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You Get What You Expect

by Beth on September 18th, 2011

Pygmalion was a sculptor in Greek mythology who fell madly in love with a beautiful female statue he had carved. He named her Galatea and he treated her as if she were real. He dressed her and gave her gifts of pearls and flowers. One day as he kissed her Galatea became a real woman. His expectations influenced reality.

The “Pygmalion effect” or “self-fulfilling prophecy” doesn’t just exist in mythology. People’s behavior is influenced by the expectations of others. In one study of elementary school children teachers were told at the beginning of the school year that a handful of their students had especially high IQs. In reality the students were average. At the end of the school year the “smart” students had improved their IQ by an average of 22 points, far more than the other students. The teachers’ expectations about the students’ abilities affected the way they treated the students. As a result, the students’ performance rose to meet their teachers’ expectations.

Research with new hires in the workplace found that those who were immediately given challenging tasks were more likely to show higher job performance later in their careers. When managers have high expectations for their employees, they treat them in ways that increase the likelihood that the employees achieve success.

In positive workplaces managers expect their employees to succeed. They give them challenging assignments and constantly communicate that they believe they are capable, competent people.

Your expectations influence the likelihood that someone else, an employee, a child, will succeed. What kind of an influence will you be? If you want to bring out the best in others let them know that you believe they are the best!

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