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6 Success Predictors & Their Overlooked Source

We spend a lot of time talking about leadership in the workplace, and how to equip employees for success. Sometimes, the most compelling insights come from the most unlikely or overlooked sources.

Recently, Business Insider reported on various research studies that point to a handful of common success predictors. And much of it stems from parenting.

So, today, we explore 6 traits of parents whose children go on to do well in school, relationships, business and life.

1. They teach their kids social skills.

Researchers from Duke and Pennsylvania State Universities found a significant correlation between people’s social skills as kindergartners and their success as adults two decades later.

“The 20-year study showed that socially competent children who could cooperate with their peers without prompting, be helpful to others, understand their feelings, and resolve problems on their own, were far more likely to earn a college degree and have a full-time job by age 25 than those with limited social skills.”

By contrast, those with limited social skills had a higher chance of getting arrested, binge drinking, and applying for public housing.

“From an early age, social skills can determine whether a child goes to college or prison, and whether they end up employed or addicted,” said Kristin Schubert, program director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded the research.

2. They have high expectations.

University of California researchers verified that the expectations parents have for their kids have a huge impact on attainment.

“Parents who saw college in their child’s future seemed to manage their child toward that goal irrespective of their income and other assets,” said Neal Hafton, one of the UC professors leading the study.

It’s an outcome supported by another psych finding: the Pygmalion effect, which states that expectations often lead to self-fulfilling prophecies.

3. They have higher educational levels.

A University of Michigan study found that mothers who finish high school or college are more likely to raise kids who do the same. Aspiration and expectation both play a part, of course.

An earlier study by Bowling Green State University found that the “parents’ educational level when the child was 8 years old significantly predicted educational and occupational success for the child 40 years later.”

4. They cultivate a relationship with their kids.

Children who receive “sensitive caregiving” during the first three years of life not only do better academically in childhood, but have healthier relationships and academic achievement in their 30’s.

Parents who “respond to their child’s signals promptly and appropriately” and “provide a secure base” for their children reap long-term returns that accumulate over the child’s life.

5. They’re less stressed.

You already know this, but the quality, tone and nature of interactions between people, whether kids or adults, trump the amount of time spent in those interactions. Quality over quantity, as the saying goes.

Parents of successful children (or leaders of successful teams) don’t let stress hinder their interactions. Psychologists call this “emotional contagion,” where you can “catch” someone’s emotional state ¾ whether happy, sad, exhausted or frustrated ¾ just like you’d catch a cold.

Interestingly, the number of hours moms spend with kids aged 3-11 “does little to predict the child’s behavior, well-being, or achievement,” and the intense, over-involved “helicopter parenting” approach can backfire. So can micromanaging in the business realm.

6. They value effort over avoiding failure.

People think of success in two ways:

A fixed mindset assumes our intelligence, abilities and character are static and can’t change in any meaningful way. Therefore, you have to be skilled in some capacity to begin with, in order to have success.

A growth mindset “thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of un-intelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities,” explains Maria Popova of Brain Pickings.

A parent’s belief in how will affects ability has a powerful effect on kids. If kids are told they aced a test because they’re smart, that creates a fixed But if their success is framed as a result of their effort, that teaches a growth mindset. We’d argue the same is true in the workplace.

For more details on these findings and the full list of 9 success factors explored in the article, go here.