The Power of Connection – Part 3

Several years ago, while living in southwest China, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of local Chinese people. It was a mixed group. There were families with children present, and men and women from different backgrounds. Another important part of the mix was that only about a third of the people spoke English and I didn’t speak Mandarin, so I had to speak through an interpreter. I had never done that before.

The whole process was fun and interesting. When you’re speaking, you look for clues to let you know whether you’re connecting with the audience. A couple of times I said something funny. That’s when I knew for sure which members of the audience spoke English. They laughed immediately. The others didn’t laugh until the interpreter finished translating what I’d said. A good reaction, but the delay took some getting used to.

After the event was over, the interpreter came to me and confessed she had been nervous a first. She hadn’t been interpreting for very long and wasn’t sure how it was going to go. She said, “I’m so glad you have experience speaking through an interpreter. It made is so much easier for me.” It was my turn to confess. When I told her that was my first time, she expresses surprise. I asked her what made it easier for her. She said, “You kept your words and sentences simple and you paused appropriately to give me time to translate.”

Practices of Connection

In my last two posts, I mentioned Principles of Connection. Namely, to connect you must value people, and to connect goes beyond words. This week and next week, I want to talk about two practices of connection, how it works. this week – Connection happens when we keep it simple. That’s not as simple as it sounds. Steve Jobs said, “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Here are some tips for keeping things simple:

  1. Talk to people, not above them – I once had a colleague who loved words. I get it, I love words, too. He loved to expand his vocabulary and was very intelligent. There’s nothing wrong with that. The problem for this person was that when he talked to his employees, he used his vocabulary and came across as condescending. Whether you use big words or industry jargon or just love the acronyms of your industry, your communication won’t be connection unless it’s aimed at your listeners heart not just their head.
  2. Get to the point – Connectors don’t fly around and around the airport before landing the plane. It’s a good idea to beat the listener to the question, “What’s the point?” If they are asking “What’s the point” before you get to the point, you’re not connecting.
  3. Say it clearly – make sure you understand what you’re trying to say before you try to say it. The old saying, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, then baffle them with … (you know the rest)” doesn’t apply when you’re trying to connect with people. Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, pointed out, “Insecure managers create complexity. Frightened, nervous managers use thick, convoluted planning books and busy slides filled with everything they’ve known since childhood.” Clarity wins the day for connecting.
  4. Say less – enough said!

Landing the Plane

A good rule of thumb for keeping it simple is to ask the question,”Can people repeat to someone else what i just said to them?”

The Power of Connection – Part 2

Happy 2nd Birthday to Engager Dynamics! Last year I called it an Anniversary and summarized what the blog is all about. My first post, Star Performance, went up on April 15, 2018. So this is celebration week. So much has happened since that post. I was working for a different company at the time. I’ve joined the John Maxwell Team since then. You can check out my Team page here. What’s been happening in your life over the last two years? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

Last week I started a series for this month called The Power of Connection. We’re talking about connection because connecting with people increases your influence with them, and, thereby, it increases your ability to help them. Any leader worth their salt has helping their people as a primary goal. So, last week we focused on the principle that connection is all about others.

Principles of Connection

Another principle of connection is that connection goes beyond words. That makes sense when you remember that connection is more emotional and. while some words can carry an emotional charge, words are largely informational and content focused. The connection comes from the other parts of communication.

For example, one study showed that only 7% of what is believed comes from what we say. Another 38% of what people believe comes from the way we say what we say, things like tone of voice and facial expression make a huge impact, for example. The remaining 55% of what people believe derives from what they see. What does your body language say and how consistently do your actions align with your message?

Add up the percentages and you will see that 93% of our connection/communication is unrelated to our actual words. So, our tone and actions can far outweigh whatever it is we’re trying to say. When that happens we actually disconnect with people.

People may hear your words but they feel your attitude. People will not always remember what you said. They will not always remember what you did. But, they will always remember how you made them feel.

Putting It Into Practice

The current health crisis is a prefect opportunity to see the power of connection. Think about the communication you’ve experienced over the last several weeks. What has been the content? The CDC recommends washing hands frequently, social distancing, and now suggests wearing a mask in public is a good idea. There is also the constant counting of confirmed cases and deaths worldwide, in the US, and locally by county.

That’s all information. How are those who are communicating the information behaving? Now, think about people’s attitudes. Do people believe what they’re hearing? How can you tell? What has been the most effective example of connection you’ve seen during this crisis? What has been the least? What’s the difference?

I just finished reading a chapter in Rudi Giulilani’s book, Leadership, called “Study, Read, Learn Independently.” Near the end of the chapter he writes about the impact Winston Churchill had on his leadership. Even though he suffered from depression, Churchill was able to inspire the people of England while Nazi bombs fell on London during WW II. Giuliani writes,

Luckily, most leaders, from executives to mayors, aren’t forced to worry about military action or the wartime safety of their citizens. However, when my hometown was attacked from the air–a few blocks from my office, a few miles from my home–and thousands of New Yorkers were killed, including hundreds who rushed to save others, I felt grateful to have studied the life of such a leader. The inspiration and encouragement I derived from reading about Winston Churchill was there when I needed it.

Who is making us feel inspired and hopeful. How are we doing that for others?

The Power of Connection – Part 1

During this COVID-19 “stay at home” directive our oldest daughter has been doing jigsaw puzzles. She’s done 3 or 4 1,000 piece puzzles. She gets the hard ones and dives right in. Pieces spread out over the dining room table she starts by hunting down the edge pieces and connects the border. Then she color coordinates piles of pieces and compares them to the picture on the box to find out where they belong. If you’ve ever done a puzzle like that, you know the thrill of finding where that piece belongs and connecting it.

The thrill of making connections is in more than just puzzles. It’s also there in relationships. You’ve heard someone say, “I think we made a real connection,” when talking about someone they’ve met, right? That comment is usually made with some positive emotion, isn’t it? Connection is an emotional level bond. The word “Connect” comes from Latin con – “with” and nectere – “to bind” leading to many definitions. One of those `is “to form a relationship or feel an affinity”

During this month I’d like to discuss connecting with people as an important part of our ability to lead. Communication is very important. Getting the right information to the right people at the right time is critical to getting things done. Bu there’s more to it.

I was at a senior leader meeting in Jackson Hole Wyoming several years ago. It was an annual event set up by the CEO of that company designed for strategic planning. At one of the sessions during this particular event, the CEO let the team know some people had been talking to him about buying the company. He shared from his heart about what the company meant to him personally (he had founded it) and why he wasn’t interested in selling.

That level of communication was a little out of character for him but he really connected with us in that moment. After that session I told the CEO that when he connected with us like that, we would walk through walls for him. There was a very different atmosphere on the team from that session on. We found more synergy and purpose and accomplished far more than had been expected for that retreat.

Principles of Connection

We are emotional beings at the core so sharing a common mind (which is what happens in communication) is more likely when we make a heart connection with people. You’ve heard the quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt,

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

That’s true. And that leads to the first principle of connection. Connection begins with others. It begins with having the maturity to see and act on behalf of others. Immaturity is seeing and acting on behalf of myself alone. But, in the words of John Holmes, “It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.” It’s foolish then, isn’t it, to think that the universe should revolve around me.

When people meet with you they have the same questions of you that you have of them, namely:

  1. Do you care for me? (or, What do you think of me?)
  2. Can you help me?
  3. Can I trust you?

That first one may seem a bit odd. But question #5 on the Gallup Organization’s Employee Engagement survey asks, “Does your supervisor, or someone at work seem to care about you as a person?” The very presence of that question on a 12 question survey signals how important this is. When people feel valued, they connect. When they don’t feel valued they remain disengaged.

So, the first principle of connection is to value others and to let them know you value them. What can you do today to let someone know you value them?

How to Develop Leaders – Empower Them

Have you ever been asked to be responsible or been held accountable for something you didn’t have the authority to change? It happens all the time. Leaders will delegate a task to an employee with clear expectations of outcome and timeline but will retain the decision making authority. Usually, whatever that leader hoped to gain by delegating that task is lost because it winds up back on their plate for decisions. On top of that, the leader has created a frustrated employee. On the other hand, when leaders empower others, when they give both responsibility and authority, the reverse is true. That leader has actually streamlined their operation and are developing leaders around them.

Practice the law of empowerment

If you want to be a successful leader, you must know how to empower others.Theodore Roosevelt said, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and the self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”So, if you want to empower others:

  1. Turn people loose. Find strong leaders to empower. Build them up, give them resources, authority, and responsibility. Turn them loose to achieve.
  2. Help them to reach their potential. Be on their side, encourage them, give them power, and help them to succeed.
  3. Raise them up. To keep people down, you have to stay down with them. The more you raise people up, the more you go up too.
  4. Be willing to change. Effective leaders are not only willing to change; they become change agents.
  5. Develop a strong sense of self-worth. If you don’t believe in yourself, you will be threatened by the success of others, and you will eventually look for ways to undermine them. Believe in yourself, your mission, and your people.

If you take these steps you will be well on your way to developing leaders around you thus multiplying your influence.

How To Develop Leaders – Add Value

Last month I focused on Leadership from the perspective of leading others with a series called “How to Become a Person of Influence.” This month the focus is still Leadership but from the perspective of developing leaders around you. John Maxwell has said, “If its lonely at the top, you’re not doing something right.” One of the important jobs of a leader is to work themselves out of a job by developing people around them to take over or to lead somewhere else.

I recently participated on the interview panel for a director level position in a healthcare environment. We interviewed several highly qualified candidates. The one who got the job was the one who had a demonstrated track record of developing leaders. Her previous employer had sent several high potential people to her for the purpose of being mentored by her. She said, “When they moved up and on, it was hard to see them leave, but it was gratifying to see them lead.”

Mind Shift

Many people have heard the leadership definition that says, “Leadership is getting things done through people.” Unfortunately, too many have interpreted that to mean “I get everything I can out of my people.” It sounds like “Value Extraction.” We define value extraction as the capturing of value from other stakeholders, either outside or inside the corporation, by manipulating … the competitive market or people for the company’s benefit.

Here’s another definition that sounds eerily similar – “an organism that lives in or on an organism of another species (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the other’s expense.” That’s the definition of a parasite! Do you know any parasite leaders?

Genuine, effective, transformational leadership is the opposite of that. The best leaders focus on adding value to people, not trying to extract value from them. Earlier I mentioned developing leaders. I love how the definition of “Develop” fits the leadership model so well. “Develop” – to grow or cause to grow and become more mature, advanced, or elaborate. From Latin dis – un, and envelop – to wrap, so to unfurl or unfold. I see a bud unfurling when the flower blossoms as a great analogy to the growth and development of people.

With a plant you cultivate the soil and add water and sunshine to promote growth and development. It’s the same with people. To promote growth and development you cultivate a growth climate and add value. Value is a measure of something’s worth or usefulness. When you add value to someone, you increase their worth and usefulness to the organization. What better way to get things done than to increase the worth and usefulness of your people? When you add value, you multiply your influence and create a legacy.

How Do You Do That?

How do you add value to another person? Here are three suggestions.

  1. Make yourself more valuable – During a pre-flight safety demonstration, the flight attendant will say, “In the unlikely event of a loss of cabin pressure … put on your oxygen mask first, before helping the person next to you,” The principle is similar. You have to have value to add value. Do you have a personal development plan? Have you intentionally built into your schedule regular opportunities to learn and grow? Doing that will ensure you always have value to add and it will set an example for your people to follow.
  2. Find out what your people value – whenever I start working with a new group, I try to have a one-on-one meeting with every member of the team. I ask several questions. Some are designed to ascertain how things are going but I also ask questions to find out what the people care about and how they want to grow. This requires that you listen well (check out my “super-power listening” series). That information will help you develop a growth plan for them.
  3. Connect the dots – What knowledge or skills do you have or have access to that they value and need? Share. Some people think it makes them powerful to have knowledge or skills that others don’t have. I promise you, sharing your knowledge and skills with your people will make you more powerful because it will multiply your influence. If you don’t have the particular knowledge or skills your people need, make it available to them through educational opportunities, resources, and experiences.

I had the privilege of working with a large hospital system for over a year on their training program for front line supervisors in the Environmental Services (Hospital Housekeeping) Department. We broke the learning into three categories of acquisition: Education (classroom or online learning opportunities), Exposure (giving developing leaders the opportunity to experience something for the first time, maybe attend a higher level meeting, for example), and Experience (providing the chance to try something new, like lead a morning huddle or a process improvement team).

You may or may not be the source of your people’s “Education” piece. But, you certainly can give them “Exposure” and “Experience.” And those are the most powerful ways to learn.

What are three things you could do today to add value to someone?

Celebrating 100!

This is the 100th post for Engager Dynamics! Whoo Whoo … celebrate good times, c’mon!” I love that song! Anyway, it’s the 100th post since I’ve been numbering them like I currently do. I write my posts in Evernote then copy and paste them into my website engagerdynamics.com with wordpress. WordPress automatically posts them to LinkedIn and I paste the link into my facebook profile manually since facebook stopped allowing automatic postings awhile ago. I recently created a facebook business page for Engager Dynamics and am working on improving that. I said “at least since I’ve been numbering them the way I do” because WordPress tells me I’ve actually posted 107 times. That’s because I posted a few extras in the middle of the week that I numbered with an “a” after the main post number.

What’s It All About?

I’ve been providing contracted services to clients in multiple industries for over 20 years. In some of those engagements we provided staff who were supervised by the client’s leadership team. It was particularly clear in those situations how strongly lack of engagement negatively impacted the business. I’ve observed that same negative impact within organizations I’ve worked for as well as within partner organizations. Those who really engage are rare and that bothers me. So, I decided to add value by sharing some important truths I’ve learned along the way and that’s what got me started with this blog.

I normally post every Monday morning before 6 AM on the west coast. In my second post, nearly two years ago, I defined what I mean by Engager Dynamics. In short, this blog is about the things we can do to connect or engage with people at work in ways that improve relationships and organizational outcomes. The posts fall into four main categories;

  1. Engager Dynamics (the core actions that lead to engagement)
  2. Leadership (topics a little more broadly about leadership)
  3. Habit Formation (how to make a habit of doing the good stuff)
  4.  Listening (a skill so critical it deserves its own category)

You can find the last 15 posts in each category listed on my “Posts by Category” page. Some of them overlap and there is another category on that page called “Words.” I call myself a word nerd, and this category captures posts where I share a specific word definition or two regardless of the main topic.

What’s Next?

Over the last few years I’ve developed a training that has been well received by several clients. The training focuses on the specific actions leaders can take to engage with their people. I’ve been refining the training lately and recently did an informal poll of readers to see which title would be more interesting. I had two choices 1. “Best.Boss.Ever. – How to Be the Best Boss Your People Will Ever Have” or 2. “The 12 Transformational Laws of Engagement.” Just over 70% preferred number 2.

The next question is delivery method. In addition to offering the training in person, I’d like to make it available more widely. I wonder how people might prefer to receive it. I could present it in an e-book, or as an audio file series, or as a series of videos. What do you think? If you were interested in a teaching on “The 12 Transformational Laws of Engagement,” how would you prefer to receive it? Thanks in advance for letting me know.

How to Become a Person of Influence Part 3

Last week I continued a short series on becoming a person of influence. This is the final installment in that series. In the first post I wrote about Integrity, Nurture, and Faith in people as essential to increasing your influence. Last week we looked at Listening, Understanding and Enlarging people. This week we’re going to tackle the final four actions that will increase your influence.

Navigate

I have a lighthouse on the home page of my website. I like the symbolism of the lighthouse because lighthouses help ships safely navigate along the coast. They provide a reference point and identify potential dangers. The metaphor is great for leaders.

John Maxwell calls this the “Law of Navigation” in his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. The law states: “Anyone can steer a ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course.” Leaders (influencers) are people who help others find a way through troubled waters. There are some who see problems ahead and avoid them, some who experience problems and fix them, and some who neither see nor fix them but are overwhelmed by them. If you can help people see problems and safely navigate through them, you will increase your influence.

Connect

This is about more than friends on Facebook or connections on LinkedIn. This is about personal connection which is becoming more and more rare, unfortunately. We’ve all seen the scene at the restaurant where several people (sometimes even families!) are sitting at the table. No two of them are talking to each other because they’re all on their phones. Or the scene where the child is sitting with a parent, trying to get their attention, but they can’t because Mom or Dad is focused on their phone. This is the most “connected” period in history with the most isolated people ever. We can be isolated in a crowd because we are losing the art of interpersonal connection.

If you want to increase your influence, learn to connect with people. How do you do that? First, find their agenda. Go to “their world.” Connection involves pursuit more than invitation. What are they interested in and/or working on. You will connect if you get interested in that. Second, communicate from the heart. In the words of writer Susanna Clarke, “You’ve got to love like you’ll never get hurt. You’ve got to dance like there’s nobody watching. You’ve got to come from the heart if you want it to work.” Finally, find the key to their life. Everybody has one. Once you find it, ask permission to turn it on. That’s connection.

Empower

To empower is to make someone stronger and more confident. A sign at the Walmart headquarters says, “Through these doors pass ordinary people on their way to accomplishing extraordinary things.” That’s an empowering message. It encourages people to be strong and confident.

Empowerment means to see the potential in people. It means to say the words of encouragement and confidence in them that will inspire them to attempt what they thought they could not do. Empowerment means to share your knowledge and experience so they can grow faster and go further than you. It also means that you show others your faith in that person and the power you’ve given to them.

Reproduce

One of the most potent ways to be an influencer is to reproduce through others. It’s the principle of multiplication. John Craig said, “No matter how much work you can do, no matter how engaging your personality may be, you will not advance far in business if you cannot work through others.” One of the primary jobs of a leader is to produce more leaders. How do you do that?

  1. Model good leadership
  2. Provide leadership training
  3. Provide leadership resources
  4. Provide leadership experiences
  5. Create a growth environment

That wraps up our list of 10 essential qualities that will help you become a person of Influence. You may have noticed that the list is arranged into an acrostic. How do you become a person of influence? You

I ntegrity (have it with people)
N urture people
F aith (have it in people)
L isten to people
U nderstand people
E nlarge people
N avigate with people
C onnect with people
E mpower people
R eproduce through people

How to Become a Person of Influence Part 2

In last week’s post I started writing about how to become a person of influence. We are all already influencing up to 80,000 people over the course of an average lifetime. This is about being more than average. Not necessarily in the numbers (although that, too), but in the intent. I started a list of 10 things you can do to intentionally increase your influence. The first three areas of focus were to have Integrity, to Nurture people, and to have Faith in people. This week I have three more.

Listen

We’ve been endowed with two ears and on mouth. How often do you find people using those in reverse proportion? What might happen to relationships of all kinds, personal, professional, etc. if we listened twice as much as we talked? Christian Philosopher, Paul Tillich said, “The first duty of love is to listen.”

I have a series on listening in this blog called “The Superpower You Didn’t Know you Have.” Click here to see the first post and then you can scroll down. Or click here to view a list of posts under that category.

In his book Becoming a Person of Influence, Author and renown leadership trainer, John Maxwell, Writes about what he calls the “4 H questions to become a good listener.” I like these:

  1. What is their Heart?
  2. What is their Hope?
  3. What is their Hurt?
  4. How can I Help?

You have to ask questions and listen to discover a person’s heart, hope, hurt, and opportunity to be helped. When you do, I guarantee the person will feel heard. When we feel heard, we’re more open to the one who heard us. That’s influence.

Understand

This one can be tricky. But it’s a huge opportunity if we get it right. It takes time to understand people. The tricky thing about understanding is that we make snap judgments about someone when we first meet them. You’ve heard the saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” That’s true. Some research shows we form an almost indelible first impression within a tenth of a second of meeting a person.

It’s a good thing those first impressions are not always right. Over thirty years ago, our oldest son needed to have a tumor removed from his brain. It was serious enough that the hospital where he was diagnosed wouldn’t perform the surgery. We were referred to Children’s Memorial in Chicago. The night before the surgery, his Brain Surgeon came into the hospital room to meet us and discuss the surgery. Right when he walked into the room he set his notebook down on the over bed table and knocked Josh’s water onto the floor. Not a good look for the guy who will be tinkering inside your 20 month old’s brain the next morning! Fortunately, he was an incredibly skilled surgeon. The surgery was successful and our son is now in his early thirties.

To really understand someone, you need to know a lot about them. In addition to the 4 H questions above, take time to find out about what they’re great at, what they cry about, sing about and dream about, and who have been the key influencers in their life so far.

I once had a job where I joked that my job description was “Coffee, Cookies, and Conversation.” I did spend a great deal of time getting to know and understand as many of the people I worked with as possible. My job was to help them thrive in a cross-cultural work environment. Understanding people is critical to positively influencing people.

Enlarge

To Enlarge is to make bigger. Another word for that is to Grow. One of the key intrinsic motivators for most people is called “Mastery.” People generally want to get better at things. You can see that, for example, in the person who practices playing an instrument they will never use professionally. They enjoy playing and just want to get better. If you help people grow, learn things, develop skills, improve the skills they have, you’ll be helping them get what they want and that’s influence. Zig Zigler is famous for saying, “You’ll always have everything in life that you want IF you help enough people get what they want.” Helping people grow, then, is a classic win/win.

We’ve covered 6 of the 10 ways to increase your influence. Next week we’ll finish up the list. Leave a comment about how you’re increasing your influence.

How to Become a Person of Influence

A few years ago I worked with a large Hospital System in California. They teach their staff a tool called the “10 – 5 Rule.” It instructs all staff that if they see a member or guest coming toward them in the corridor of one of their facilities, they should acknowledge that person with eye contact and a smile once they come within 10 feet of them. When they reach the 5 foot line, staff are taught to verbally greet the person. This practice is intended to help people feel welcome and generally better about being in a medical facility where most people are not having their best day. I put that rule into practice while working there as well. It was amazing to see the results. When you smile at people, they most often smile back. Sometimes, it was a little scary. The person walking toward me didn’t make eye contact and looked very serious. But over 90% of the time, when I said, “Hello,” their entire face changed. They smiled (sometimes looked surprised) and said, “Hello” back.

That’s Influence

Influence is defined as “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something,” It can be in the moment like when you make someone smile in the hallway. Or it can be over a lifetime with your family, friends, co-workers or an even larger set of people. It can be formal. It can be informal. It can be a part of your position or just a part of who you are. The fact is, we are all people of influence on some level.

We are constantly influencing people. In fact, one study shows the average person will influence 80,000 people during their lifetime. That’s a lot of people. But, when we talk about becoming a person of influence, we’re not talking about the influence of the average person. That happens regardless of your intention or even your knowledge sometimes. A “Person of Influence” is someone who intentionally uses their influence to add value to others, to make their lives better.

World renown Leadership Teacher and Author, John Maxwell, says, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” So, whether you are in a recognized leadership position of some kind or not, being a person of influence makes you a leader. Some of the most influential people I know are not “Leaders” in their job title. They’re Moms and Dads, Administrative Assistants, Teachers, Friends, etc. But, because of their influence, they are leaders.

How To Increase Your Influence

There are 10 things you can focus on to increase your intentional influence. Here are three of them.

Influence begins with Integrity. If you want to increase your influence, start there. Dwight D. Eisenhower once said,

“In order to be a leader a man must have followers. And to have followers, a man must have their confidence. Hence the supreme quality for a leader is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a sections gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office. If a man’s associates find him guilty of phoniness, if they find that he lacks forthright integrity, he will fail. His teachings and actions must square with each other. The first great need, therefore, is integrity and high purpose.”

The next focus of Influence is Nurture. As the old saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Authentically caring about others will increase your influence with them.

The third focus of Influence is Faith. One of the greatest gifts you can give a person is to express belief in them when they don’t believe in themselves. Can you imagine being on a team where the coach didn’t believe in you? Your influence with people will increase when you believe in them.

Let’s focus on these three for now and I’ll share a few more in the next post.

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, or this is your first time, please give me some feedback on whether or not this is helpful to you. Thanks!

How Your Expectations Influence Your Team

In 1964 a psychologist named Robert Rosenthal conducted an experiment in some elementary school classrooms. He told the teachers that a special test he’d administered to their students had the ability to predict which students were on the verge of great intellectual growth. He randomly selected some of their students as those who had been so identified by the test and told the teachers who they were. The teachers, who thought this was all legitimate, went on to teach the students based on the expectation set by the test outcomes.

As he followed the children over the next two years, Rosenthal discovered that the teachers’ expectations of these kids really did affect the students. “If teachers had been led to expect greater gains in IQ, then increasingly, those kids gained more IQ,” he says.

The Pygmalion / Golem Effects

This psychological phenomenon identified by Robert Rosenthal is also known as the Pygmalion Effect. The name, interestingly, is based on an ancient Greek myth about Pygmalion who fell in love with one of his sculptures which, then, came to life. The psychological effect follows the mechanics diagrammed below:

In essence, people tend to become what we expect of them. That’s because our expectations influence how we behave toward people. They internalize the impact of our behavior and incorporate that into their beliefs about themselves which influence how they behave which reinforces our beliefs, expectations and behavior and around we go again. Pretty interesting and important. The higher our expectations, the better people perform.

The negative corollary to the Pygmalion effect is known as the Golem Effect. It simply says that low expectations have the same impact in the wrong direction. If we expect people to perform poorly, they will tend to live up to (or should I say down to) that expectation as well.

What Does This Mean for You?

I’ve written about setting expectations previously in this blog. This time, though, it’s not about letting people know what tasks and outcomes you expect from them. In this context, expectation is more about how successful you believe they will be at accomplishing those tasks or achieving those outcomes. It’s about your beliefs. Do you expect your team to win? Why or why not?

If you don’t expect your people to succeed, why don’t you? Do they need more training? Do they need better tools? Do you need different people? Or, do you need an adjustment to your beliefs, your expectations? This could be a challenging exercise, but, as John Maxwell says, “Everything worthwhile is uphill.” Take some time to reflect on each person on your team. What do you believe about them? What about the team as a whole? Where do those beliefs come from? Are they fair? What’s your evidence? Are they accurate? Are you producing the Pygmalion effect or the Golam effect with your people?

As a leader, you’re influencing your people by your actions. Those actions are fueled by your beliefs about them. How are your people doing? What do you expect?