When You Think the Best of Others, You Get the Best From Others

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Ever notice that when you’re with friends who think you’re clever, you become markedly more clever, with blog-worthy commentary and sharp-witted comebacks effortlessly tumbling from mind to mouth? You might even think, “Who knew I was so clever!” But then when you’re with someone who questions your talent and abilities, your confidence deflates—doubt creeps in and you struggle for the right words to complete a thought. Perception becomes reality.

In a Harvard Business Review article titled, “If Your Boss Thinks You’re Awesome, You Will Become More Awesome” leadership development consultants Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman relay the results of a study they conducted of 81 managers in a multinational agency—50 who generally rated their direct reports significantly more positively than other managers, and 31 who consistently rated their direct reports lower than others.

Zenger and Folkman observed that people who work for managers who think they’re awesome are perceived to be more effective leaders by their colleagues (click to tweet) than those who work for managers who think the opposite. They concluded that, “…these biases and rankings have become self-fulfilling, influencing subordinates’ behavior to the extent that others ultimately can see it.”

How we rate and react to one another as peers is also important. Being judged negatively, or with indifference, by your peers can affect performance and the work we are capable of delivering. Think about it. When you’ve gone above and beyond for someone and your work is met with a “meh,” are you motivated to work as hard next time? Conversely, when someone gushes over the great job you did and the great job they know you’re going to do on the next project, aren’t you motivated to jump in and do it again? Just as your mind works better with friends who think you’re clever—don’t you come up with better ideas when you’re among colleagues who think you’re brilliant?

A cautionary final thought: Thinking your colleagues are awesome and expressing that sentiment should not be confused with giving excessive praise for mediocre work. Instead, it’s a mindset that expects excellence, encourages excellence, and, acknowledges and rewards excellence. Something to consider.