Categories : Coaching Communication Management Recognition Relationship Building Team Building


The Pygmalion Effect comes from Greek mythology. Pygmalion, the King of Cyprus, carved an ivory statue of the ideal woman and named her Galatea. He had high expectations for his creation. Through his own will and help from the goddess Venus, Pygmalion brought Galatea to life.

Fast-forward to 1968 and a classic study that showed the impact of expectations the Pygmalion Effect on elementary school children’s learning. There’s a lot telecom providers can learn from it.

In this study by Dr. Robert Rosenthal, teachers at a school were given the names of certain students and told that these pupils scored exceptionally high on intellectual ability tests. The teachers were led to expect great things from these students. Several months later, tests were administered again and these students performed better than their peers. But the names of the “bright” students had been chosen at random. Somehow, teachers’ higher expectations had been translated into increased learning.

Hundreds of studies have confirmed that, on average, people’s expectations of other people do influence the action and achievement of those people. Pygmalion’s Effect is alive and well, and he is the ultimate coach for telecom providers. What are the expectations you have for your team when it comes to selling your products? Do you see your employees as having unlimited potential to increase their abilities and the revenue they generate for the company? Do you have a coach who believes that your team has talent and abilities beyond what they’re demonstrating?

Managers who act as coaches can enhance the skills of their teams to exceed customer expectations about sales and service. Following are some tips on great coaching.

Accept people as they are. Everyone has his or her strengths and weaknesses. Treat people as unique individuals. Measure them against themselves, not the top sales person. As a coach, let them know what they are doing to improve their interactions with customers.

John Wooden was one of the greatest collegiate basketball coaches in history. Wooden kept diaries on each of his players. He kept track of the small improvements he felt they could make and then, at the end of practice, he shared these thoughts with each player. A good coach works to improve the small things that help each member of the team exceed his or her own expectations.

Listen 80 percent; talk 20 percent. A great coach is a great listener. When communicating with an employee, let him or her know he or she is the most important person at that moment. Turn your phone off. Close the door to prevent anyone from interrupting. Create a list of appropriate opened-ended questions to help you understand how that person views his or her role and responsibility to the company and the rest of the team. The questions should require employees to give you insight into how they think they are doing. Questions such as “What do you think you did well in that call?” and, “How could you have improved that interaction with the customer?” will give you critical feedback.

Be specific. During our working lives, many of us will have someone say the words “good job” to acknowledge us for a task we completed. If you’re going to recognize employees for exceeding expectations, tell them exactly what they did in that customer interaction that made their performances stellar. Every performance improvement, however small, deserves some type of recognition. Coaches notice the small things that can turn an employee into a top performer.

Understand core values and beliefs. To be an effective coach, you need to know the players on your team. What are the core values and beliefs of each of those players? Let’s say an employee on your team believes it is not good to be superior to others and that recognition for a job well done places him or her in that position. If he or she operates from that belief, that employee will do anything to avoid being recognized. Each and every person on your team is an individual with separate values and beliefs about recognition and coaching. An excellent way to recognize one person may have a negative effect on another. If you are going to inspire your team, you need to understand the core values of the individuals. You need to know what inspires each member of the team to do his or her best every day.

Does the coach for your team see every player on the team as having unlimited potential and do they consistently work on the small things to help those players improve? If the answer is yes, the Pygmalion Effect is having a positive impact on your sales.


David Saxby is president of Measure-X, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based measurement, training and recognition company that specializes in customer service and sales skill training for utility companies.