What could your team achieve?

Have you ever considered what your team could achieve if everything lined up? Could you be responsible for holding them back?

One of my mentors was an Olympic Coach. I was fortunate enough to hear him speak at a conference to other coaches where he mentioned that the thing that could be holding an athlete's true success back was the coach themselves. The response in the room was mixed. Some understood where he was heading, although most thought he had gone crazy. How could a person that was put in charge of an athlete’s development be holding them back?

He went on to say that a coach’s subconscious may mean that they’ll only train an athlete to the level of success they expect them to reach. This impacts on all the decision-making and can have a major negative impact on the athlete/employee.

Leaders’ influence on success

From a psychological point of view, the above concept is described as the observer-expectancy effect where one person subconsciously influences another person. So if a leader has the expectation that a team member can only complete a certain level of tasks then the leader will only provide them with that level, thus impacting dramatically on their success.

Substantial research has demonstrated this impact. One, in particular, was a famous education example. Teachers were told that some of their students would be ‘late bloomers’ and could be expected have ‘growth spurts’ that would positively impact on their success. When reviewed at the end of the school year, those ‘late bloomers’ did significantly better than the non-labelled students. The expectations of the teachers became a reality.

High-impact leader

Turning to leadership, The High Impact Leader by Bruce J Avolio, highlighted that, “The so-called smarter or more motivated groups do better if the leader believes they are smarter or more motivated.” Not only did the ‘better team’ perform at a higher level but the participants on that team came to believe that their personal skills were raised to a higher level. This expectation of the leader ultimately improved work-related performance by an impressive 28%.

We could provide example after example in all areas of life regarding the impact of expectations.

Einstein once said, “We are boxed in by the boundary conditions of our own thinking.” There’s a clear message not only to individuals but also to leaders. If we believe our teams are going to be highly successful, or we believe that are not, we are always going to be correct. The conscious or unconscious expectations is a driving force behind our team's success, so beware of your thoughts.

If you want to raise the success of your team all you have to do is raise your expectations.