Archive for March 2015

You See What You Are Looking For

You have probably heard as often as I have that “perception is reality,” but the problem of perception is that you tend to see what you are looking for, whether it is there or not.

Here’s what happens: a person will form a perception about someone or something (usually based on an experience), and then will only see those things that reinforce that perception, therefore confirming its truth to that person. For example, if I have had an experience of clumsily stubbing my toe, I might begin to form the perception that I am ungraceful. I might then walk around my house for two weeks without stubbing my toe, but the next time I do stub my toe, I will say to myself, “see, look how ungraceful you are.” Rather than giving credit to how rarely I do it, I see the occasional time that I do, and see it as a confirmation of my clumsiness.

This happens all the time in organizations. Someone has a bad customer service experience, an unmet (or unrealistic) expectation, or has misinterpreted something due to misinformation or lack of context, and then they form a perception about you or about the organization. From that point forward, they tend to only notice those things that reinforce that perception.   So if they have formed a perception that you don’t care about your constituents, you may be demonstrating care frequently, but the next time you ignore their needs or don’t act helpful (whether unintentional or not), they see that as confirmation and reinforcement of their perception. Once that perception is in place, they will interpret everything through that lens.

As a school administrator, I have had several instances of a teacher being perceived as a poor communicator. In most of those circumstances, it began with the unintentional failure of the teacher to respond to a parent’s email. In some cases that parent’s email was flagged as spam, but more frequently, the parent had misspelled the teacher’s email address so the email was never received. Because there was no response, the parent began to believe the teacher did not communicate well with parents, and any email after that which did not receive a response reinforced that belief, and the parent began to spread that view among other parents. At that point, if the teacher answered a hundred emails and missed one, the one miss would reinforce the perception that had been formed. Once the issue came to light, it usually was a difficult process to correct that perception.

This can be frustrating, especially if you know the perception is wrong, and it can be very challenging and difficult to change. So what do you do when this happens? There are four practical steps you can take:

  1. Look for the truth in the perception. There was most likely some event or circumstance that initially prompted this perception. It may have been no fault of your own, or you may have simply messed up. Regardless, look for the mistake that has been made that needs to be corrected, whether it was a one-time event or an ongoing problem.
  2. Re-set. Address the cause of perception and take any necessary steps to correct what needs to be corrected. Communicate what you are doing to those who have been affected so that they can have an adjusted view (but also remember, they we likely be hesitant to believe any different until you prove otherwise).
  3. Over-compensate. For a period of time, you need to go overboard to counter the perception. People will be watching closely to see if their perception was valid or not, so you will be under scrutiny. This is going to be challenging and requires work, but it has to be done until expectations have been properly re-aligned.
  4. Create a new expectation. With the expectations appropriately established, now you can communicate the new (and realistic) expectations. If you have proven that you can be trusted, and have set realistic expectations that can be met, then you will start a new cycle of validating the new and positive perceptions.

Remember that we can be just as guilty of this perception error as anyone else; therefore it is important that we become self-aware about this problem of perception in ourselves. Check yourself, to make sure that you are seeing things correctly and that you not letting a single experience, misinformation, or incomplete information become the filter through which you are viewing everything. It is our tendency to see what we are looking for, and then to only see what reinforces the belief that has been formed. To change those perceptions requires intentional work.

Week of March 16, 2015

Take Advantage of These Available Resources!

Please and Thank You graphicWould 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?



Finding Purpose cover→ My book, “Finding Purpose at the Intersection of Passion, Ability, and Opportunity” is 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.



Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 1.03.32 PM→ 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.



What Do You Think? . . . What helps you see from God’s perspective?

It is true that we tend to see only what we are looking for, and to not see what we are not looking for.  However, it is important for a Christian leader to see the picture from God’s perspective.  Recognizing His hand and His purpose in circumstances has a profound effect on your purpose and motivation.  It is often not our first response to have an awareness of God’s involvement, therefore we must be intentional about having this view. Share some examples or lessons from your own experience that reflect the importance of seeing from God’s perspective. What has helped you to see God’s activity in your circumstances? How has seeing from His perspective helped your leadership? Please share in the comment box below.

See It From God’s Perspective

Throughout the Old Testament it is apparent that God has a sovereign plan and purpose – largely connected to the restoration of his house and of his people – and He works to carry out that plan. However, we usually spend our time acting completely unaware of that truth in our own lives today. We know that it is true, in a nebulous, spiritual truth kind of way, and we can see it clearly in retrospect (both in the stories in the Bible and in reflection of our own past experiences) but in the actual current day-to-day experiences of our lives, we behave as if we don’t realize it.

The events of Ezra provide a wonderful backdrop for us for seeing God’s perspective, for spotting His sovereignty at work in apparently random circumstances. The general story involves the fulfillment of the prophecy found in Jeremiah 29, when God foretold the return of the people of Israel to Jerusalem. The first half of Ezra, then, describes the return and the rebuilding of the temple, while the second half of the book describes Ezra’s return with spiritual leaders a number of years later. Although God’s sovereignty is evident all through the book, interspersed throughout are a number of references that specifically point out His intentional involvement. Among these verses are the following:

  • Ezra 1:1, “the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom”
  • Ezra 1:5, “all those whose spirits God had moved, arose to go up and build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem”
  • Ezra 5:5, “the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, so that they could not make them cease till a report could go to Darius”
  • Ezra 6:22, “for the Lord made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God”

These verses reveal that God’s sovereignty is evident from start to finish, throughout all of the events and activities that were taking place. They also reveal that God’s sovereignty occurs both externally – directing outside circumstances, people, and activity – and internally – moving in the hearts of people, including me.

It is against this backdrop that we learn from Ezra how to see the big picture from God’s perspective, and how that affects motivation and purpose. The lesson emerges in chapter 7, a pivotal chapter in understanding Ezra’s leadership (I touched briefly on this in a previous post, Ezra’s Model of Team Leadership). The chapter details how Ezra had been granted permission by King Artaxerxes to return to Jerusalem (with another reminder of God’s hand in that circumstance in 7:6 – “and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him”). But then the king went beyond granting permission, and wrote a letter that provided authority, protection, and significant resources for Ezra (7:11-26). After the proclamation of the letter, Ezra’s initial response is recorded in verse 27: “Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king’s heart.” His response clearly reveals that Ezra saw God’s hand in all that had happened. He was able to look beyond his own finite, human scope of vision and see the events from God’s perspective. He recognized that God’s purpose was over and through the circumstances.

As a result, he understood the real importance of what was happening, which in turn shaped his purpose and drive, and his communication to his team, which we see in 8:28: “And I said to them, ‘You are holy to the Lord; the articles are holy also; and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering to the Lord God of your fathers.” Ezra helped his team to understand that God had a sovereign purpose, and therefore the tasks that they were carrying out were being used by God to fulfill that purpose; therefore also, their work was holy. Ultimately, an understanding of the holiness of their task (and of themselves) impacted their drive, their commitment, and their performance.

This story from the life of Ezra provides a great lesson for our leadership: while it is important – and even necessary – for a leader to be able to see the big picture, the Christian leader must take it a step further and see the big picture from God’s perspective. Then, when our understanding and determination of purpose are filtered through the  recognition of God’s purpose, it affects how we answer two important questions: Where are we going, and why are we going there?

It is always important for a leader to determine and define the necessary and intended direction – where we are going – but part of understanding this comes from seeing the bigger picture of context from God’s perspective. When you are able to do that – to see the big picture from God’s perspective – you have an understanding of destination that goes beyond the visible and immediate future. You recognize a purpose that is bigger than you, that is bigger than your big picture, and which has an eternal impact.

What follows is an impact on motivation, or why we are going in that direction. For people to respond, there must be a clearly established and communicated purpose and motive, one that makes sense to and resonates with people, and helps them to understand and believe in why they are doing what they are doing. When they can see that they are fulfilling a role in God’s plan, then the work they are doing is elevated to a new level of importance; more than that, it is elevated to an act of holiness. For the follower of Jesus, this provides true motivation.

So, seeing the big picture is important, but seeing it from God’s perspective is more important. The challenge for you and me is to learn to open our eyes to God’s presence and intentional involvement, not just in the history recorded in Scripture, but in our lives today. It is to see the events and circumstances that are taking place in our daily experiences from His perspective. And when our eyes have been opened, and we recognize His sovereign purpose, then our responses, our purpose, our motives, and our motivation rise to whole new level.

Week of March 9, 2015