Pygmalion in Management: Reaction Most managers have a common sense about the impact of expectation. They understand higher expectations motivate subordinates to perform better. But when it comes to applying the theory in daily life, only a few managers hold the magic power in hands and could change other people’s destinies. There must be something ordinary people cannot overcome. What is it? In the article Pygmalion in Management, J. Sterling Livingston (1969) was spearheading the point: to be Pygmalion. Pygmalion was an artist, who sculpted a beautiful girl statue, then fell in love with her, and he believed the girl was coming to life.
Ultimately, with the passion, love, and intensively expectation, Pygmalion transformed the statue to life, and married her. This story is a fairy tale, but it is a perfect metaphor of the power of expectation. Everyone is growing into apart of others expectation. In a life cycle, a child depends on parents, a student learns from teachers, and a young employee works for employers; then he or she may become a parent for children, an experienced worker, and a manager or an employer to lead young employees. According to the article, the younger the one is, the easier they are influenced by others.
As for a young person’s career, critical time to be transformed by manager’s expectation is the first year in his or her career. After the one starts to work, he or she as an adult, rapidly reduces the chance to change set by others; meanwhile dramatically increases ability to impact on others. How many young managers could truly convert to be Pygmalion? In this article, there is a person who did it, who is a manager of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. He reassigns his subordinates as three groups: high performance, average performance, and low performance. The highly expected group largely increased their productivity.
The normal group keeps normal, and the low expected one actually downs their productivity. The manager uses his magic power fostering several assistant managers, and those people become managers to cultivate more subordinates. This magic result shows how important the expectation is in one’s managerial career, and it gives young managers a clear way to go. The author further points out that those managers have strong confidence for their abilities to motivate and persuade subordinates. They could consistently motivate and transform subordinates to go beyond their potential.
Once mutual trust is built, subordinates will believe that managers have the real abilities to lead to succeed. This again indicates the key character of a manager, which is the tremendous confidence. Moreover, the author reveals a scientific discovery that managers influence subordinates not only by what their sayings but also by what their behaviors. This tells managers that they should authentically and clearly deliver their expectations to subordinates. Any little sense of low expectation and low confidence in a manager’s mind could transmit to subordinates.
Maybe being authentic is the most difficulty thing to most ordinary people. It sounds easy, but is very difficult to do. For those who want to be superior managers, it is a long way to become confidently. Indeed, it is more difficult to them to always coordinate behaviors with mind. For those who want to be Pygmalion, forging self-confidence, high expectation, and authentic behaviors coordinately together is the only way to go. Psychologists newly discovered that people do have strong chemical reactions happening in the brain when it comes to meet somebody else.
The condition is that two people see each other for the first time and focus on each other’s eyes for enough time. If their chemical types match, there is a complicated chemical reaction in the brain; after this reaction, then love, trust, and other emotional things could go on; but if not, seldom further relationship could build. This explains why Livingston states superior managers believe their intuition to select their subordinates. When they select subordinate, chemical reaction must happen in between, and further relationship could continually go on.
So, high expectation could deliver and transform to the subordinates. Unfortunately, most modern companies do not realize the power of expectation and they do not know the scientific principle of the selecting and cultivating process. As Livingston states, “Rarely do new graduates work closely with experienced middle managers or upper-level executives. Normally they are bossed by first-line managers who tend to be least experienced and tend least effective in the organization (1969)”. This is the biggest managerial mistake that managers often make.
They focus more on markets, finance, revenue, or profit. They forget that the essence of management is to manage people, especially the young employees. Choosing and cultivating newcomers in the company, and developing their managerial and professional potential are managers’ primary responsibility. Once a manager lets subordinates follow his or her high expectation to self-fulfill, most impossible things could become possible. When those young people grow up and become full experienced managers, many Pygmalions will emerge from the organization.
That the time a manager is Pygmalion, holding the magic power of expectation. At the end of the article, the author mentions a business bias opinion that most managers believe the new generation are not as good as their predecessors were. They do not realize that their low expectation and negative attitude leads to a worse situation. More young employees just turn off to avoid low performance set by low expectations. As managers read this article, they must reflect their cognition to this article and change their attitude to fix the problem.
The new generation is the most talented people, and they are more knowledgeable with advanced technology. Certainly, they cannot stand for low expectation. Superior managers know how to develop those young people and transform them to self-fulfill to meet their potential. The business needs this young generation to grow up as superior managers to succeed. All the superior managers grew up from young person, and every young people could foster by high expectation and become a new superior manager. People who transform to be Pygmalion will hold the magic power in their hands and could make this cycle go on forever.