Want your staff and children to be more successful?
Yes, of course you do!
It’s oh so very easy:) Simply cultivate the following combination of traits in your employees and your kids:
- A Superiority Complex. Instill in them a deep seated belief in their exceptionality.
- Insecurity. Make them feel that who they are or what they have done is not good enough.
- Impulse control. Teach them the ability to systematically delay gratification.
It’s odd to think of people feeling simultaneously superior and insecure. Yet it’s exactly this contrary combination that two Yale law school professors found that generates drive. In their book , “The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America,” they detail how a chip on the shoulder and a burning desire to prove yourself, combined with the ability to sacrifice present gratification in pursuit of future attainment creates a winning combination for success.
Chue & Rebenfeld, whose work was recently featured in the New York Times found a seemingly un-American fact about America today: for some cultural groups, the American dream of upward mobility is much more alive than for others. Some of the winners include Indian Americans, Iranians, Lebanese and Chinese. These groups, on average, earn almost double the national income.
Among religious groups, the success of Mormons in corporate America is well documented. Jews make only about two percent of the United State’s adult population yet make up a third of the current Supreme Court and about a third of American Nobel Prize winners.
Merely stating the fact that certain groups do better than others, as measured by income and test scores, can set off a firestorm and accusations of racism. It’s almost too obvious to state but these facts don’t make one group ‘better’ than others and material success does not equal a life well lived.
Groups rise and fall over time. This points to the fact that there are cultural forces at work here and debunks the idea that groups succeed because of innate biological differences (third generation Chinese American students for example perform no better than their white peers).
In isolation, each of these traits is insufficient, and potentially damaging. A superiority complex often leads to complacency, insecurity can be crippling and impulse control often results in an inability to experience pleasure.
Success is propelled by the combined triple package of superiority complex, insecurity and impulse control. These simple qualities are cultural, learnable and hence open to anyone. We can model and teach them in our business and in our own family.
I have personally experienced how some of the world’s top management consultancies such as McKinsey, BCG, Bain et al. do an outstanding job at cultivating the above traits. These firms pride themselves on hiring only the top students from business schools. Once hired, you belong to the ‘chosen few’. There is no question that these firms employ some of the brightest people and yet almost every single consultant I have ever met has deep seated insecurities about never being good enough, which makes them work so incredibly hard.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- A Superiority complex
- What stories and metaphors are you using to instill a belief of exceptionality in your people?
- How do you ensure people who work at your company feel like they are ‘the chosen one’? Part of a superior elite?
- What rituals are you employing to foster the belief that your business is the ONE that is going to make it big and leave the competition in the dust?
- How are you creating a culture of ‘good enough is never good enough’ in your business?
- How do you get your people to relentlessly strive for continued improvement?
- What stories are you sharing so that you make it clear that ‘around here, we are never satisfied with the status quo no matter how good it is’?
- Impulse control
- What systems and incentive do you have in place so that folks are committed for the long haul?
- How do you ensure that your people become exemplars of your company’s culture and vision?
And of course, don’t forget: nothing is more powerful than modeling behavior you want to see!