The Spirit of Pygmalion

fair ladyOne of the greatest challenges for organizations and their leadership in our modern era is the ability to develop and realize the full potential of the people who are responsible for managing, sourcing, developing, delivering, distributing or selling the products and services of that organization.

The cornerstone of an successful organization in this “post modern”, global and interconnected world, is the quality of the people who individually and collectively contribute to the success, profitability and sustainability of the business. Our business is about creating a partnership with you, to assist you in realizing the full potential of your people.

Most people have heard of George Bernard Shaw’s famous stage production, “Pygmalion”(which as was later popularised in the musical “My Fair Lady”), which is story about a professor’s (Henry Higgins) attempt to transform a flower seller named Eliza Doolittle into a member of the upper class through a development programme despite the scepticism of his colleagues (who were strong proponents of the belief that people are born great). The enduring character of Eliza, a Cockney flower girl turned high society debutante, serves as the pivotal role in the musical which seeks to examine class distinctions, society’s prejudices, the gender divide, identity and transformation.

George Bernard Shaw’s play (to challenge the proponents of crude Darwinism and Determinism during the early part of the 20th Century) was based on the Greek myth about King Pygmalion, a renowned sculptor, who crafts a beautiful ivory statue he called Galatea, with whom he fell in love. The goddess Aphrodite brought Galatea to life by ‘breathing life into cold stone’, and Pygmalion married her.

Bernard Shaw used that Greek myth as the basis for his own play, Pygmalion. Henry Higgins is the new Pygmalion figure, who ‘moulds’, almost like a sculptor, Eliza into his ‘Galatea’, transforming her from a rough Cockney flower seller into a refined Lady by developing her accent, mannerisms and most significantly her self beliefs. This process of transformation was not only a behavioural change, but also Higgins’ ability to see and instil an expectation that Eliza could be more than the person she saw herself to be. “The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated” (Eliza Doolittle).

Our LOGO – A metaphor of Transformation

martyr 3The Pygmalion Effect is a powerful metaphor of transformation that has significant relevance for people development strategies in our modern workplace. Leadership development is not merely about behaviour change and learning more effective practices, the change that makes a difference starts from within. This internal shift is significantly shaped by the expectations of others, how they relate to treat those whom they are developing, and the extent to which this influences our own and our clients’ internal frames of reference.

The Pygmalion Logo is based on a sculpture by artist Graeme Germond as part of his Masters in Fine Art on the heroic motif, entitled “The Martyr”.  According to Graeme, “the work is based on the archetypal image of Christian rebirth and transcendence, and the Martyr can be seen as a model for the painful aspect of the individuation process”.   The metaphor of “birth and rebirth” is an apt description of both the process of coaching as well as the impact of coaching. After all, to gain new insights or to acquire new knowledge and skill is a growing experience, a matter of life and death.Innocence becomes awareness, ignorance becomes understanding, and incompetence becomes mastery. Learning is a re-birthing process.

For Pygmalion, it is symbolic of the process of transformation.

It is also a beautiful sculpture!

Materials: bronze threaded rod cement. Dimensions: 610x210x220. Artist: Graeme Henri Germond, 1992.