Friday, October 22, 2010

The Pygmalion Effect - You get what you give

The Pygmalion Effect derives its name from a very famous play - Pygmalion: A Romance in Five Acts.

Doesn't ring a bell, ok, try this modern name for this old play: My Fair Lady.

This is a play about a Professor of phonetics Henry Higgins makes a bet that he can train a bedraggled Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, to pass for a duchess at an ambassador's garden party by teaching her to assume a veneer of gentility, the most important element of which, he believes, is impeccable speech.

Sounds like fun, right! But this play holds a very important lesson for us all, that expectations become self-fulfilling. Since Prof. Higgins was sure he would be able to pass off Eliza as a dutchness he was able to do so, more importantly he recognised that Eliza's manner of speech was just a matter of correction. That she was capable of more. That she had an ability she herself had not noticed as yet.

In the professional world this just means that great bosses recognise strengths in us that we don't always yet fully see in ourselves, and not only do they recognise these strengths, they *believe* in us and our ability to fully display these strengths, even when we don't.

When you expect someone to be mediocre, to be lazy, to be uninterested, guess what, they will be mediocre, lazy & uninterested.

But the moment you see strengths in others and believe in them, there is an immediate turn around. Both positive and negative emotions feed on themselves.

What will you feed your team members today?


  1. Great read! I'm from the USA and its so easy to get caught up in whats happening here and forget there is more to this world.

  2. very nice post. I had this as a part of my syllabus in organisational behavior!!



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