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The Fall of Icarus, Jacob Peter Gowy, c.1636 (Courtesy Museo del Prado, Madrid)

Setting High Performance Expectations Can Lead to Failure

Idea posted: December 2020
  • Leadership & Change

While high external performance expectations often improve performance, they can also have the opposite effect. Research shows that high-performance expectations can increase the embarrassment of those who experience early setbacks, reducing their motivation to persist and leading, ultimately, to failure.

Idea #782
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Kenya's Faith Chemaoi crosses the finishing line of the 2014 Paris Marathon (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

How Reference Points Motivate Us

Idea posted: June 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Reference-dependent theories state that individuals evaluate outcomes as gains or losses, depending on a neutral reference point. Making 19 sales in a month is a loss when the goal — the reference point — was 20 sales a month. Data from 10 million marathon finishes provides a field test that confirms the behavioural expectations and implications of these theories, shedding a light on how milestone goals can push individuals to higher performance.

Idea #394
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Detail from a poster by Eric Frazer, for the Post Office Savings Bank, 1942 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

How a Culture of Integrity Boosts the Bottom Line

Idea posted: May 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change

A culture of integrity adds value to the firm. Research shows that the more employees perceive top managers as trustworthy and ethical, the better the financial performance of the firm and the more attractive the firm to potential employees. 

Idea #379
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