Muckle-hummocks or Late Bloomer?

From age 12 to 13-1/2, I grew 9” in those painful 18 months.  I was a gangly, clumsy kid.  Who wouldn’t be?  My knees ached constantly and I knocked things over with great regularity.  It became an issue in my family and frankly, a punch line and callback, mostly with raised eyebrows or disgusted looks. Non-verbal cues of frustration.  In 1969, our family visited my maternal grandmother and her husband in England.  My step-grandfather, Opa, was an impatient old curmudgeon (a surly or bad tempered person) that couldn’t tolerate my awkward behaviors and occasional mishaps (the spilled glass, tripping over footstools, etc.).  He coined the term “Muckle-hummocks”.  Every time I would trip, he would say it out loud in sarcastic tone in his Scottish brogue.  It was not a compliment. It was a cutting comment from a man that was afraid.  His low self-esteem and inferiority demanded he put me down to lift himself up.  No one ever said anything to him.  He was a bully.  Passive/Aggressive behavior often goes unchallenged.  Unfortunately I didn’t know I could stick up for myself.  “Don’t make waves,” my mother would say.

I looked up the definition. “Muckle” means LARGE. “Hummocks” is a hill or knoll.  Opa was calling me a large (clumsy) hill.  Wow!  How sad.  Years later when I became a good college basketball player, my mother was astounded at the transformation.  Opa was wrong, on a number of levels.

I never forgot his cutting remarks.  I vowed to never do that to my kids or anyone else’s for that matter.

Children (and employees) rise to the level of expectation.  Words trigger pictures and bring about emotion, positive or negative.  Those images and words become self fulfilling prophecies. Great leaders understand this and apply it to create great results, in organizations, schools, sports teams and churches.  “Treat me as I am, I remain.  Treat me as I can be, I become.”

My youngest son Evan was described as “A Late Bloomer” in high school. Everyone agreed, he had great potential.  This is called the Pygmalion Effect.  Teachers and coaches expectations can predict academic and athletic blooming.  Armed with that information, I predicted Evan’s success from the time he was 12 until 22, “Your future is so bright, it burns my eyes to look at it.  You will go so much further than I ever did in school, sports and business!”  I said that to him hundreds of times. Guess what? He did!  His senior year in college at Texas A&M International University he graduated in four years, led his team to the Conference Championship and playoffs and was voted MVP of the conference, an All-American and was drafted in the NBA’s D-League.  The principle is called “The Pygmalion Effect”.

According to a study by Rosenthal in 1968, (see this 6-minute video on YouTube ) there are four factors for creating the Pygmalion Effect:

  1. The Climate (Environment) Factor – They are simply nicer to their students in the things they say and their non-verbal communication.
  2. The Input Factor – The teachers teach more and better material to the students.  The expect them to learn it.
  3. The Response Opportunity Factor – Kids (and employees) do better when they get a chance to respond. They call on them more often and let them talk longer.
  4. The Feedback Factor – The kids get praised for good answers and get clarity and paraphrased feedback for low quality answers, like, “Yes, good, and in addition….” There is a synergy and collaboration to every interaction that makes the kids feel important and needed.

Does this work with employees and adults?  You bet it does.

Our job is not to stick our toes in the water, it IS to make waves!  Stick up for your kids, your employees, your friends.  Don’t let the Opa’s of the world determine your worth/self-image or that of your children or employees.  What if they are wrong?  (Bullies usually are!) Believe in others and say so.  “Your future is so bright, it burns my eyes to look at it!” Just ask Evan. No one ever called him Muckle-hummocks, just Late Bloomer.

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