What’s Your Network Strength?
by Julie Diamond category Cohort Gender Learning

Exercise. Eat right. Meditate. Get enough sleep.

When it comes to staying healthy, those are the usual suspects. But, did you know you have a 57% chance of gaining weight if your friend does? Or, that if your spouse quits smoking your chances of smoking just decreased by 67%?

So while you’re contemplating a vegan diet, going back to the gym, starting yoga, or flossing your teeth more regularly, don’t forget to take a long, hard look at the people you’re hanging out with. The people around you have a decisive and powerful influence on your lifestyle.

We know this. And that’s why, when we decided to build the Power2 Leaderlab program, while there were many things we weren’t sure about—the exact curriculum, the length of the program, the levels of leadership to target—one thing we knew for sure was this: it absolutely had to be a cohort model.

 

A cohort, the same group of people staying together throughout an entire program, is an accelerator of learning. And it’s no coincidence that cohort programs have become extremely popular in higher education. The benefits of the cohort model are numerous:

A cohort is about relationship.

A cohort becomes a tight-knit learning community. Participants support and challenge each other to be their best. The close relationships foster honesty, courage, and authenticity. People show up with real issues; they take more risks, and because of this, they make huge leaps in their development.

A cohort is about diversity.

A cohort is comprised of participants from diverse backgrounds, with different experiences, knowledge, and ways of being in the world. We know now that diverse teams make better decisions and are more creative. Similarly, a diverse cohort makes for better learning; participants benefit enormously from hearing the different perspective on the challenges they face, and different ways of dealing with them.

A cohort is a network of support.

The personal and professional relationships a cohort builds becomes a network of support and friendship which extends well beyond the length of the program. Participants develop deep friendships and family-like bonds with each other because of the depth of conversation over the course of the program. The network is not only personally enriching, but is also an incredible resource for career development and professional advancement.

And don’t just take our word for it. As much as we’d like to take 100% credit for the success of the program, we’d have to admit that a major part of its success is the cohort itself. Here’s what women say about:

 

The cohort of women is unmatched
 
An incredible opportunity to learn from a diverse set of women
 
In addition to the personal growth, the network development was also amazing. 
 
Gave me time to develop and work on an action-learning project with a cohort of brilliant and caring women
 
…A personalized learning experience that draws on the strengths of a group learning environment

 

A 2004 Harvard Business Review article studied the career trajectory of superstars when they left for another company. How did those superstar do in their new company? The results weren’t encouraging:

“When a company hires a star, the star’s performance plunges, there is a sharp decline in the functioning of the group or team the person works with, and the company’s market value falls. Moreover, stars don’t stay with organizations for long, despite the astronomical salaries firms pay to lure them away from rivals.”

But the researchers noticed something funny: women’s performance didn’t plunge. They found that “…unlike their male counterparts, female stars who switched firms performed just as well, in the aggregate, as those who stayed put.”

And why was that? “Because the women’s star performance was based on their deep networks outside of their companies, not just inside their companies. Unlike men who enjoyed a high degree of belonging and integration inside their companies, to succeed, women had to build their support structures on “portable, external relationships with clients and other companies.”

While this might not have been a conscious or strategic plan on the part of the women, but rather, borne out of necessity, it shows something extremely important: the wider and broader your network, the more “portable” your skills are.

So take some time to think about your network—how broad, how deep, and how supportive is your network? Are you spending time with people who want you to succeed? If you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, it’s a good idea to make sure they’re the people you want to become.

 

If you want to see the power of a network, come and join us at the upcoming Power2 Reunion & Gathering, September 23rd, at the Garden Vineyards, in Hillsboro, Oregon.  Come and enjoy one of the last afternoons of summer in wine country. We’ll have guest speaker(s), appetizer, drinks, and plenty of time to network.

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