Believe In Them and They Will…


Do you believe the best in your employees? Are there some that are underperforming? If you changed your opinion about the underperformer to a favorable one, do you think their performance will follow?

There is a theory, somewhat old now, that believing in the best in people actually does improve their performance. It is called the Pygmalion Effect.

Some argue that the effect is self-serving. For example, if you intentionally treat someone better, does their performance actually change or is it simply a change of perception that colors your view of them?

Store level retail is full of entry-level associates. Many have no background in retail, and their adaptation may be slow. This could lead to an unfair perception that they are not the right material.

How can you show them that you believe in them?

When we believe the best in them, what would they become? Here are four suggestions to help you put this theory to the test:

  1. Give them a task or project that is essential yet difficult.

Give them the proper training and encouragement, and let them try. Tell them you believe in them. If they get stuck and come back to you, ask them what they feel their barriers to success are. Ask them how they can overcome those barriers. Encourage them to go with their own solution.

  1. In the interview process, outline the path to management level.

Let them know that many employees started in the same position, and you believe that the person you hire will have that capability. After you hire them, tell them that you will commit to giving them the training over time if they commit to give their best.

  1. Constantly ask them, “What would you do?” when they ask you for direction.

In the beginning, there is a need for clear direction. However, after a few months, there is a good chance the employee already knows the answer. When they look for direction after gaining experience, ask them “what would you do?” When they reply, unless their answer is outlandish or violates company policy, tell them that it is a good answer and encourage them go do it.

  1. Frequently inquire about their future.

If they indicate a future that is with the company, ask them what they would like to try next. Unless it’s not feasible, make it happen for them.

The worst case is that the employee fails you. However, when they fail, give them a hand back up. It’s OK to fail as life’s best lessons are often learned this way.

Retail has a high degree of turnover, and much of it is due to lack of engagement. When you express your belief in them, I believe you’ll see reciprocation in engagement. With your belief and their engagement, so much more is possible than before!

I would like to hear your thoughts or comments!


Author: Joe Croarkin

Husband, father of three, brother of four

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