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Napoleon Hill: The Benefits of Cooperation and Teamwork

By Napoleon Hill

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by Napoleon Hill

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How mutual cooperation can accelerate your career and income.

There are two kinds of cooperation: one is based upon force or coercion, and the other is based upon voluntary action based on motive. The vast majority of all circumstances of cooperation, I think, are based upon some form of force or coercion. Employees oftentimes cooperate with their employer, but there’s a certain amount of coercion and a certain amount of fear that if they don’t cooperate they’ll not have their jobs. Especially these days.

There are other circumstances in which the employees cooperate with the employer because the employer has made it so beneficial for them to work at that place that they do it willingly. Any kind of cooperation that’s forced on people, or based upon any type of coercion is not desired because people only cooperate on that basis as long as they have to. Relatively speaking, there is a small percentage of employers throughout the United States who understand the benefits of cooperation — and regularly extend friendly cooperation to employees.

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Cooperation differs from my Mastermind Principle in that it’s based upon coordination of effort without necessarily involving the Principle of Definiteness of Purpose or the Principle of Harmony. People working in the military service, an army of men, for instance, working under their superior officers, represent a tremendous amount of power based upon cooperation, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s harmony or that they like what they’re doing. There’s a certain amount of coercion in force there. They’re doing what they have to do; sometimes they like to do it, but sometimes they don’t like to do it. Cooperation based on my Mastermind Principle is the medium by which great personal power may be attained, and no one has ever acquired such power without the aid of these principles, a fact that places them in the category of indispensable. 

Now, cooperation is indispensable in four major relationships, and here they are: in the home, in one’s job or profession, in social relationships, and in support of our form of government and free enterprise. Certainly those are a must, and if every citizen cooperated in those four respects, this would be a better country than we have yet. 

Now, here are examples of cooperation not based on my Mastermind Principle: soldiers working under army regulations; employees working under rules of employment; government officials working under laws of the nation; professional men and women, such as lawyers, doctors, dentists, working under rules of ethics of their profession; citizens of a nation related under a dictator. 

Observe the manner in which the cooperative effort assumes greater powers when the Principle of Cooperation is combined with the Mastermind Principle, involving harmony based on a definite motive. An example of this is found in the employers and their employees with a motive, such as that which inspired harmony in the Arthur Nash Clothing Company of Cincinnati when the company faced bankruptcy.

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While I was publishing The Golden Rule magazine, I got a panicked call from Mr. Nash of the Nash Clothing Company in Cincinnati to come over to Cincinnati and see him. And when I got over there, I found he was in trouble; he was really bankrupt. For no reason that he could explain, a business that had been profitable for years all of a sudden became unprofitable and couldn’t meet payroll. When I went over the situation with Mr. Nash, I said, “There’s only one thing that can save your business and that is, if you work out a plan whereby the employees will take a new lease on life, put their heart and soul into the business, go along with you, you can save the business. And we worked out a plan whereby they would receive at the end of the year, in addition to their regular salary, a bonus consisting of a percentage of the profit, quite a bit of details that I’ll not go into, but that was the sum and the substance of it. 

Mr. Nash called all of his employees together. He got up and told them what he had in mind; he said, “I think I should tell you, first of all, the company’s bankrupt, and we don’t have enough money to pay you this coming week’s payroll.”  And he said, “For a long time this business has been going downhill, and I noticed that all of the employees were losing interest and that enthusiasm that used to prevail here is no longer here; the spirit of the thing’s gone. Unless we can recapture that spirit, that willingness and enthusiasm for everyone to jump in and do something, why, we’re all in the same boat, namely bankrupt.”

And he said, “I have a plan, and I think it will work based upon the Golden Rule. I have a plan whereby if you’ll all come down Monday morning and start in on a new basis, a basis in the same mental attitude that you were in 10 years ago when we were thriving, go to work. I’ll pay your wages as soon as we can make the wages, including the back wages that I’ll not be able to pay you this coming week. And if we make a go of it, at the end of the year, we’ll divide the profits on a basis that will give you the same standing as a stockholder in the company.  I’m going to leave the room, and then you talk it over frankly and decide what you want to do, and then when you want to see me, you send for me.” 

He and I went to lunch. We were gone about an hour, and a messenger came over and called him away from the lunch and we went back, and they announced what had happened. They all got together, and they decided that not only were they going to accept his proposition, but they came down the next day with their savings — some of them had money in old socks, some of them in tin cans, some of them in savings accounts — and laid $16,000 in cash on his desk, and said, “There it is, Mr. Nash. If that’s the way you feel about us, this is the way we feel about you. We earned this money down here. It isn’t much, but if it will do any good, use it. And when you can pay it back, why pay it back, and if you can’t pay it back, why that’s all right, too.” 

You see, they had caught the spirit of real, true cooperation. They began to thrive, and before Mr. Nash passed on some 10 years later, it became the most prosperous mail order clothing business in the entire United States at the time. The same business, at the same location, making the same kind of clothes, with the same people doing the work, failing one day and starting to succeed on a grand scale the next day, and what was it that happened there? Simply a change of mental attitude. What caused them to change their mental attitude? Was it fear that they’d lose their jobs? No, it certainly wasn’t that. Clearly, they had a motive. Mr. Nash had inspired them with his sincerity in purpose, in making them that kind of an offer. They were touched by it, they knew it was sincere, and they made up their minds they were going to be just as good a sportsman as he was. They were not going to let him outdo them. And when you get any group of people together on that basis, I don’t care what their problems are, they’ll meet those problems successfully. They always do. What an inspiration for all of us on how we lead in business today.   

You don’t do anything in this world without a motive. There must be a motive to inspire everything that you do or everything you refrain from doing. 

At first, the opportunity to get the increased compensation and promotion is one of the most outstanding motives for gaining friendly cooperation, and wherever that has been put into use, in any business that I know anything about, there has always been a very beneficial and a very profitable return. Recognition for personal initiative, a pleasing personality, and outstanding work, now, that’s a strong motive to inspire cooperation. Giving someone recognition when someone does a good job, say so; do something about it. 

I know an employer who has the birthdays of all of the wives of his employees, his male employees, and all the children, and every birthday they all get presents from him, with a card signed by him in person. Well, his organization represents just one great big family. In other words, he has built himself up in the hearts of the people in the home where the man works, and you can just imagine what that does for the man himself. 

The system of friendly competition between departments and in departments between individuals, it’s a system of friendly cooperation. Now in a sales organization, for instance, you can have a different group competing with other groups in the same organization on a friendly basis; they’ll all strive to do their very best to win, because of good sportsmanship, and able sales managers very often set up that kind of a motive to inspire their salespeople to do better jobs. 

Then the hope of future benefits in the form of some yet unattained goal, which can best be attained by mutual cooperation. In other words, something that you want to accomplish with a group of people when it can only be accomplished by your all pulling together in the same direction at the same time in a state of harmony.

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