Linking Motivation to Performance


“If he [the manager] has confidence in his ability to develop and stimulate them [employees] to high levels of performance, he will expect much of them and will treat them with the confidence that his expectations will be met.  But if he has doubts about his ability to stimulate them, he will expect less of them and will treat them with less confidence.” – J. Sterling Livingston, “Pygmalion in Management (1969)”

Leaders inspire; they motivate, it’s what they do.  It’s why they’re, well, leaders. But what if a leader is inspiring his team to create mediocrity? It happens. And more often than not, because the leader himself is holding on to lowered expectations.

In the book “Motivating Employees”, written by Anne Bruce and James S. Pepitone, they discuss motivating employees.  A major theme in the book is how expectations influence behavior.  You as a leader will get better performance from people, if you expect it from them. 

The phenomenon has a name: The Pygmalion Effect.  The basic idea is that the greater the expectation placed upon people, the better they perform.  You can significantly influence the feelings, attitudes and behaviors of those around you if you communicate your expectations, explicitly and implicitly.

That can be easier said than done. Below are tips on how to boost your expectations, and your team’s performance:

  1. Walk the talk.  Be the role model for what you expect in others.
  2. Convey enthusiasm in what you do.
  3. Remind others that problems can be overcome.
  4. Recognize attempts to improve effectiveness and productivity—even when they don’t necessarily work.
  5. Recognize people who overcome obstacles to achieve results.
  6. Keep an open mind and focus on the positive side of new ideas.
  7. Encourage people to talk with you about their feelings.
  8. Meet with people—individually or in groups—when morale is low.  Express optimism and faith in the team.  Expect the best from people.  Expect that they will excel.
  9. Make work fun.
  10. See the humor in your own mistakes.  Laugh more.
  11. Focus on small, but significant wins, not just the big deals.
  12. Celebrate, a lot.

Have you been successful in your motivational efforts?  Reliable Delivery is always learning and implementing new ways of motivating employees.  Please leave a comment below, email us at or connect with us on Twitter at to share your thoughts or ideas.


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