what is not, and will then use that understanding to help shape decisions.

Then, if it is working, keep doing it (as the old saying states, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”). This truth was evident in the research conducted by Collins & Hansen and published in Great by Choice (2011). They defined a SMaC (Specific, Methodical, and Consistent) recipe as “a set of durable operating practices that create a replicable and consistent success formula” (p. 128), and then noted that highly successful companies “adhered to their recipes with fanatic discipline to a far greater degree than the comparisons, and . . . they carefully amended their recipes with empirical creativity and productive paranoia” (p. 131). However, they also found that these companies “changed their recipes less than their comparisons” (p. 138). Their research revealed that companies that were doing things well and were thriving tended to continue doing what was working without great change. They were not subject to changing with the wind, or panic, or the latest fad, but held to the practices that they knew worked.

This has been one of my personal frustrations in the world of education. In my years as a teacher and school administrator, it seems like I have seen countless new programs and initiatives established, often to have another new one rolled out the following year. They have always been communicated as necessary for effective education, but many times it has reminded me of “stage one economics” – there appears to be an immediate short-term gain or value, but in the long term it is more detrimental than it is beneficial. But before that becomes apparent, the world of education has moved on to a new program.

As leaders, we need to be intentional about doing what works (which is generally evident in the results). And we need to not be afraid of allowing the people who would know best to have input, so we need to give people a voice in the process. This does not mean we don’t periodically assess and analyze, because we do need to make sure it still works, and we can often make minor tweaks that bring improvement. But don’t change for the sake of change when what you have is working, and if what you have is not working, don’t keep doing it. Do what works. And keep doing it.


Collins, J., & Hansen, M. T. (2011). Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck – Why Some Thrive Despite Them All. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.

Schein, E. H. (2010). Organizational Culture and Leadership (4th Edition ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Week of October 13, 2014

What Do You Think . . . happens when we don’t get the whole story?

At times, it is important to be able to react quickly and decisively, but it is also often easy to respond too quickly to information or circumstances without first getting the whole story.  We have a knee-jerk reaction, but with incomplete information or misinformation, which can then result in an action or response that we regret.  I know that I have done this, and it usually creates a mess with other people that I have to clean up.  What about you?  In your experience, what happens when you respond to something without first listening, asking questions, and getting the whole story?  Please share in the comment box below.

First Get the Whole Story

Early in my experience as an educator, I heard my administrator say to parents (tongue-in-cheek), “If you don’t believe half of what your student says happened in the classroom, we won’t believe half of what they tell us happened at home.” Like many humorous comments, this contains a morsel of truth. People have a tendency to represent facts in such a way as to paint themselves in the best possible light, and children are no different. Often over the years, I have fielded phone calls from parents who were contacting me because of what their child said happened in class (things like, “my child told me that the teacher said this in class!”). I quickly learned to redirect their concern to the teacher, so that the parent could hear the whole story. Nearly every time, the parent has come back to me and said, “Now that I have the whole story, it makes a lot more sense.” (And most of the time, the story the child told at home was an effort to cover up or misdirect from wrong choices of behavior made by the student in the classroom.)

There are two particular passages in Scripture that have greatly helped me to understand this idea. One is Proverbs 18:13, which says, “He who answers a matter before he hears the facts—it is folly and shame to him” (Amplified Bible). The Message says it even more plainly: “Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.” This verse was first shared with me by a professor when I was completing a marriage and family counseling internship, as an exhortation to probe and question thoroughly before drawing conclusions in the counseling setting. For quite a while, I literally kept the verse written on a notecard, taped on top of my desk, as a reminder. I have since learned that this verse applies to many circumstances, not just to a counseling session. When you deal with people (and most of us do), you will have the experience of people telling you the story from their own perspective, which will likely mean that it may or may not be true (as I shared in a previous post, “either it’s true or it’s not”). It is foolish and stupid to react or respond without first getting the whole story

The second verse is James 1:19, which says, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” As many grandmothers have shared with their grandchildren, “there’s a reason why God gave us two ears and one mouth; we should listen twice as much as we speak!” This verse has been a constant reminder to me to be careful to listen first, although in the process of my growth as a leader, it was a lesson that sometimes came the hard way.

In one particular organization in which I worked, I made a spectacular blunder that loudly and clearly drove this lesson home to me. I was leading a small group of event planners in planning for one specific event, and everyone in the group (except me) had been involved in that organization for several years. As the leader, I felt that I should take charge of presenting good ideas, so I began the first meeting by telling the rest of the group all of my ideas. My enthusiasm (combined with the fact that I had not yet established trust or relationship) resulted in the rest of the group shutting down while giving verbal support to my ideas. However, over the next few days I began to hear from others that the entire committee was frustrated with me, and the event was now in jeopardy. I had to go back to the committee and apologize for speaking without listening, and then I had to make it safe for them to talk. When I did that, I learned so much about the history and tradition associated with that event, and could see that I had been on the verge of causing damage to the culture. I needed to take the time to listen, understand history, and get the whole story.

The added bonus is that when you take time to learn the whole story, you are much more likely to be able to discern if it is true or if it is not.  In Deuteronomy 18:21-22, Moses provided some direction to the people of Israel to help them understand how to discern this, when he said, “And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.” He made the point that if you take the time to observe and get the whole story, beginning to end, you can tell if it is true or not.

It is easy for a leader to assume that leadership means taking charge and giving direction. However, I believe that these principles from Scripture give us a very different picture: leadership should be characterized by listening. Ask questions. Make it safe for people to share. Validate. And make sure you get the whole story before you react.