I came across a study recently that teaches us a few things about human behaviour and how leaders can increase staff effectiveness.

In the late 1970’s, the University of Illinois conducted a series of experiments to see what would get children to eat vegetables that they didn’t like.

They tried a few strategies:

  • they told the children to eat their vegetables.
  • they offered a reward of ice-cream to those who did.
  • they explained why eating vegetables is good for them.
  • they ate the vegetables themselves to act as good role-models.
  • they put the children who didn’t like their vegetables on a table with children who did.

Which strategy was consistently the most successful?

Putting children on a table with other children who ate their vegetables was the most successful method. 

Peer pressure works.  It can negatively impact your culture, but it can also be a big positive for leaders who know how to make it work for them. 

The next time you are frustrated as a leader because your staff won’t get on board with things that they don’t naturally like, don’t fall into the trap of just demanding that they do it, don’t come up with an obscure bonus system, don’t spend too much time explaining all of the benefits and don’t rely on people watching you to see what you are doing. 

Create a culture where more and more people get on board with your strategy and it becomes the norm to participate.

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