Archive for April 8th, 2009

Want Improved Behavior? Try EXPECTING It.

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

When I was young and irresponsible – but I repeat myself – a teacher of mine found a way to force me to act grown up: she thanked me in advance for being mature.

Huh? How does that work?

It was simple (for her), and – believe me – she played me like a violin.

Somewhere along the way in her career, she had learned that the old “spoonful of sugar” routine works better most of the time with college-aged guys than do heavy-handed tactics. But she had also discovered a secret, insidious, improvement: by letting me know that she trusted me to perform at a higher level, she actually forced me to do so.

The situation was this: in a group project, I had to turn in my part of the work first in order for my partner to do hers. I’m sure that my very responsible partner had seen me in the classroom enough to know how lax my work habits were at this point in my life. She probably went to the teacher, begging for another partner – anybody.

So it was that – at the end of class – our teacher called me up to the desk to ask when my part of the work would be ready. Naturally, I assured her that I would have it finished on schedule. At that point, I expected her to threaten me if I failed to deliver or, perhaps, try to shame me by talking about how much this grade meant to my poor partner.

Instead, once I promised to be on time for a change – she thanked me for being a man of my word.

I know it sounds simple, but it was deadly. She called me a “man” – a term that had rarely (or never) been applied to me. Throwing in the “…of my word” just sealed the deal. Now I had to hold up my end of the bargain. And I did. I was even early!

So, next time your teen, tween, or otherwise uninspired worker has an important job to do, don’t threaten them – just let them know that you expect them to come through with flying colors. Treat them like a functioning adult.

Who knows? They might even behave like one!