Pygmalion And Management
Pygmalion is the title of the play by George Bernard Shaw. (Shaw’s play was the basis for the musical ‘My Fair Lady’). The central theme of his story was that one person (Professor Higgins), by his effort and will, attempted to transform another (the flower girl, Eliza Doolittle).
In management, we often attempt to play at Pygmalion. We select individuals, whom we believe to have the talent and potential, and we try to make them into something which they are not (or at least, not yet)! In the name of management development, we attempt to transform our charges into effective managers and leaders of the future. Success rates do seem to vary tremendously.
Maybe Shaw can help us. After all, it is he who says:
“He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.”
In Shaw’s Pygmalion, Eliza Doolittle explains to Colonel Pickering:
“You see, the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves but how she is treated. I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me like a flower girl, and always will; but I know I can be a lady to you, because you always treat me as a lady,and always will.”
Some senior managers always treat their team members in a way that will lead to superior performance. Unfortunately, many senior managers follow Professor Higgins’ example and treat their team members as subordinates, in a way that leads to poor performance.
If we want excellent performance from our teams then we must treat them as excellent performers.
The responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of the senior managers to nurture, develop and believe in their people. To quote Bob Townshend, from Up the Organisation:
“There’s no such thing as bad workers, only bad managers.”
So, what’s going on in your business?