What do a doctor, politician, priest and CEO all share in common? As people, they are all defined by their title.
What makes these titles – and others like them – so distinctive and influential is not necessarily the person behind the title, rather the perception and identity the title projects to others.
The social expectations put on a doctor are vastly different to that of a CEO. Imagine if all CEOs were encouraged to adopt a medical approach to business, that is to say, caring for and saving people? The business world would be a noticeably different and healthier beast.
Every formal title brings with it a distinct meaning, yet all carry an expectation that marks the recipient and determines their actions and behaviour.
As outlined in the Wikipedia entry about the Pygmalion effect:
“The Pygmalion effect refers to the phenomenon in which the greater the expectation placed upon people, often children or students and employees, the better they perform.”
In this study, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson showed “that if teachers were led to expect enhanced performance from some children, then the children did indeed show that enhancement.”
“The purpose of the experiment was to support the hypothesis that reality can be influenced by the expectations of others. This influence can be beneficial as well as detrimental depending on which label an individual is assigned. Rosenthal posited that biased expectancies can essentially affect reality and create self-fulfilling prophecies as a result.”
Like Pygmalion, a job title can inspire expectations and greater responsibility. Does a title mean someone is worthy of it, or less valuable because the title is seen as inferior to another? Of course not, but the way a person demonstrates the responsibilities of their title can play a key role in what they achieve and how they are perceived by peers, manager or customers.
You may not be a doctor or politician but you can still place a superior expectation on your own contributions. As an example, if you’re a sales assistant why not consider yourself the sales manager? In doing this, ask for more responsibility.
Or why not take it upon yourself to contribute more through your own initiative? Promote yourself to a more valuable self-title.
How you think and act then enhances your current role and aligns to your higher goals and aspiration in a more purposeful way. Simply willing a goal into your reality is folly. Your stated goals will only be brought to life through corresponding actions, followed by refinement and then more actions!
To achieve more in business you don’t have to expect more from others, but you do need to expect more from yourself. Rosenthal postulates that when greater expectations are placed on a person they are more likely to live up to them. You don’t always need external encouragement to succeed, but your own expectations are critical to activating this principle.
When you raise the bar and strive harder for the right reasons, you change from being a person defined by a title to a person who defines their title and is deserving of that big promotion.
This article was first published on June 8, 2012.
Trent Leyshan is the founder of BOOM!, Australia’s leading sales training and development specialist. He is the author of OUTLAW: Fight for your customers and sell without fear.