Tuesday, 21 April 2020



A coach, manager or leaders expectations can affect the performance of their teams.

The first psychologist to systematically study this was a Harvard professor named Robert Rosenthal, who in 1964 did a wonderful experiment at an elementary school south of San Francisco.

The idea was to figure out what would happen if teachers were told that certain kids in their class were destined to succeed, so Rosenthal took a normal IQ test and dressed it up as a different test.

It was a standardized IQ test, Flanagan's Test of General Ability, he says. But the cover we put on it, we had printed on every test booklet, said 'Harvard Test of Inflected Acquisition.'

Rosenthal told the teachers that this very special test from Harvard had the very special ability to predict which kids were about to be very special that is, which kids were about to experience a dramatic growth in their IQ.

After the kids took the test, he then chose from every class several children totally at random. There was nothing at all to distinguish these kids from the other kids, but he told their teachers that the test predicted the kids were on the verge of an intense intellectual bloom.

As he followed the children over the next two years, Rosenthal discovered that the teachers' expectations of these kids really did affect the students. If teachers had been led to expect greater gains in IQ, then increasingly, those kids gained more IQ, he says.

But just how do expectations influence IQ?

As Rosenthal did more research, he found that expectations affect teachers' moment-to-moment interactions with the children they teach in a thousand almost invisible ways. Teachers give the students that they expect to succeed more time to answer questions, more specific feedback, and more approval: They consistently touch, nod and smile at those kids more.

It's not magic, it's not mental telepathy, Rosenthal says. It's very likely these thousands of different ways of treating people in small ways every day.


People respond to praise or criticism whatever their age and a shift from command and control telling (which is often met with defence or resistance) toward a more coaching and collaborative style (which encourages the team-member to come up with ideas and take responsibility for the problem) can and does work in the workplace.

It can be very hard to control your own thinking, values, beliefs and assumptions and the inevitable impact that they have on other people. This is why coaches, leaders and managers need coaching. Even psychotherapists need psychotherapy before they can practice so as to be able to manage their own thinking and remain objective when working with clients.

If you want to more towards a coaching approach a good first step would be to find a coach, mentor or buddy who can give you honest feedback. If you are able to record or video meetings and reflect on the play-back that can be really helpful. Ideally if you have an open dialogue with the team you can use 360 feedback to help everyone improve.

One of the significant elements of scrum is the use of self-coordinated teams and the emphasis on retrospective meetings at the end of each delivery phase to both look at improvements in product or service delivery, but more importantly about how the team worked and what processes or behaviours will improve team working in the future.

The great strength of this approach is that the proposed processes or behaviours can be employed in the next (2 weekly?) delivery phase allowing for rapid feedback, review and improvement providing constant learning and growth.


Watch how each team member interacts. How do they prefer to engage? What do they seem to like to do? Observe so you can understand all they are capable of.

Listen. Try to understand what motivates them, what their goals are and how they view you, their classmates and the activities you assign them.

Engage. Talk with team members about their individual interests. Don't offer advice or opinions just listen.

Experiment: Change how you react to challenging behaviours. Rather than responding quickly in the moment, take a breath. Realize that their behaviour might just be a way of reaching out to you.

Reach out: Know what your team members like to do outside of work. Find both individual and group time for them to share this with you. Watch and listen to how skilled, motivated and interested they can be. This type of activity is really important for team members with whom you often feel in conflict or who you avoid.

Reflect: Think back on your own best and worst coaches, bosses or supervisors. List five words for each that describe how you felt in your interactions with them. How did the best and the worst make you feel? What specifically did they do or say that made you feel that way? Now think about how your team members would describe you. Jot down how they might describe you and why. How do your expectations or beliefs shape how they look at you? Are there parallels in your beliefs and their responses to you?

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