Make A Difference: Set the Right Expectations and Ask the Right Questions

Talent Plus Talent Plus

August 07, 2017 Blog Leadership

Have you ever worked for a manager who set high expectations for you – maybe even higher than you would have set for yourself – and genuinely believed you could achieve those expectations? Did your performance in the end meet or even exceed those expectations? If so, you’ve benefitted from the Pygmalion effect.

The Pygmalion effect (sometimes called the Rosenthal effect because it was first described in the academic education literature by Rosenthal and Jacobsen in 1968) is simple: the expectations of a person in authority impact the engagement and performance of the people they lead. A more recent Journal of Management study based specifically on management and leadership expectation effects found that “employees engaged more actively in learning behaviors when their leaders had higher expectations about their ability to learn job-relevant knowledge and skills.”

Set the Right Expectations
Are you setting the right expectations for the people you lead, the kinds of expectations that will maximize their engagement and ultimate performance?
Listen in as Larry Sternberg describes an experiment you can try in real time with the people on your team that will help you set the kinds of individualized expectations that will optimize each person’s opportunities to grow and succeed.

Ask the Right Questions
As you move from setting expectations to coaching people in real time, the questions you ask and how you ask them can make a huge difference in the outcomes people achieve. In this podcast, Larry, Kimberly Shirk and I discuss specific questions you can ask at two key times – preparing for a future performance and reviewing a recent performance – to coach people to success. You can also find those questions and the reasoning behind them here in an article we wrote for Training Industry Magazine.

On all our podcasts and blog posts, you have an opportunity to talk back to us through comments and emails. We hope to hear from you! Until next time, manage to make a difference every day!

+ Larry Sternberg, J.D. and Kim Turnage, Ph.D.


This post highlights Chapters 17 & 18 of Managing to Make a Difference (Wiley), a handbook for hitting the sweet spot of middle management. Next up: Kick Butt in the Right Way. Connect with Kim Turnage and Larry Sternberg on LinkedIn to see their latest updates.


Larry Sternberg

Larry is a Fellow and Board Member at Talent Plus where he helps people and organizations grow by using the Talent Plus science to select high potential people, put them in the right fit for their talent, and make them feel valued and significant.

“I help managers and leaders make a lasting positive difference in the lives of their employees.”

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