n the last two articles, I have talked about the importance of mindset. The first one focused on the importance that mindset had on your performance and I discussed the difference between a growth mindset and fixed mindset. Then, I provided some simple strategies that you can use to start developing a growth mindset. This article is going to finish off this topic, at least for now, and look at how your mindset can impact the performance of others. This is especially relevant if you are in a leadership position, a coach, or a parent.
There was an initial study that was done that illustrated the power of belief and expectation on those that you lead and their subsequent performance. This study was performed in an education environment, but there have been several additional studies that have tested this in other environments such as a business, sports and between parents and their children. The Pygmalion Effect, as it is more commonly known, states that an individual’s expectations of another’s ability will in fact affect that person’s performance. Low expectations lead to a decrease in performance while high expectations lead to higher levels of performance. Essentially expectations create self- fulfilling prophecies.
Again- this may seem obvious on the surface, but let’s break down what is going on by diving deeper into how the original study went- Students within an elementary school in California were given an IQ test. The teachers and the administration were told that this IQ test would not only measure intelligence but also identify students that were “intellectual bloomers”. The scores of the test were not shared with either the students or the teachers, but what was told to the teachers, however, was that about 20% of their students had been identified as “intellectual bloomers” and would be expected to outperform their classmates. The names of these students were provided to the teachers.
At the end of the year- the same test was given to the students. While all students had some improvement from the original test, the students who had been identified as “bloomers” had statistically significant improvements. The researchers concluded that it was the teacher expectations that was responsible for the higher student achievement. Perhaps the teacher gave them more individualized attention or treated them differently during challenging times because they expected more from them. It was then this additional attention that allowed the individual student to flourish as compared to the others.
What is interesting about this study is that the names that were given to the teachers were chosen at random and had no bearing on the child’s original test scores.
I have seen this happen time and time again between coach and athlete. A coach “sees something” in an athlete so they give them special attention or take the time to provide specific and positive feedback. That athlete then flourishes compared to the others on the team.
I have also seen the opposite. When a leader or coach writes off an individual and doesn’t provide them with the level of instruction as the others on the team. This individual then lives up to the leader’s expectations by not performing as well as the others.
Let’s go through how this cycle plays out. Our beliefs about others will directly influence our actions towards them. Those actions will then impact how they see themselves. Their belief in themselves will then influence the actions that they take. Their actions / behaviors then impact their results which then confirms our initial beliefs about them.
After reading this article, I invite you to think about those that you lead and your expectations of them and their level of performance. For those individuals who aren’t performing as well as the other members on your team, what is your reaction and expectations of them? Do you think that your behavior contributes to their performance in any way? What about your “star performers”? Do you treat them differently than other members of your team? If so- do you think it has any impact?
When I am working 1:1 with a leader or coach, I will ask them for statistics or metrics they use to determine the performance of their team member. Having objective performance metrics helps those in a leadership position to easily track a team member’s progress and provide clear expectations to that individual.
What kinds of objective metrics can, or do you use with your team? I’d love for you to share them or your experiences with the power of mindset in the comments below.
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