Are Your Team High Performers or Losers?

What do you think of the team you manage?  Are they the crème de la crème or a shower of …

Is that a rather harsh question?  Perhaps, but the answer may well have a lot more to do with you than with them.

Why do some people do better than others?

In 1968 Rosenthal and Jacobsen started to look at under achievement among school children.  Why do some children do better than others?

Their theory was that it was all to do with intelligence.   If you tested children’s I.Q. you could predict which children would do well and which wouldn’t.

So they ran a test.

They ran a succession of sophisticated intelligence tests across children in different school classes.  Using this data they identified the children who they thought showed “dramatic potential growth” and those who unfortunately, did not.

Then they sense checked the results with the school staff and teachers and left.

Eight months later

Rosenthal and Jacobsen returned to the school and re-ran the tests.

Their predictions were proven correct.  The children highlighted as having superior potential showed a marked increase in I.Q. over the intervening period when compared to the other, “normal” children.

It is all about I.Q.

The sting in the tail

Whilst the I.Q. tests were real and the results were also statistically valid there was a twist.  The experimenters allocated children to the “potential” and “normal” groups entirely randomly.

The increased test results had nothing to do with the children’s intellectual potential at all.

It had nothing to do with the children and everything to do with the teachers

If a teacher believed that a child was exceptional then the child became exceptional.  It was a self-fulfilling prophecy (sometimes called the Pygmalion effect)

It would have been ethically irresponsible to create a “sub-normal” group in the eyes of the teachers.  I’ll leave it to your own judgement what the implications would have been.

So are your team high performers or losers?

And is that down to them?

Or you?

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Pygmalion effect

Read another opinion

Image by Lord Jim


  1. Hello James

    In my participation in Landmark Education I got present to the importance of the listening we bring to our conversations, to people, to our situations.
    If I show up and listen to you as a person of worth what tends to show up? Probably nothing exciting on the first occasion. What if I continue to relate to you as a person of worth every opportunity I get? Then you end up showing up as person of worth – for yourself, for me, for your family+friends, for your colleagues.

    The reverse applies. Imagine that your child comes home really excited about his/her drawing. And you listen to him as “not talented” and his drawing as “poor”. What shows up? Possibly disappointment. What if you do this consistently? Your child buys into your listening of him. And he stops drawing because he is convinced he is not talented.

    We are social creatures from birth to death. Neuroscience through the discovery of “mirror neurons” shows that we are biologically wired that way. The only people who escape this biological wiring are called psychopaths or sociopaths. They are people who truly are individuals. The rest of are shaped by how others listen to us. If people believe in us and encourage us then they help/shape our belief in ourselves. And vice versa.

    When you get this, really get this, then you get the awesome responsibility and power that all of us wield: to shape lives. And this responsibility and power is particular potent for those who are held up as authority figures including managers.


    • James Lawther says:

      Fascinating Maz, thank you. I will have to do a little research, don’t be too surprised when you see a subsequent post.


  2. Hi James,
    I’d not heard of this work before but it makes a lot of sense.

    It’s amazing what people can achieve with some self-belief and belief and support from those around them.

    Which, I wonder, is more important…..self belief or the belief and support that you get from those around you? Also, which comes first self belief or the belief and support that you get from those around you?


    • James Lawther says:

      A good question Adrian, and I have no idea. I guess it is a chicken and egg scenario, maybe you can step into the spiral at any point?


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