Just as in the classroom, the president's stated belief carried the day with the managers--and with the workers. This experiment, many times repeated in different forms, defied current thought. Most people assumed that if morale went up, so would productivity. But we've all known happy, lazy workers. In fact, they may be happier than the rest of us who take up their slack because they're getting paid the same for doing much less. Not even an increase in morale affected productivity as powerfully as the President's beliefs.
How brawny are your beliefs?
Your beliefs impact the performance of those you lead and train--in ways you may not even be aware. In the many referenced studies and experiments, the teachers and managers didn't tell their workers and students about their beliefs. Nonetheless, those beliefs got communicated in indirect ways--by what they said or didn't say, their tone of voice, their body language (sometimes as subtle as an arched eyebrow or flared nostril), how often they interacted with the children or workers, etc.
The first thing leaders and trainers who want to wield a positive power of belief need to do is get to the bottom of their beliefs and how they might, even unintentionally, be communicating them. Ask yourself the following questions, adapted from Encouraging the Heart--A Leader's Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others, by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner.
- How would I honestly rate my expectations of those I lead? High? Moderate? Low?
- What behaviors of people I consider low performers contribute to my view of them?
- What behaviors of mine reflect my reaction to and expectation of low performers?
- Might my expectations and behaviors be influencing the performance of people I consider low performers?
- What behaviors of people I consider high performers contribute to my view of them?
- What behaviors of mine reflect my reaction to and expectation of high performers?
- Might my expectations and behaviors be influencing the performance of people I consider high performers?
- Am I more or less cynical than when I first began working in policing?
- How am I communicating this view?
- How am I influencing others with this view?
- To what extent and how does my behavior say, "I'm here looking for people doing things right and doing the right things?"
- To what extent and how does my behavior say,
"I'm checking up on you" or "I'm looking for problems"?
- How often do I communicate positive beliefs about the people I lead? How do I communicate such beliefs?
Then, if you're a brave leader or trainer, ask those you lead to answer these questions about you.
Can't think of how you might be expressing different expectations and beliefs about low and high performers? Here are some examples: (From Accel-Team, web link below.)
- Interrupting lows more frequently than highs
- Demanding less work and effort from lows than highs
- Providing lows less feedback about their work performance than highs
- Praising lows more frequently than highs for marginal or inadequate performance
- Praising lows less frequently than highs after successful efforts
- Criticizing lows more frequently than highs for mistakes
- Providing less help or advice to lows than highs
- Waiting less time for lows to state their opinion
- Calling on lows less often to work on special projects, state their opinions or give presentations
- Giving lows less information about what's going on in the department
- Smiling less often and making less eye contact or other acknowledgements with lows than highs in work situations
- Placing lows in less prestigious seating or office locations in the department than highs
Believe they can do a thing, or believe they cannot. In either case, you'll be right.
Bottom line? Consciously or not, we communicate our beliefs about those we lead and train. We exhibit thousands of cues, some as subtle as tilting our heads, or raising our eyebrows, but most are much more obvious. People pick up on those cues and will behave according to our beliefs about them. But, what a great bottom line!