What separates great teams and organizations from posers?

Brown teammates and the offensive linemen I coached there, at Penn State, and at URI were amazed to learn I was the sole three-year starter on three consecutive, 11-0, high school state championship football teams, consecutively ranked #3, #2, and after my senior season, #1 in the Newark (NJ) Star Ledger final top twenty poll. This, in part, was key to my resiliency and overcoming the death of my young mom. It also allowed me to receive scholarships and be recruited by prestigious universities. This gave me access, as a consultant, to thousands of organizations where, without fail, the four key factors distinguishing my great teams are embraced, demonstrated, measured, and rewarded by winning organizations, yet absent in the duds.

These factors include:

1. Commitment – Everyone feels responsible for the success of the organization because the organization is committed to them. Crafts are mastered to near perfection because the organization provides ample resources, training, preparation, practice, and incentives to meet high standards and to win as a team. Employees are involved and empowered. Without prompting, they show up early or stay late. They refer jobs to friends and relatives. They tutor others to succeed, fostering collective toughness and endurance. Posers focus on status and ego.

2. Focus and clarity – Everyone feels competent and confident in their roles and applies best practices and processes to execute. They love problem solving, being mindful and focused on the next play, or challenge, yet share a common vision and understanding of how their jobs make it possible. Posers create chaos and control with ambiguity and low standards.

3. Trust and Inter-dependency – People respect and trust each other. They value differences. They gauge themselves by their weakest member’s growth. The team swarms to help or address problems. The organization adapts itself to member strengths and talents. A deep desire exists to influence each other in a positive way with collaboration, shared accountability, and safety. Posers master false harmony and invulnerability to project and protect ego and status. Silo and turf wars abound.

4. Drive for incredible team results – With everyone allowed and able to excel with the above factors, a collective, collaborative, shared accountability and team identity galvanizes. Everyone’s a well-prepared leader who is willing to take calculated risks to achieve and drive incomparable results, like being 33-0-0. Posers are all about status and ego; parking spots, office space, titles, power, and control.

Matt Paknis is a senior management consultant with six years of college football coaching and ten years of playing experience through 5 championship seasons whose focus is on lessening bullying in the workplace. He was a former assistant coach at Penn State under Joe Paterno and has spoken publicly about being abused as a child. Matt transcended childhood bullying and the death of his mother with teamwork and leadership. He has dedicated over twenty-five years of consulting to helping global clients embrace healthy management practices to thrive. His latest book Successful Leaders Aren't Bullies: How to Stop Abuse at Work and Build Exceptional Organizations is available for purchase now.


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