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Only 1-in-20 companies are elite

Many of today’s most compelling companies don’t just sell products — they create emotionally connected relationships with their customers. These exceptional organizations do two things very well: they design radically empathetic products or foster truly transparent relationships with their customers. They practice an “outward focus” and are adept at uncovering and solving problems customers may not even be aware of yet. The elite organizations are respected, admired and even liked. They care about how they show up. Yet, most organizations are not elite and here’s why.

Organizational Distress

Gallup’s latest State of the American Workplace research is essential reading for leaders looking to build and retain elite organizations.  The most current survey extends to 31 million people and uncovered that over half of everyone in the workplace (51%) are searching for a new job.

The research showed that 78 percent of employees don’t believe their leadership has a clear direction for the organization. Similarly, 87 percent of employees do not strongly agree that their leaders communicate effectively.  And Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends shows that only 8% of large companies believe their structure is optimized. Most teams are not in alignment and are partially checked out.

The Elite Behaviors

Research by Scott Kelly and Mary Meaney observed that when teams align on a common vision, they are 190% more likely to deliver above-median financial performance. High performing teams collectively (and internally) set a high bar for growth. My research estimates that 3%-to-5% percent of leaders and organizations are truly elite.  What’s their secret?

  1. Elite teams commit to a set of values and culture which pulls them forward towards their higher calling.  These organizations allow everyone to influence change and make critical decisions in the best interest of the enterprise.  They hire curious talent who are committed to their own self-learning and development.

  2. Elite teams value psychological safety, allowing individuals to enter difficult conversations and voice dissent.

  3. Elite teams practice radical simplification, focusing instead on developing expertise and mastery within fewer domains. They protect tribal knowledge, institutionalizing and building on their distinct culture and capabilities.

We are not capable of becoming elite unless curiosity is fostered and context is expanded. High performers normally have a broader understanding of the context surrounding them, including exposure to diverse challenges, people, competitive threats, and customer requests.  The highest performing teams are more well-rounded and comprised of diverse and varied viewpoints.

Elite organizations understand their calling, their team’s assets, and their unique communication styles. All of this self-analysis is meant to drive the best from each other.

They ask a different question: “Where do we need to focus and what do we need to learn in order to become distinct and elite?”

Dan Mack is the founder of Mack Elevation and a performance coach, strategist and the author of “Dark Horse: How Challenger Companies Rise to Prominence.”
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