Thursday, February 16, 2012
LOOK BEYOND “WHAT IS OBVIOUS” TO EXPERIENCE “WHAT IS POSSIBLE”
Our first impressions and preconceived notions influence our attitudes as we work with others. Until (and unless) we allow ourselves to view people with an open mind, seeking the value they bring rather than limiting the contributions they may make, we will not be able to realize their significance. We must dig deeper as we deal with others – continually seeking to identify the “method to their madness” as we deliberately limit the “madness from our own methods.”
Unfounded perceptions can negatively influence both thinking and action – potentially undermining both individual contribution and organizational success. I was working with the owner of a small machine shop that was struggling financially. The owner told me that he would like to have a “whole shop full of employees like the 76-year old who had retired before coming back to work, citing his loyalty and leadership ability as being inspirational to his other employees. His employees told me they were always looking for other opportunities – not so much because they did not like the work but rather because they did not want to end up working until they died because they couldn’t afford to retire.” I then spoke to the 76-year old and found that he was aware of what the owner and his fellow workers thought – but that neither knew the REAL reason he worked – that “if I ever met his wife I would know why he still came to work!” Often our perceptions can taint our thinking. ALWAYS take time to learn the facts before leaping to judgment!
Acting on available information without asking for clarification can often lead to disaster.
Many years ago, my wife and son were engaged in a heated discussion when I arrived home from work. It seems that he had been sent to the principal’s office for “hitting a kid with leaves” on his very first day of kindergarten. She could not understand why “throwing leaves at someone” was an offense worthy of a principal’s attention. He could not understand why she kept asking him about the situation after he had clearly and concisely answered her questions. I looked at my son and asked, “How big of a stick were the leaves attached to?” Upon hearing the “right” question he brightened and made a circle with his fingers and said, “Oh, about this big – nobody asked me that!” We often lose sight of where we are going because we are so focused on what we know as determined by where we have been and what we have experienced. Never form an opinion without first thinking about all the things that COULD BE rather than simply focusing upon what we think IS.
Others truly do matter in life. They can lift us up or weigh us down depending on how we view their contribution to our well-being. If we verify our perceptions before we pass judgment we can often avoid making assumptions that could lead us down the wrong path. If we ask for help and opinions from others before acting on our own – particularly when they may have already “been there and done that” – our journey can become much easier. If we truly seek what others can contribute (and listen to their words when we see their mouths moving) we may find support and affirmation coming from unexpected sources all around us. People will always say (and do) the strangest things. Make sure you pay enough attention to what they are saying or doing (and sometimes what they may NOT be saying or doing) that you can enjoy the difference their input makes in your life (AND you in theirs). Maximize the harvest this life offers by intentionally acting with discernment – by ALWAYS seeking prior to judging and listening prior to acting.