Raising Expectations: Is Gareth Southgate harnessing the Pygmalion Effect?

Emma MitchellToday’s blogpost is by Leadership and Management Director, Emma Mitchell, a People Development professional with 2 decades plus experience of training and coaching business professionals from many sectors. Her focus is developing people and maximising their potential for leadership through coaching and training facilitation.

At the start of the World Cup we wrote about the power of anticipation and over the last 20 days have seen Germany crash out at the Group stage and Argentina, Spain and Portugal fail at the Final 16.

And as England face Colombia tonight for a place in the quarter-finals at 10Eighty we were speculating whether the waistcoat-clad manager was aware of a Gallup Leadership Institute meta-study on the Pygmalion Effect.


Also known as the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy Effect, it is reckoned to be one of the greatest leadership tools.

In the study half of the leaders were told they were working with exceptional groups of people, the others were told nothing. In reality, all the leaders were working with randomly selected people… yet, performances were very different.

The groups performed as the leaders expected them to perform. The ‘exceptional’ groups like superstars, the other groups were totally average.

Bruce J. Avolio, a professor of management at the University of Washington Foster School of Business, says “smarter or more motivated groups do better if their leader believes they are smarter or motivated.“

The ‘better team’ performed at a higher level and the team members believe their skills were raised to a higher level too.

The message is clear. The way managers treat their staff will have a huge impact on performance and business results, and employees will raise or lower their expectations accordingly.

Here’s a checklist of ways to communicate expectations:

  1. Communicate your expectations positively
  2. See your team as superstars
  3. Higher expectations will result in higher performance – with the right amount of support
  4. Personally thank staff for their work
  5. Give positive feedback to under-performers
  6. Provide feedback in balance, 3 positive comments to 1 criticism.

Attitudes to the England squad have significantly changed since 8 June. The England fans have even created a Gareth Southgate song (set to aughties’ banger ‘Whole Again’ by Atomic Kitten) urging him to ‘Bring It Home Again’!

Whether he has utilised the Pygmalion Effect or not he certainly is raising expectations across the land.

Who will be the better team tonight?

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Posted in Homepage, Leadership Development, Organisational development

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