Finding the Bloomers: Seeing Potential in Everyone

Finding the Bloomers: Seeing Potential in Everyone

We love to find the “diamond in the rough”.  We feel great when we find one.  Discovering someone with potential and grooming them to success can be a highlight of one’s year, or even your career.  But what if I told you every person you come in contact with is a diamond in the rough?  Yes, every person.

We may not have enough time in the day to influence and help each and every human being we meet.  But how many opportunities have we missed?  We should have a mindset to see the potential in people, however we become annoyed at their idiosyncrasies or focus on how their deficiencies will hurt us or hold us back.  Our brains always look for the quickest way to deal with something or someone, putting much effort over time takes commitment and the right mindset.

Lucky for us, there is the Pygmalion Effect.

In a San Francisco elementary school, researchers applied an IQ test to 1st through 5th graders.  With the test results, the teachers were told which students performed in the top 20% and that they were considered intellectual “bloomers”.  At the end of the study, the same test was administrated.  The “bloomers” significantly out performed their fellow students.  But wait…

There’s a catch.  The researchers assigned to the Bloomers group were picked at random.  They randomly picked who were the Bloomers in order to see if the teachers expectations would shape the student’s achievement.  The “bloomer” students significantly out performed the other students, regardless of their IQ and cognitive abilities, all because of one thing.

The teacher’s expectations were different for the Bloomers.

And because their expectations were different, they behaved and communicated differently with the non-bloomers, whether it be consciously or not.  This is the Pygmalion Effect, also called the Rosenthal effect.  The teachers provided more supportive behavior which increased the student’s confidence.  We most likely all feel that we treat each and every student, employee, or friend the same.  We say that we believe in everyone and that we don’t carry prejudice that shapes how we interact with others.  No one wants to think that they don’t help or see everyone the same way.  Its okay…we have to accept that it can happen, find the situations and relationships where it does, and shift our mindset – a mindset that KNOWS this person can achieve great things and be successful.

Think this research in an elementary school is an anomaly?  A similar test was done with rats.  2 groups of graduate students were given rats to run through a maze.  One group was told they had the smart rats, the other group had the not-so-smart rats.  Which rats do you think performed better in the maze?  Yep, the smarty ones.  The rats were selected at random just like with the Rosenthal elementary school study.  Students were only told their rats were smarter.  Again, we see expectations equal performance.

Expectations = Performance

Still not convinced eh?  The same type of research was applied in Israel, to 1000 new soldiers.  Platoon leaders were told certain trainees were “high potential” performers, according to basic training evaluations and review of test scores.  Again, as with the teachers in the Rosenthal study and the grad students with rats, the platoon leaders believed in the potential of certain soldiers so much that the significant performance

If we blindly believing that our co-worker is an amazing team player, will they suddenly become this way?  Maybe not right off the bat.  How exciting is it to know that if you have the mindset that everyone is a “bloomer” in some way, that those higher expectations will produce a higher performance?

No one achieves anything alone.  We need to believed in.

Can you change your mindset on how you see others?  I’ve had numerous successes in my life that are attributed to someone believing in me when I DID NOT believe in myself.  I rose to their expectations.  Great leaders see the world through this lens.

Great leaders see the world through this lens.

We must practice seeing potential in our co-workers, family, friends, and community.  This is how I try to make the world a better place, one person at a time.  Believing in someone’s potential isn’t hard, just look for it as other’s have seen it in you.


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