What do you expect of people?

Here is a small sampling I really enjoyed from my book with Don Shula, Everyone’s A Coach.

The way managers treat people is powerfully influenced by what they expect of people. If a manager’s expectations are high, productivity is likely to be excellent. If expectations are low, productivity is likely to be poor. It is as though there were a natural law that caused a person’s performance to rise or fall to meet his or her manager’s expectations. My wife Margie has often said that one of the reasons she didn’t get into trouble when she was a young person was that she knew her parents expected the best of her and knew she would be a good role model for her younger sisters. She never wanted to let her parents down.

If you have someone working for you whom you don’t think much of, I think it’s your ethical responsibility to get that person transferred to another department or team. Because no matter how hard you try, you’re likely to treat him as if he isn’t any good. And he’ll prove you right every time! I ask people all the time, “Given the amount of time you spend at work, would you rather spend that time being magnificent or ordinary?” What do you think they say? They shout out, “Magnificent!” And yet, are most of the people in organizations performing magnificently? Of course not. And a key reason is the self-fulfilling prophecy that starts in the heads of leaders, managers, coaches, and parents, with the belief that most people are lazy, unreliable, and irresponsible. This belief plays out in how they treat people and ultimately in how those people perform. People generally respond well to leaders, managers, coaches, and parents who have high expectations and genuine confidence in them. So believe in the abilities of your people, students, and kids, and they will be more likely to believe in themselves.

3 thoughts on “What do you expect of people?

  1. Well said, Ken! Leaders need to set expectations, and they shouldn’t lower their expectations because that would be to the detriment of the team. There is a big difference between helping someone get an A, and rescuing them repeatedly.

  2. The Pygmalion effect. This is very effective indeed. I like how you relate it with parent’s high expectations towards their kids. I remember really studying hard in school and forcefully fixed my eyes towards earning a degree not solely because I wanted to but much because of the fact that my parents expect a lot from me.

    great article! thank you!

    • Over the years my experience of working with supevisors, managers, and senior executives across all types of industries and organizations has informed me that people are just bad actors. Fake it ’til you make it, just doesn’t work for many managers. Having said that I think you were right on target recommending that it is a manager’s ethical responsibility is to treat people with respect and dignity and expect the same in return. If that is not possible, then move on! Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

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