Our expectations of others affect their performance
9 November 2021
As we make the transition from launching to leading a business, we run into a very old idea as we work with employees: our expectation of them affects their behavior and ability to achieve.
This idea is demonstrated in Greek mythology. Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with his carving of a woman, and by virtue of his treating the sculpture like a real woman, the sculpture came to life with a little help from the gods. This archetype of belief in someone has been replicated over time (Pinocchio, anyone?), and these principles are also used extensively in teacher education, because how you treat students affects how well they learn.
Although the principle of Pygmalion is no longer debated, having been proved over and over for such a long time, leaders often – sometimes subtly – demonstrate their superiority, experience or control instead of belief in an employee’s ability.
So is it a “productivity hack” to just be positive all the time? Will that get people do do better and work more?
Not exactly. If we want to affect our employees positively as a leader, we can’t fake our belief in them or our attitude towards them. A facade won’t positively affect the outcome.
But if we truly believe what an employee can do in the right environment, with the right support and timeline, employees will achieve more. How do we truly believe? A leader must be realistic and believe based on the employee’s capacity and understanding of business resources and demands. “Realistically hopeful” is a good place to be here.
Additionally, we are the ones who need to provide our employees with the right environment, support and timelines. This is an important part of the relationship that leaders must develop with the people in their company, and demonstration satisfaction and pride is part of that.
Lastly, this principle also is part of how you treat yourself. Realistic belief in what you are capable of, giving yourself the right support and environment and positive self-reinforcement will boost your abilities.
Challenge your employees and yourself – kindly and realistically.
Share this post with someone who might be interested using the buttons below, or head back to Practical Resources.
Receive ideas like this every week: new articles on leadership and running a business you started.