We keep chickens at home. 5 of them – one for each member of the family. The first bit of fun we had was in naming them. My wife called hers Heloise. The kids called theirs Gip, Ethel and Jeff. I named mine after my favourite theologian of all time; a 4th century Alexandrian called Didymus the Blind. Not the most catchy of names for a chicken, I’ll admit. But I have a history with that name. In fact, for a while, in the late 1980s, I played in a band called Didymus the Blind and the Guide Dogs of Funk (don’t waste any time looking through your old CDs – you won’t find me there!).
Anyway, to cut a long story short…one year after buying the chickens, guess what? Didymus the Blind has gone blind! How weird is that! I don’t really think that the name I gave him has had any real bearing on the matter but – well, what would have happened if I had named him Didymus the Marathon Chicken Flyer?
I will never know…
Didymus the Blind has become what I called him.

In 1911, researchers Stumpt and Fungst did a project on a horse called Clever Hans. Hans was clever. Hans was Clever. He was Clever Hans. Clever Hans could add, subtract, multiply, spell and solve problems with the aid of musical harmony (by stamping his feet the appropriate number of times). But what Stumpt and Fungst came to realise was that they were giving Clever Hans the answers through their body language. When the horse could see them, he got the answers right, when the questioners stood behind him, he would not know what to do.
Clever Hans was only clever when he was expected to be clever. The rest of the time, Clever Hans was not clever at all.
So was born the Management Theory now known as the Pygmalion Effect. If an expectation is set for an employee, they tend to try to fulfil it. When no expectations are set, they do not fulfil it. The self-fulfilment prophecy.
In the work environment, we constantly send off signals, body language, that let people know what our expectations of them are. These can be positive – and we will get more out of our employees. These can be negative – and we will begin to ‘create’ a demotivated workforce.
People become what we tell them they are. That’s the story of the Chicken and the Horse.
In a Connection Economy, where relationships are at the heart of all we do, we need to be sure that we do everything we can to create positive re-inforcement. The way we speak, our body language, our unspoken expectations – all these will be ‘read’ by our employees today.
I would rather have a Clever Hans than a Didymus the Blind in my office. Maybe it’s up to me to motivate properly and free them up to do their bit.

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