Expectation Effect in Coaching
Expectation Effect in Coaching
As anyone who has studied coaching for more than five minutes knows: the biggest predictor of successful outcomes is the quality of rapport between the parties. Of the multitude of factors involved in creating rapport, one will be explored in this article: the expectation effect in coaching.
Some people are still using the first draft model of coaching: GROW. As with all first drafts it is very far from complete, and very far from effective, but is of historical interest. To provide an illustrative question: where in the first draft model, is rapport? Missing. To be frank, this article is for people who are beyond the coaching 101 level, people who have moved beyond the first draft model. See “Coaches: Have you outgrown GROW?”
Scene set. On to the expectation effect in coaching.
Recall some of your teachers. Unless you were amazingly fortunate, what follows will be an all too familiar story. You are in a school classroom, and yet again Mr/Ms Teacher makes a negative comment to Jo/e about his/her likely future. Mr/Ms Teacher reveals his/her expectations to Jo/e. Teacher’s body language and voice tone tells you everything. S/he has given up on Jo/e. Forward-wind some months. Has Jo/e improved? No. Will Jo/e improve? Not while being “taught” by Mr/Ms Teacher.
Perhaps you think that is just a one-off example, and only affected one person. Let’s read another story.
A social sciences researcher enters a class room, and conducts intelligence tests on the entire class. After processing, Mr/Ms Teacher is informed of the results. The researcher has identified those students who can respond well to education and those who are, frankly, a waste of educational time.
Some months later the researcher returns and assesses the students, and as predicted, the bright ones have made marked improvements, and those who were a waste of educational time, indeed, have been wasting their time: much less progress, if any.
“Phew,” Mr/Ms Teacher thinks, “thank goodness that we have a researcher able to save so much effort being wasted on the no-hopers.”
All is well, and as the world should be… until you find out that the students were allocated to the bright and no-hoper groups AT RANDOM.
Yes, you read correctly. Even though there was NO basis for the allocation to one group or the other, the results of the assessment conducted later “proved” that the selection of the no-hopers was justified.
Of course, such a story could never play out in real-life. Hmmm…. you should know that it did. This is NOT a story. This is real life science. Rosenthal and Jacobson’s work published in 1968, Pygmalion in the Classroom, documents the scenario above.
What does that study, and the multitude of times it has been repeated, with the same results, tell us?
That a teacher’s expectations become self-fulfilling. (Where is that in the first draft model? Missing.) And those expectations become self-fulfilling even when there is no factual basis for the expectation. Bright students did badly because of the teacher’s expectations. Not so bright students did well because of the teacher’s expectations.
What does that tell us about expectation effect in coaching?
Coaches can influence the outcomes of their client by the expectations the coach holds of their client, what ever the starting point of the person being coached. “Influence” is too mild. Let me escalate that to the point of memorability, by adulterating the title* of a famous book: What your coach thinks of you is all of your business!
If your coach is not a natural “see the best and bring out the best in people” type, you will sense it, and your performance will be affected by it. You will live down to your coach’s expectations.
If your coach is aware that s/he is not a natural “see the best and bring out the best in people” type, s/he will try to fake it, you will sense it, and your performance will be affected by it. You will live down to your coach’s actual rather than stated expectations of you.
If your coach IS a natural “see the best and bring out the best in people” type, you will sense it, and your performance will be affected by it. You will live UP to your coach’s expectations.
Back to why rapport is so massively important in coaching. If your coach and you get on well, AND you sense in every single subtle nuance of communication that your coach has high expectations of you, you will perform better.
The expectation effect in coaching is the Pygmalion effect. George Bernard Shaw was right all those years ago, “one soul is as good as another,” and the higher your coach expects you to achieve, the more you will.
Nearly two decades ago, a multi-national client commissioned an academic study to determine the nature of the effectiveness of the coaching techniques I was using. Needless to say the academics were not advanced coaching practitioners. Their finding was that our results could partially be attributed to what they described as “the menu approach” being used.
So close, yet, so very, very far.
What they described as a “menu approach” was just ONE of many techniques designed to build rapport and boost expectations in coach AND client. The highly skilled academics saw something and misread it. Why? Because of their own expectations.
Even the brightest people have their ability to see, and the way they behave, affected by their expectations. They (and it could easily have been you or I) expected to see some mechanical approach that could be easily replicated, ‘found’ one, and as a result did not and could not see the multi-layered nuances of rapport formation and expectation building.
As will now be obvious to you, the irony is that the academics’ own expectations blinded them to the fact that expectations were a massively important element in the success they sought to analyse.
If you want to perform at the highest leadership level, and to have a wide range of techniques to build rapport, to harness the expectation effect in coaching, contact Dr Nigel MacLennan.
If you wish to improve your leadership results, if you want to work with a coach who expects the best of you, if you want to be equipped with performance enhancing methods and techniques not available to your competitors, and if you only want to pay for results, or, there is no fee, contact Dr Nigel MacLennan for a free development session.
Copyright 2016 Dr Nigel MacLennan
* “What you think of me is none of my business.” Terry Cole-Whittaker 2002.