- - Monday, August 17, 2015

In the Old Testament story of the prophet Samuel finding the next king for Israel — a replacement for the tall, handsome, and disobedient King Saul — Samuel went to the little town of Bethlehem and to the house of a man named Jesse.

There were plenty of sons from which to choose, but the Bible says the Lord directed Samuel to choose and anoint the youngest, David, who at the time was out tending his father’s sheep.

Samuel’s word to Jesse was that God’s evaluation of people works differently than our own powers of discrimination.

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:6-7

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a study that “suggests that when it comes to taking a company public, appearances can matter.” Researchers discovered that the raw financial data and objective, number-crunching prospectus of a business does not serve as the only measure of a company.

The more a chief executive’s gestures and manners exude competence during investor pitch sessions, or the CEO is viewed as attractive or trustworthy, the more likely he or she is to have a higher-priced IPO, according to the study conducted by Elizabeth Blankespoor of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, Bradley Hendricks of the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Gregory Miller of the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.
The finding might not be surprising to anyone who works in sales. But in the financial realm, investors often like to consider themselves beyond such superficial influences.
Instead, many believe they are swayed only by impressive revenue projections, management pedigree or market-share forecasts.

The study utilized 30-second clips of various CEO presentations. That short of a clip served only to give the viewer an instinctual feeling of whether the person was trustworthy, competent, or attractive. The content of the longer presentation may have swayed them otherwise, but that was not the point of the study. 

The point was that rapid judgments are made, and these have real-life influence over decisions that may be better served through objective criterion and analysis.

So what do we do with this? God may be able to look at the heart, but we are not God. We do make judgment — even, in this case, snap judgments — that evaluate people on the level of the character. Undoubtedly, we get some of these wrong … and stumble onto correct judgments sometimes too.

Perhaps the takeaway is that if you are in the process of making important decisions about people, pray that you get more than 30 seconds of interaction!

But what if you find yourself on the other end of the rapid-judgment stick? In that case, you may want to invest a few minutes reading up on the growing amount of material on body language. Books, websites, and body language gurus stand by waiting to help. Give them 30 minutes of your time and you may win a few of those 30-second snap judgments in the future.

Or, you can go tend some sheep for your dad.

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