Building Belief

leadership beliefsLast week we talked about how our beliefs drive our behaviors. If you want to fundamentally change someone’s behavior, you should work on changing their beliefs first.

One of the best ways to help someone believe something is to believe it yourself first. It’s a scientific fact that what leaders believe about their people has a causal effect on their performance.

In 1968, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson tested all the children in an elementary class and gave teachers a list of those who were “unusually clever.” In reality, the students on the list were completely average.

At the end of the year the researchers tested the class again. The result? To a child, everyone on the list improved their scores far beyond other children.

This is an example of the Pygmalion effect, which states that the greater the expectation placed upon people (e.g. children, students, employees) the better they perform.

So not only are your beliefs driving your own behavior, but if you’re a leader, your beliefs about others are driving their behavior as well.

How have you been positively or negatively affected by a leader’s beliefs about you? How have you seen your beliefs help or hinder the people you lead?

5 thoughts on “Building Belief”

  1. Great post, Geoffrey, but then all your posts are.

    I’ve never been put in a leadership position. I grew up the youngest of three, which meant there was no way I’d ever be considered or dealt with as a leader in the family unit. After graduating from college I became an admin and then executive assistant in four very different but all smallish organizations where being the sole or nearly sole support person I was always the lowest person on the totem pole. Because of the way I was dealt with as the youngest and then as “only” the secretary I was never treated as above average. I now find myself, due to the economy and my age, in the unfamiliar territory of having to become a leader by virtue of the fact that I am now self-employed.

    One of my pet peeves has always been the unwillingness of people to praise. Because of this I try very hard to acknowledge to a person’s face a job well done, a good attitude or some other sort of positive behaviour. The reactions I have received from doing this have demonstrated to me that this has been a worthwhile effort. I’ve made a point of doing this because my own life has not had this kind of positive reinforcement. Had I received it on a regular basis my transition to leader wouldn’t be so fraught with doubt and I might be more inclined to believe I am a leader, which would in turn instil in me the confidence I so sorely lack.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Norah. Thanks for fighting against the low expectations and becoming the leader you are today—that’s an inspiring testimony to us all. I love how you’ve redeemed your experiences and turned them into fuel for building other up. So encouraging. Thanks!

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