Being in the hospitality industry, I often hear complaints from managers about younger workers. The belief is that GEN-Z employees don’t know how to serve guests, nor are they willing to learn. They are always on their phones and don’t care about creating experiences, ya-da ya-da. I always call BS.

No matter what generation, people are willing to work hard and willing to learn if they are told they can succeed. How demotivating is it to come into a new job with curiosity and a little bit of fear of the unknown only to be told by your manager that you will never get it?

If that’s the case, then I don’t want to get it. I have enough things to worry about that shake my self-confidence. I don’t need a mid-level manager tearing me down in the process.  — Future Generation

Leadership is about belief, or what is known as the –

Pygmalion Effect

In 1968, two researchers decided to test a theory of communication. Rosenthal and Jacobsen walked into an elementary school and gave out IQ tests to all the students. Then they shared the results with their teachers. They gave specific names of the kids who scored through the roof, let’s call them Sam, Sally, and John. They also told the teachers not to reveal the results to the children or spend more or less time with them for the rest of the school semester.

At the end of the year, the researchers conducted the IQ test again. As expected, Sam, Sally, and John scored extremely high. Here is the catch, when Rosenthal and Jacobsen conducted the first test, Sam, Sally, and John’s scores were not as high as they originally revealed to their teachers. They were in fact… ordinary. The researchers just randomly picked their names and lied to the teachers to instill in them a belief that those three students were gifted.

The atmosphere changed in the classroom, but not for everybody. It changed specifically for the students whose teacher believed they were smarter than the rest. Without having to spend more time with those students, the mere non-verbal belief resonated with the teachers and impacted the students. These non-verbal messages were then digested by the students and transformed into reality.

This is known as the Pygmalion Effect: When our belief in another person’s potential can bring that potential to life.

Belief can transform the ordinary into extraordinary. The expectations we have of our team, without ever actually being voiced, can become a reality. If you tell an employee, regardless of their age, that you consistently do not believe in them, more often than not, they are going to be demotivated and unwilling to do what you ask, especially serve strangers with exuberant passion.

Belief in Action

Many years ago, I was settling into a new position as a technical training manager for a resort. I put my own spin on training, making it engaging as it could be, often utilizing my quirkiness and odd humor.

It worked.

People in my hotel enjoyed the training. It caught the attention of the HR Director. When a position opened for a Learning Manager, I was put on the list of candidates without even knowing it. When my CIO approached me about taking the job, I was surprised and hesitant. There’s no way someone would offer me a job I was not qualified for. I didn’t study hospitality, instructional design, or Human Resources. Why would they choose me? I’ll never forget what my CIO told me, he looked into my eyes with firm conviction and said,

“You can do that job with your eyes closed.”

My fears began to dissolve. Was I still unqualified? Yes, by educational standards. Yet at that moment, his belief qualified me in a way that was far more important than a degree. He believed that I could succeed based on my character. Because of that one belief, I am where I am today.

Do not give up so easily on your team. Many of them may be unqualified, but it’s your job as the leader to instill belief and let the Pygmalion Effect unravel itself. Belief matters. Just ask John Mayer about Belief. He’ll say it’s a “powerful thing”.

Where’s The Storytether?

Tether yourself to “Belief”. It’s one of the most powerful tools you have and it costs nothing. If you can’t believe in your team, then one of you probably shouldn’t be in that position. Which one is it?

Pygmalion: Who is this guy?

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