Any person who selects a goal in life which can be fully achieved, has already defined his own limitations. – Cavett Robert
In his book, Winning Every Day, legendary football coach Lou Holtz shares a story about a
man whose car tumbled into a ditch. He called a farmer for some help, but the
farmer said, “You’d need a team of young stallions to pull that car. I only
have one horse, Dusty. He’s blind and old. We’ll bring him over to the ditch,
though, and see what he can do. But don’t expect too much.”
The farmer hitched Dusty to the car, snapped a whip in the air, and said, “Pull, Jimmy
pull!” Dusty never moved. The farmer snapped the whip again and said, “Pull,
Sammy pull.” Dusty still didn’t move. The farmer snapped the whip a third time
and said, “Pull Charley pull.” Dusty remained still. The farmer snapped the
whip the fourth time and said, “Pull, Dusty pull.” With one mighty tug, Dusty
yanked the car out of the ditch.
The grateful driver shook the farmer’s hand and said, “Thanks for freeing my car; but
there’s something I don’t understand. Dusty never moved when you kept calling
him by those different names. Why didn’t you just call Dusty by his name from
the start?” The farmer replied, “I had to call out those three names first.
Dusty is blind. If he’d thought he had to do all that work by himself, he never
would have even tried.”
The perceptions you have go a long way not only in defining your leadership style
but in shaping the direction of your organization. Get it wrong and the
consequences can be devastating. Despite the perceptions of the farmer, the horse
accomplished the task and removed the car from the ditch. What will be the
consequence of your perceptions? Here are three things to remember as you
formulate your perceptions about your organization and your people.
Perceptions shape your reality. The perception you place on your
organization or colleagues is a powerful belief. Consider this; if the people
in your organization were to rise to the level of your perception of them,
would your organization be in a better place?
While it’s been said that perception is reality, that statement is not quite true. It
becomes true when you and your team take ownership of it. Sherwood Eddy said,
“Faith is not trying to believe something regardless of the evidence; faith is
daring to do something regardless of the consequences.” And this is the secret
to your leadership. The greatest compliment you can give to your team is a
faith in them that surpasses your perceptions of them.
Perceptions shape your direction. What you believe about your people
and what they buy into shapes the direction all of you will travel. Consider
this; if the people in your organization were to go in the direction of your
perceptions of them where would that take you? Your perceptions are to your
organization what a rudder is to a ship. Perceptions navigate the direction of
John Maxwell writes, “Being able to navigate for others requires a leader to possess a
positive attitude. You’ve got to have faith that you can take your people all
the way. If you can’t confidently make the trip in your mind, you’re not going
to be able to take it in real life. Sometimes it’s difficult balancing optimism
and realism, intuition and planning, faith and fact. But that’s what it takes
to be effective as a navigating leader.” If you are not comfortable with the
direction you are taking your team then examine your perceptions. Your team
deserves a leader with a positive attitude who has faith in their ability.
Perceptions shape your destiny. If you want to know what the future
has in store for you as a leader and that of your organization then look no
further than your perceptions. Consider this; if you and your organization are
going to live out the destiny of your perceptions of them, do you have a bright
Your team deserves a leader who does not put a lid on potential, but by his or her perceptions
communicates that its future is bright and its possibilities are limitless. Abraham
Lincoln said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at
a time.” And one day at a time our perceptions shape our reality, our
direction, and our destiny. How safe are your perceptions?
© 2011 Doug Dickerson
Follow Doug at Twitter.com/managemntmoment