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Complyment vs. Complete Alignment

by Roger Connors on October 20th, 2009

Everyone has probably heard of the Pygmalion Effect from Greek Mythology, named after the gifted sculptor from Cyprus who was in search of happiness and love.  Discouraged by the prospects of love available to him, the sculptor carves a statue of a woman out of ivory.  The statue is so realistic that Pygmalion falls in love with it and treats it as though it were alive.  Aphrodite, the Greek god of love, brings the statue to life and Pygmalion gets his every expectation fulfilled.  The Pygmalion Effect is, in essence, the notion of a self-fulfilling prophecy—you get what you expect, and studies by Rosenthal give some scientific backing to this idea.

We can impact how self-fulfilling our expectations really are by making sure we gain alignment with others around those expectations.  There are two kinds of alignment. The best kind of alignment, the one that brings the greatest degree of ownership and personal investment, is what we call “Complete Alignment.” All other levels of alignment, those with lesser degrees of buy-in, fall into categories that we refer to as “Complyment.”

Complete Alignment unifies people around a commitment to fulfilling expectations, because the people involved personally believe in the expectations.  Complyment, on the other hand, falls well short of this standard of excellence, but seems to rule most of today’s organizations. Yes, Complyment gets the “hands and feet” of people moving, but without stimulating the sort of investment and ownership necessary to ensure lasting success. People in Complete Alignment not only invest their “hands and feet” in the undertaking, they also invest their “hearts and minds” in getting it done. It’s just that simple, people who fully agree with the mission or purpose—people who want to fulfill your expectations just as much as you do—are people who will meet or surpass your expectations more often than not.

How do you discern the difference between Complete Alignment and mere Complyment? We suggest you look very closely at what your people are saying and doing as they work to fulfill your expectations. The summaries below should provide you with some helpful hints:


-People need constant reminders about “why we are doing this.”

-People don’t give a 100 percent effort.

-People go through the motions and focus on just doing enough to get the job done.

-People exhibit no visible enthusiasm for the task when they discuss it with others.

-People get stuck quickly and don’t know “what else to do” to overcome tough obstacles.

Complete Alignment

-People talk about the importance and positive impact of what they are doing.

-People give it 100 percent.

-People invest themselves and work to get the job done, adding their own personal touch with an obvious sense of ownership.

-People speak with conviction and passion about the importance of what they are doing.

-People think creatively and stretch themselves to overcome all the obstacles they encounter.

As you can see, Complyment may “get things done,” but Complete Alignment gets things done better—much better. If you want The Pygmalion Effect to work for you, make sure you work toward Complete Alignment between you and your people around key expectations.

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