Specifically, I want you to think about the beliefs and expectations you hold about those you lead. But before I get back to you personally, let me give you some background.
For many years research has been done in the realm of education related to The Pygmalion Effect, which says in effect that the positive expectations and beliefs of teachers about their students leads them to behave in ways (consciously or not) that promotes the confidence, effectiveness and results of the students. Research has been done as well to translate this into the workplace, looking at the beliefs of leaders and how it impacts the results of team members.
The research, while hard to always complete in a completely scientific way, shows that there is a real and significant correlation. For us as leaders that means that our belief in our team impacts their performance. (It works both ways – lower expectations/belief leads to lower performance – this is called the Golem effect).
People do their work, but our expectations and belief in them influences the quantity and quality of their work. As a leader we can’t ignore this fact.
A Historical Example
Dwight Eisenhower lead the Allied troops in the Normandy Invasion, the largest and most complex military operation ever. His leadership helped the Allies win World War II, and as an encore, he was President of the United States for 8 years. Several years after his retirement from public office he wrote:
“In our Army it was thought that every private had at least a Second Lieutenant’s gold bars somewhere in him and he was helped and encouraged to earn them . . . I am inclined by nature to be optimistic about the capacity of a person to rise higher than he or she thought possible once interest and ambition are aroused.”
There is plenty in this quotation to digest and think about (I have been doing so for about a week, and that led to me writing this article), but for our purposes, let’s talk about two pieces . . .
“Every private had at least a Second Lieutenant’s gold bars somewhere in him . . .”
Do you see Eisenhower’s belief in the Pygmalion Effect here? If you don’t know the “distance” from private to Second Lieutenant – it is a good leap (here are the ranks as shown on the US Army’s site). In the private sector, that would be like saying every front line employee has at least the potential to be a successful mid-level manager somewhere in them.
Do you see that in your people?
And secondly . . .
“ . . . and he was helped and encouraged to earn them”
Eisenhower did more than tacitly believe in people’s potential, he nurtured it, encouraged, and helped it come to life.
Is it any wonder the he was a successful leader in multiple situations?
For You as a Leader
All of this so far is a preamble for you to think about and hopefully act on these ideas. I’ll close with four application questions – three questions I encourage you to think about, write about, and perhaps even discuss with a trusted colleague.
– What do I believe about my team?
– Do my beliefs support me in becoming the leader and coach I want to be?
– If not, what could I do to change my perspective and beliefs?
And lastly –
– What actions will I take based on my answers?
The first three questions are important for you to consider. The fourth one though in the end matters most. Putting your beliefs into action, is what will ultimately make a difference.