Sep 14, 2015

Great expectations

I know you can do it”.

To my mind these are some of the most powerful words in the dictionary of corporate culture and leadership. I'll never tire of using them and will continue to encourage everyone around me to do so as well.

What do these simple words actually do? They tell the people who work with you that you believe in them, that you know - probably even better than they do – that they are capable of delivering excellence.

This doesn't work, of course, if a person can't deliver excellence. But think about it – why would we hire people if we didn't think they could deliver? The process of hiring starts with belief – and expectations. This process can either succeed – or fail. And if it fails, then it's not just the employee, but the employer, and the organization, who have failed.

We want you to succeed. We expect you to succeed. Not just a handful of you – all of you.

Many years ago I experienced this first-hand when I was expected to do a job that I was convinced was far beyond my abilities – and my boss thought otherwise. His belief in me pushed me to work double-time, dig deep within myself, and come up with the best I had to offer.

I remember when my daughter was learning to ride a bicycle – she was so reluctant to let me take off the training wheels, so convinced that she couldn't possibly balance unless I was holding on to the back. But I let go, because I knew she was ready - and all the practice she'd put in paid off, and away she rode. What a thrill it was to say to her, “I knew you could do it!”

In corporate terminology, this simple process has a name – the Pygmalion effect. It means when people believe in you and expect great things from you – you will deliver. It also leads to what is called a self-fulfilling prophecy – where the person who believed in you and predicted good things about you, will do everything in their power to make it happen. So, a win-win situation. Terms and definitions help us collate things better, but at the end of the day it all comes down to one simple fact – if you believe and are believed in, you are liable to succeed.

I think my colleague Richa Sharma is a great example of this. She came to us with an English Major and no MBA – but with oodles of zeal and agility, and the confidence and hunger to learn. She says Genpact has made her feel like “Destiny's Child” – it “took a punt” on her despite knowing there was the risk of her failing, taught her on the job, encouraged her to further her education, pushed her to push her own boundaries, and trusted in her . Today, she's a VP, has an MBA, and runs all hiring for Genpact in India at our associate and manager levels. She believed in herself – and we believed in her.

This sort of success doesn't take place only at the top, at CEO and SVP levels. It takes place the entire stretch of the way, at every level. At every step of the way there is the potential for trust and empowerment, for taking off those training wheels and making leaders out of learners. We can all be leaders, in our own way, at all times. And we can always be leaders to ourselves.

This is what I believe in, and what we truly believe in at Genpact: that hard work and belief, potential and empowerment, trust and high expectations – can work miracles.

Be the miracle. If you are a leader, empower your people and believe in them. If you believe you aren't yet a leader – become one.

I started off by talking about the power of the words “You can do it”.

I have great expectations that I shall be hearing them used a lot.

Harry Potter showed himself to be a truly great leader when he pretended to give his friend Ron a magic potion to help him win a crucial match. Ron didn't need any magic potion - he only needed to believe in himself. Harry's belief in Ron's talent succeeded in bringing out Ron's true potential.

“Don’t tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon” – Paul Brandt

“High Expectations are the key to everything” – Sam Walton

About the author

Piyush Mehta

Piyush Mehta

Chief Human Resources Officer

Piyush Mehta leads Genpact’s global Human Resources (HR) function and in this capacity has played an integral role in the organization's journey to becoming an Employer of Choice.

Follow Piyush Mehta on LinkedIn