Jan 13

Perceiving Creatively: The Gift and the Skill

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How effective are you in perceiving creatively? How readily can you change the way in which you perceive any given person? How quickly can you see a win-win opportunity in a challenging situation? How easily can you help the people around you perceive a specific person or situation in a way that opens up compelling possibilities for your people and your company?

People typically consider perceiving to be a passive act. Consequently, their first perception of someone is often their last one. Leaders may use validated tools to assist them in assessing talent. Their initial perception, validated by an assessment tool, is believed then to be an accurate one. Some leaders take pride in their ability to identify talent. Most take pride in their ability to develop it. They strategically invest more time developing talent. The results they achieve in developing talent further validate their initial assessment and any tool they may use to identify talent. Their results also confirm their ability to develop talent. The failure of those who lack talent further reinforces the accuracy of the leader’s initial assessment. Leaders do not typically see how the way in which they perceive a specific person with or without assistance from a validated tool impacts the outcome. They do not see the self-fulfilling prophecies that result from their initial assessments and their subsequent perceptions and actions that are influenced by that initial assessment.

I once coached Jack, a retired CEO, in his role as a volunteer mentor. He was working with someone receiving public assistance to help his mentee become self-sufficient. Jack confided in me that his mentee seemed to be a hopeless cause, and Jack felt he lacked the skills to make a positive impact. Because I knew the current CEO, Sam, who had stepped into Jack’s former position, I used Sam as evidence to Jack of his skills and effectiveness as a mentor. Jack responded to me that he did not believe that he had anything to do with Sam’s success. Jack had always seen Sam as already having all of the talent and skills that he needed. Jack was unable to see that the way in which he perceived and then treated Sam was empowering to Sam. Jack had not considered the possibility that he had created a self-fulfilling prophecy with a positive effect by the way in which he perceived and then treated Sam. With the mindset of a successful CEO, Jack maintained his commitment to his mentee. Six years later his mentee stepped into a professional position where he was making enough money for his family to be totally self-sufficient.

Perceiving creatively is a learned skill. To develop this skill, you will want to first understand perceiving to be a creative act. Everyone perceives creatively. Few people own their creativity. Owning your perceiving as a creative act is the first step in your journey to elevate this skill. One easy way to begin to own perceiving as a creative act is to really listen to your spouse or partner whenever you are having a disagreement. When you can readily see the way in which your partner perceives a given situation as a valid view, then your partner will appreciate you, and you will be developing this skill. The ability to perceive creatively is a precious God-given gift, one you can develop into an awesome skill. Through disciplined practice you can learn to perceive any person or situation at any moment in ways that open up compelling possibilities for your company and the people around you and especially the people not previously identified as talent.

Keith Weedman, Principal
Level 3 by Design

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