A guest blog post from M.T. Welden, SPHR – Reprinted with permission
Studies into the keys to success have been undertaken by the finest minds, and most respected organizations, in the world. The key to success is the holy grail, the fountain of youth, and the philosophers stone of the ages. What makes one person successful, while another languishes? Why do some people find success repeatedly, while others fumble around only to find it scarcely? If it was easy, and repeatable, would everyone do it? What you need to know is that the key to success has been identified, and it is repeatable. One basic principle is the key to allowing you – and your organization – to have the best possible opportunities to exceed expectations sustainably.
The Cohort Principle
Before delving into how this applies to the arena of business, allow me to begin by illustrating how this elementary principle has been proven to be the key to success in human development and athletics. These two areas have been used extensively for academic study in understanding what I call the Cohort Principle.
Simply put, the Cohort Principle is a description of the effect of a positive environment, and supportive group of familiars can have upon the rate of success in any endeavor. Being part of a group that recognizes your achievements, offers support along the way, and provides an overall sense of shared value, is critical to sustainable success. Human development specialists have done a great deal of study on this subject. The Simmons Longitudinal Study is one of the longest running mental health studies in the United States on the subject. In following a group of 400 participants from age 5 to age 30 for over ten years the SLS has formulated an in depth report on the measurable value of a supportive home environment upon the likelihood of long term success of children. The study has concluded that inclusive and supportive environments were, “critical family factors in childhood and adolescence both in enhancing strong positive functioning (e.g., academic successes) and in reducing the risk of negative outcomes (e.g., mental disorders)”. What is surprising about this is not so much the findings themselves, but the fact that the finding enforce what we already intrinsically know as human beings. Treat your dog well and it will not bite you, treat your spouse well and they will not take your dog and leave you, treat your body well and you will live a better life. If you really think about it, the Cohort Principle is part of our DNA (metaphorically).
In sport, we see at the Cohort Principle at work at every turn. At the traditional awards ceremony the athletes start their acceptance speech with “First, I would like to thank my team and my fans…”. This is recognition of the value of the support group. In his study on the key elements of playoff success for an NBA team, University of Oregon researcher James Tarlow found that more than any other factor team chemistry had more influence on playoff success. There is little doubt that what pushes an athlete to success is based upon the feedback received either during training, or during the event itself. This is everything from crowds cheering to high fives from teammates. In the arena of sport, competition is at its most refined and within this arena; the quality of a competitor’s team is definitive in its contribution to success.
Applying the Cohort Principle to the Workplace
Thank you for hanging in there so far. I realize that you are not a professional athlete (although you dream about it), and I realize you are probably not a child (although you might be a parent). What you really want to know is how you can apply the Cohort Principle in your workplace to affect your ability to be successful. Although it is easy to do, the principle is not a silver bullet that will make you successful overnight (for that you would need gamma rays and a lamp genie). Sustainability is based in the building of a strong foundation, unlike overnight success, which is based upon lotteries and fairy dust. You can get started on this today though. Here’s how:
Build a strong cohort. A cohort is group of people united in their mutual support. Look around you and you will find people who already are part of your cohort, you just need to build a stronger cohort. This starts not from receiving support, but by giving it. A strong, supportive workplace is the responsibility of all participants. If you really want to be successful you will have to surround yourself with successful people, and this is done by recognizing your colleagues for their successes while pushing them to further wins. You can do this by making sure to say “thank you” and “good job” a lot more often than you do. When a colleague scores a big win write them a note (a note, not an e-mail) congratulating them for it. There are a million ways you can be supportive of your cohort you only have to look. Being supportive also includes providing help when needed, advice when necessary, and collaboration at every opportunity.
Build a strong number of cohorts. To be successful in all endeavors you will need support from all sectors. This means build strong positive relationships with the cohorts throughout your life. You cannot hope to have this relationship with everyone in your life, but you can identify those pools of stars throughout your life to which you willcommit to buildingsupportive relationships with. The members of a truly great cohort will stay withyou through job changes and life changes, and you with them.
The Cohort Principle is the foundation of a truly successful life, but it is only the foundation. To achieve success you must set clear goals by which you will measure success. Remember that success is the achievement of intention. If you do not set those intentions in a clear, recognizable manner, you cannot achieve them. The Cohort Principle provides you with the key to regularly achieving success, it is another topic entirely on how to define success and set goals. What I am sure of is that when individuals hear from others how they have succeeded, it opens their minds and broadens their thinking about how they can do more. By building an environment of shared success within your cohorts you not only increase your ability to be successful, but you broaden the field of what success looks like.
Until next time, this has been my view from the davenport.