The Expectation Trap – On Rats and High Performance
Expectations impact the quality of your team mates and your enjoyment of your leadership experience.
What do you expect of others?
What do you expect of yourself?
Expectation of rats:
Robert Rosenthal labeled some rats in his lab ‘smart’ and other rats ‘stupid’. Researchers who worked with ‘smart’ rats had better performing rats.
Researchers who worked with ‘stupid’ rats got what they expected.
The truth: All the rats were the same.
When you believe you have smart students, you treat them like smart students. And they perform better.
4 behaviors that produce smart students:
- Treat them with warmth.
- Provide more input/teaching.
- Invite responses more frequently. Smart students enjoy more opportunity to talk.
- Give motivational feedback. Smart students are praised more. And teachers won’t accept low performance.
“Treat people (or rats) as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them become what they are capable of being.” Goethe
If you choose to think of team members as ‘smart rats’, keep it to yourself.
Expectation of yourself:
You are right to expect employees to arrive on time and do their jobs.
You have a responsibility to expect things from YOURSELF.
Expect more from yourself than you expect from others.
FOCUS on your responsibility to:
- Serve others, not on another’s obligation to serve you.
- Be trustworthy, not on people to trust you.
- Show up for others, not on others to show up for you.
- Go to others, not on others to come to you.
Dissatisfied leaders focus their expectations on others. “You are responsible to me.”
Successful leaders focus their expectations on themselves. “I am responsible to you.”
You enjoy a life of opportunity when you show up focused on your responsibilities.
You’re bound for disappointment when you focus on your rights.
What might leaders expect of themselves? Of others?
Listed above are 4 ways to bring out the best in ‘smart’ students? Which of the 4 seem most relevant to you today?
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy in Psychology (Positive Psychology)
Pygmalion Effect (Wikipedia)
I love the shifting of focus (with regard to expectations) from ‘others’ to ‘self’!
Thanks Tooarbie. For sure, it’s the focus that provides the greatest opportunity. However, it just feels better/more natural to focus on my expectation of others.
years ago, while I was a classoom teacher, I read the Pygmalion Effect. Totally changed my entire perspective and how I worked with my students. Thanks for bringing it to the forefront again!
Thanks Sue. I think we all could use a does of the Pygmalion Effect! 🙂
You enjoy a life of opportunity when you show up focused on your responsibilities. Yes, this says it for me. I have found that with deep responsibility focus I can grasp opportunities that others can’t and I can do it and have fun. It’s sad when I see others (for various reasons) unfocused and therefore missing out on the fun and accomplishments that opportunities present for your health, your mind, your attitude and your wealth.
Thanks Roger. I find that I’m often frustrated and disappointed when I focus my expectation on others. It’s not necessarily that they are so bad. But there can be lack of communication or lack of shared mission. But I always have plenty to do when I focus on my responsibility. So glad this got traction with you.
Thanks for this post. I’ve shared it with my son who teaches at UW Madison. I know he shares this philosophy! 🙂
Thanks Jen. And best wishes to your son!
Loved this one, Dan. That Goethe quote is one of my favorites. So many employee issues in the workplace emanate from a lack of self-esteem. It is amazing what occurs when leaders trest people as they would like them to be and believe in peopleâs potential!
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Thanks Lawrence. Yes, the Goethe quote is powerful. I’ve found many modern day writers have crafted their own version of this idea. He was a man before his time.
This all comes back around to situations you can control. How you approach and respond makes all the difference.
Thanks Brenda. Personal responsibility has been on my mind. 🙂
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Love it! I found this to be a foundational parenting tip as well.
Thanks Dawn. It’s just too easy to focus on what’s wrong.
Hi Dan, my favourite Goethe quote comes from Götz von Berlichingen, and we won’t go there.
It’s interesting you talk about teaching. That’s often a very hands-off/minds-off affair. I was taught the purpose of a lecture was to get the information from the teacher’s notes to the students’ notes without the content passing through the mind of either party. I think a barrier to this level of interaction is the size of the group. As group size increases, the opportunity to provide individual feedback decreases. This is even more true with individual responses: the volume of these is often inversely proportional to the amount of ground you can cover. Can you do it and still cover everything?
Treat people as if they were what they ought to beâ¦and you help them become what they are capable of being.â Goethe
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Thanks Dawn. It’s just too easy to focus on what’s wrong.
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To answer your question regarding which of the four ways seem most relevant, I believe that it is finding the opportunity for input. It works in almost every situation in learning. If we can discuss it and communicate the way we see the world, the learning becomes easier and it would make an impact on each person involved in the lesson. Creating that dialogue can be difficult if there are some that do not want to discuss their ideas with others but a good leader would not push them but allow them to come forward when they are ready.