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May 5, 2015

How To Change Performance Culture ?

What can we learn about culture in the workplace from the study of our expectations? In 1968 the work of two psychologists Rosenthal and Jacobsen studied the effects of tutor expectations on the performance of their students.
They took intelligence pre-tests with the children and then told teachers the names of twenty percent of them who were showing "unusual potential for intellectual growth" and predicted they would bloom with the academic year. They then sat back and watched what was to unfold. Unknown to the teachers these children were randomly selected with no relation to the intelligence test. Eight months later they re-tested the children and the results showed that the randomly selected children who the teachers thought would bloom scored significantly higher. They called this the "Pygmalion Effect". The results from this study (and since there have been hundreds of studies done in this same area) showed that positive expectations of others influence performance positively and negative expectations do the opposite. "When we expect certain behaviors of others, we are likely to act in ways that make the expected behavior more likely to occur." (Rosenthal and Babad, 1985) You may have noticed this effect taking place on yourself when you think back to being in school or more relevantly in your professional life if you have ever worked for a boss who has believed in you and your ability and as a result you stepped up to meet their expectations. The message is simple. Be careful what you expect from others and be careful what others expect from you. Have a look around and notice if it is having a positive or negative effect. Building a high performance culture is almost impossible if the expectations are not positive. This is such an easy mistake to make. A common behaviour trait of being human is that we adapt to the environment we find ourselves in and subconsciously we will fit into that environment in the best way we can. It is hard to stand out when we have a strong drive to feel accepted by those around us. Pay attention to the environments you spend your time in. Have a look around and notice what the expectations are. Notice the subtle impact of this on the performance of both yourself and others. It is much easier to fit in than it is to initiate change but the world and especially business needs people who are willing to be the catalyst for change. Change is all around us at a pace faster than ever before and it is much easier to be at the forefront of this change than finding yourself on the receiving end.