Monthly Archives: November 2014


It Turns Out You ARE Lucky-If You Think You Are

What do Michael Jordan and Steve Jobs have in common? Maybe several things, but one thing they had in common was that they are/were very superstitious. It is fairly well known that Michael Jordan, in every NBA game he played, wore an old pair of shorts from his college basketball days under his NBA shorts. Steve Jobs would sometimes go for weeks at a time only eating carrots and apples.

Why would they do this? Because they believed it enhanced their performance.

Did it really help? Well, it turns out that if they believed it would help them, it probably did. (For some interesting articles concerning this about Michael Jordan  and Steve Jobs  click the links.)

How could it possibly help them? The answer is self-efficacy, a fancy word for self confidence. The truth is that if you think you can do something, you are much more likely to actually be able to do it.

Consider this interesting experiment. Researchers asked volunteers to putt a golf ball into a cup. One group did 35% better than the other. What was the difference? They told the first group that they were using a “lucky” ball. That’s all! The fact that they believed the ball was lucky, made them 35% better at putting the ball. So, it really was lucky!

Without question, self-efficacy leads to enhanced performance.

How can we harness this powerful truth to help us?

When you are getting ready to make that big sales pitch, or give that big presentation to the executives of your company, or lead that important team meeting, change your self-talk to an attitude of confidence. If you have a “lucky routine,” do it; if you have a “lucky shirt,” wear it. Anything you can do to build your self confidence (self-efficacy) will probably increase your performance.

Maybe you won’t be able to dunk a basketball or create a new technology breakthrough, but you just might give the presentation of your life!

Verbal Abuse

Is Your Motivation Motivational?

I still remember parts of the first halftime “pep talk” from my American football coach my senior year in high school. Many of the words could not be repeated here and the finale came to a crescendo as he kicked the film projector and sent it flying across the room. That little move set him back a few hundred dollars because the principal (who later became my father-in-law) made him pay for that bit of destruction from his own pocket.

Coaches, and periodically managers at work, sometimes yell, scream, criticize, or belittle in order to motivate employees and players to higher performance. But does it work as expected? Does it help motivate players and workers to perform better.

The answer seems to be “no.”

In a recent study*, researchers asked employees how often their supervisors verbally abused them by putting them down or deriding them. They also asked them if the supervisors were trying to motivate them to do better by doing the ridiculing.

One month later, they asked the same employees if they had done any undermining behaviors such as stealing from the company or purposely wasting work time. The employees who felt abused acted in counterproductive behaviors much more often.

The interesting thing is that even if the employees felt like the supervisor meant it for good—that is to motivate—it still produced bad behavior. The undermining behaviors were aimed at the supervisor and at the organization as a whole.

It is important to remember that employees who are happy and feel valued will be more productive and will stay with a company longer. A kind and compassionate workplace is a winning situation for the organization and the employees.

Verbal abuse, no matter what the intent, causes harm and negatively impacts the organization in tangible ways.

So whether you are a football coach, a team leader, or a line supervisor: Be kind to improve the bottom line.

*Kevin J. Eschleman, Nathan A. Bowling, Jesse S. Michel, Gary N. Burns. Perceived intent of supervisor as a moderator of the relationships between abusive supervision and counterproductive work behaviours. Work & Stress, 2014; 1