If you expect failure, you are putting your people in a position to fail, you are abdicating any accountability and the most likely outcome is failure.

I am firm believer that the expectations we have of our teams, or individuals, has a significant impact on the potential outcome.

When we expect people to fail, we have taken the first step on the road to failure.

How can we give teams the confidence in their ability to achieve difficult tasks if we really expect them to fail?

If we communicate that we expect them to fail, then we are letting them know that failure is permissible, if it weren’t, why would we give a task to a team we expect to fail.

When we give tasks to people that we think will fail, then we are abdicating any accountability for success.  If the teams start to fail, then it’s is meeting our expectations and our response is usually I told you so and we do not need to step in or do anything.

This expectation then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

However, if we expect a team to succeed, then we have set a completely different expectation.

We have completely changed the dynamics and we have also taken accountability for ensuring success.

If we expect a team to succeed its much easier to give the team confidence in their ability, if we think that they can succeed we should be able to articulate how and this will give the team belief.

If the progress doesn’t meet our expectations then we will be more inclined to step in and try and help get the project back on track, back in line with our expectations.

Our expectations directly impact how we communicate, interact and manage our teams.

There have been psychological experiments, which have been set up to test this hypothesis, such as the 1968 Rosenthal-Jacobson Study.

In their study, they showed that if teachers were led to expect improved performance from some children, then the children did indeed show that improvement.

Children were selected at random and their names were given to the teachers, as pupils they would expect to achieve above average improvements in IQ.

Over the course of the school year, these randomly selected children, showed these randomly predicted improvements.

How the teachers interacted and taught these children, based on their expectations, helped deliver the predicted improvements.

Whilst many may doubt the power of positive expectation setting I am sure that everyone will agree that when we set negative expectations we are setting a self-fulfilling prophesy in motion.

So if we want our teams to succeed then we need to set that expectation of success.

It costs us nothing, it set the right dynamics, it makes everyone accountable for achieving success and there it increases probability of success.

By Gordon Tredgold