Since we now know that humans continue to evolve and adapt our thinking and behaviors as adults, it follows that leaders can and do change their teams’ mindware by the way they lead. So what can we learn from teachers?
A Study in Expectations
One lesson comes in our expectations concerning our employees.
In a research study by Harvard professor Robert Rosenthal,elementary school teachers were told that specific students (randomly selected by the researchers) were destined to succeed thanks to a test that predicted a dramatic growth in their IQs. These kids had no special learning abilities. As the researchers followed the kids over the next years, they found that the teachers’ expectations of their success did, indeed, increase their results. Why?
The teachers gave these kids more positive feedback and approval, more positive attention, tended to call on them more often and in general give them more support. When you consider research showing that by the age of 17 the average kid has been told “you can’t” 150,000 times and “you can” 5000 times… this positive attention is different than the way most of us experience our formative years.
3 Leadership Lessons
We all know the power of being positive. Yet how often do we forget that power when leading during troubled times or with tormented teams? Let’s face it, we’re human. We forget and we lose our focus in the face of the details and daily disturbances that are part and parcel of the role of leader.
Yet we can learn some really powerful lessons from these studies in teaching our children. Here are three lessons to ponder.
Expect the best from your teams. How often do we micro-manage because we expect Tom to have issues with that new project, or move to intervene before Mary gets bogged down with her important assignment? We’re trained to “peg” our employees based on their past performance. After all, we’re briefed on our organizational data and perceptions about those employees, creating profiles before we ever meet them. We then use those profiles to predict employees’ future results. The past does predict the future. Or does it?
What if we’re actually helping to limit their performance based on our own expectations? What if our expectations impact the way we communicate, interact, support and even assign projects to our team members? What if the way we treat them serves to influence and mold their performance and results?
What if by expecting the best of each employee -regardless of their past – we can shift their future results? When we believe they can and will be successful, our leadership behaviors will demonstrate those expectations. This demonstration can and will serve to empower team members by fueling their own beliefs in themselves. Other team members will take their lead from our behaviors and also expect the best from each other. Imagine the results from a simple shift in our own expectations.
Instill a “We Can All Do It” attitude. Research shows that when teams share a positive mind-set, their performance increases in pretty much every area. As leaders, we can create a positive attitude among our teams by modeling that attitude ourselves. How?
Human herd instinct drives group members to follow their leaders. This behavior can include shifting attitudes and perspectives to mirror those of the leader.When we share our belief in the teams’ success, demonstrate positive and supportive behavior, paint a clear picture of their success with our focus and our actions – we are literally leading our team members to mirror our beliefs and behaviors.
Focus on the positive results. People are wired to look for what’s wrong. That program turns into nitpicking and woe is me. The teachers in the study expected success and positive results from their students. They got just that, even from students who were not endowed with special gifts or outta the park IQs.
That’s a great lesson for all leaders. When we expect our teams to succeed, when we focus on their positive steps along the way… We can prepave our way to increased productivity and performance. Our teams will follow our model, focus on the positive and as a result, their minds will lietrally create more positive outcomes.
The Bottom Line
How many times do sit and worry about the lists of things that could go wrong? How often do you pre-profile a new team member based on someone else’s perceptions?
We all do it. And I think it’s time we all shifted our leadership perspectives to be more like the teachers in the study
They expected great things from their students…and that’s the result they got.
I think we can do the same. What do you think????
Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and KROMKRATHOG