Fb Share

Leadership Principle #36:  People's plans rarely match what they actually do.
“This is the self-assured city that lives in security, that thinks to herself: I am, and there is no one besides me. What a desolation she has become, a place for wild animals to lie down!” – Zep 2:15

The prophet Zephaniah warned the citizens of Judah that if they changed their rebellious ways, God would withhold punishment. Yet they ignored his warnings.

If you had surveyed the average citizen of Judah about their respect for God, they would’ve honored him with their lips, but their actions would’ve told a different story.

Market surveys today exhibit the same fallacy: people's walks don’t always match their talk.

Market research consultant Douglas Ryan writes that customers often skew their responses to reflect their ideal selves, not their actual selves (from “Watch, don’t listen,” Quirk’s Marketing Research Review, 2003).

They want to appear stronger, smarter, wiser, or whatever quality they lack. Ryan cites the 1939 Western Electric time and motion studies, in which researchers hunted for ways to improve the working environment in order to maximize productivity. “The experiments were confounded by the workers’ efforts to make a positive impression. Knowing they were being observed, the workers upped their output independently of the variables being controlled.”

Asking for consumers’ judgments and opinions, says Ryan, is not as reliable as recording the actual choices they make.

One of his proofs is AC Nielsen’s move to automated people meters from family TV viewing diaries. The survey company learned through beta tests that the meters actually highlighted the flaws in the diary process. “Memory, habit, and other human traits created a gap between what ‘Nielsen’ families filled out in their diaries and what it turned out they actually were doing.”

People haven’t changed much since Zephaniah’s day. Though they’re quick to offer their opinions and describe their actions, reality is not always represented. Observation remains the best measure of customer preferences and employee effectiveness.

As you seek feedback from people about their plans for the future, be mindful of the human tendency to elevate the ideal self over the real self. Don’t make plans based on the stated intentions of the masses – the only surety you can rely on is that people change their minds.

-- This post is from chapter 36 of Leading from the Lions' Den: Leadership Principles from Every Book of the Bible (B&H)

User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Patrick Paul
    This shows the weakness that lies doormen within the human falling nature, and the need to exam to ensure that what you are searching for, if its really there! I would want to thank Tom Harper for his tremendous insight!

    how can i get a copy of the book?

  • Lavern Brown
    I wonder, does this fall under Jeremiah's rubric that the heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things - deceiving even ourselves?
  • Tom Harper
    I think it does, Lavern - our sinful hearts surely contribute to our problems with living up to our commitments. Our hearts also drive us to want to look better or be smarter than we really are.
Leadership on the Verge

Latest posts by Tom Harper
Tom Harper
Tom Harper is president of Networld Media Group, a publisher of online trade journals and events for the banking, retail, restaurant and church leadership markets. He is the author of Leading from the Lions' Den: Leadership Principles from Every Book of the Bible (B&H).
'I don't like my church,' says the pastor

Pastor Danny Chambers came home one Sunday and said, "I don't like my church. I wouldn't attend my church." His wife said, "You need to define what a winning church looks like to you."

A six-step strategy for disciple-making

Maturing the believers in your church is the ultimate goal of the Great Commission. (Aubrey Malphurs at a consultant training session hosted by the Society for Church Consulting)

Ten tactics from Proverbs to help you manage conflict

This rapid-fire list of concepts and verses will arm you with things to do when conflict takes root in your church. (Tom Harper at Church Central Turnaround 20/20)

Elmer Towns: The next big church turnaround method

"Life groups are changing today's church." (From Church Central's Turnaround 20/20 summit in 2012)

John Maxwell launches a prayer meeting

When he was a pastor in San Diego, Maxwell went against the wishes of his board and started a new prayer ministry that helped the church grow. Here's how he did it. (Elmer Towns at Church Central Turnaround 20/20)

Do some churches do more harm than good?

When a church doesn't make disciples, its value to the Kingdom is questionable. (Aubrey Malphurs leading a training session for the Society for Church Consulting.)

How weaknesses help leaders win spiritual battles
Chuck Lawless, Dan Reeves and John Ewart talk about the power of brokenness in fighting Satan in a church turnaround situation. We all have weaknesses that the enemy is very aware of, and when we direct our fear toward God rather than him, we …
Bandero Road Church's 7 'how we live together' statements

Will Mancini discusses how this church defines what a disciple should look like in their congregation. (From Church Central Turnaround 20/20)

» View More Videos