The Power of Expectations

“What we expect, that we find.”
 – Aristotle, Greek philosopher, student of Plato, and teacher of Alexander the Great

“Much of life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think the worst of people and show it, they will often prove you right. If the systems we design are based on the principle that people cannot be trusted, then those people won’t bother to be trustworthy. On the other hand, if you believe that most people are capable and can be relied upon, they will often live up to your expectations.”The Power of Expectations - Jim Clemmer
– Charles Handy, The Hungry Spirit: Beyond Capitalism – A Quest For Purpose in the Modern World

“They were a burden to their shipmates — sailors who were constantly in trouble, or simply did not do their jobs. ‘Undermotivated problem sailors’ was the term the U.S. Navy used for them; the military acronym was ‘LP’ for ‘low performer.’
 
But their supervisors were given a set of tactics to change the LP’s behavior. The supervisors were taught something new: to expect the best of these low performers despite their abominable histories.
 
The supervisors let the LPs know they believed in their ability to change, and they treated them more like winners. That positive expectation proved powerful: The LPs began to do better on every front, receiving fewer punishments, showing better overall performance, even improving their personal appearance. It was the Pygmalion effect in action: Expecting the best from people can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

– Daniel Goleman, Working with Emotional Intelligence

“There is no rule more invariable than that we are paid for our suspicions by finding what we suspected.”
– Henry David Thoreau, American author, naturalist, and philosopher

“Theories of human behavior become self-fulfilling. We act on the basis of these theories and through our own actions produce in others the behavior we expect. If we believe people will work hard only if specifically rewarded for doing so, we will provide contingent rewards and thereby condition people to work only when they are rewarded. If we expect people to be untrustworthy, we will closely monitor and control them and by doing so will signal that they can’t be trusted; an expectation that they will most likely confirm for us.
– Jeffrey Pfeffer, “Six Dangerous Myths About Pay,” Harvard Business Review

“Be careful how you interpret the world: it is like that.”
– Erich Heller, 20th century British essayist, scholar of German philosophy and literature, and American professor

“Time and time again, studies have shown that manager’ expectations have profound effect on the productivity of their staff. Managers with high expectations about their subordinates motivate the people around them to perform well, whilst those with poor expectations cause them to become despondent and unproductive. The phenomenon has been found in many different types and levels of business, from life insurance to telecommunications, from CEOs to low-level management. Throughout the business world, expectations have the power to become self-fulfilling prophecies.”
– Richard Wiseman, The Luck Factor: Change Your Luck and Change your Life

 

For over 30 years, Jim Clemmer’s practical leadership approaches have been inspiring action and achieving results. He has delivered thousands of keynote presentations, workshops, and management team retreats to hundreds of organizations around the globe moving his audiences from inspiration to application. He’s listed in the World’s Top 30 Most Influential Leadership Gurus based on research with 22,000 global business people, consultants, academics and MBAs. His website is www.JimClemmer.com.

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