In working with businesspeople through our work at Insigniam, unsurprisingly we encounter situations where there are stalemates between individuals or groups. No matter what they try to do, they cannot seem to get out of this trap. When asked where the problem lies, it invariably lives with the counterpart.

When examined, we find the person who is complaining generally has a very bad view of the other – something is wrong with them.

A phenomenon known as the Golem Effect is when people have low expectations for a person, and that causes the person to perform poorly, thus meeting the low expectations others have.

Although these low expectations are kept hidden, for the most part, they are likely to have a decisive impact on how things are going, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you have ever been around somebody who has a less than generous view of you, you know your enthusiasm for working with that person is not very high.

The way out of course is to realize that this is happening. If how you view and listen to another person or group is shifted to something more positive it is possible that you start to see improved actions and results. It’s not just possible, it is what’s likely. This reversal in view is known as The Pygmalion Effect – where higher expectations lead to improved performance.

A very clever example of this is to be found in master music teacher Ben Zander and his practice of “giving an A’. In order to improve the performance of his classical music students, on the first day of class, he announces that everyone has already been given an A for the semester. This was not the “participation trophies” we hear about but rather a means for him to increase both what his students expected of themselves and what he expected of them in a manner that empowers them. In introducing this practice he discovered that it dramatically led to a profound difference in his students’ performance and in their experience of learning.

Look at where you are frustrated in your job, a project, an obstacle, a person, and see what your prevailing view is. You might find your way out of the Chinese finger trap you are in simply by shifting your view and how you listen.


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