Iron sharpens iron. - Penn-Mar

Iron sharpens iron.

Posted on April 13, 2022

By Gregory T. Miller, President and Chief Executive Officer, Penn-Mar Human Services | Chief Executive Officer, Penn-Mar Foundation
Greg Miller

Gregory Miller
President/CEO Penn-Mar Human Services

If you followed the NCAA basketball playoffs, I bet many of you were rooting for the St. Peter’s Peacocks. They became the first 15th seed in NCAA tournament history to reach the Elite 8 after shutting down Purdue 67-64.

My guess is that if you took a national poll, very few people could tell you even one name of one player from this Jersey City University. Why? Because clearly the Peacocks operated as a team, collectively and with one heartbeat. 

It was heartening to witness a group of people so fully committed to each other who were able to achieve such phenomenal results, conquering teams with far superior talents. 

When I think about the team concept here at Penn-Mar, it is successful because we continually strive to get the best that each person has to contribute into a process where we all become better for it. We don’t try to do everything by ourselves. 

As the organization’s CEO, I recognize that I have specific responsibilities and accountability. Yet I know that my team possesses the skills and experience to do alot of things much better than I ever could do on my own. 

Like the people we support, everyone at Penn-Mar brings unique interests and abilities to the workplace each day and I rely on them to do so. 

Strong leadership is essential to the success of any organization but a true leader is looking for people to challenge ideas, call out weaknesses and enhance learning.  

As Penn-Mar’s CEO, my responsibility is to lead the orchestra but I need all of the different instruments operating at peak capacity. 

In our domain, the leadership style has shifted from an authoritative top-down structure to a more collaborative one. Fittingly, collaboration is one of our Core Values.  

During the COVID crisis, a great example of this was how our Task Force immediately went into action with all divisions and departments of Penn-Mar represented. On a daily basis, our teams collaborated to respond to real time events and needs.  

I know Jackie Stevens, our Chief Operating Officer, would agree that if she had to make those hundreds of emergency decisions without her teams weighing in, the outcome would have been very different and less effective. 

COVID taught all of us that to make great decisions you have to be willing to really understand, accept and act on new information.  

When I look back at the big decisions we’ve made at Penn-Mar, it is abundantly clear that the final outcomes were better because we often pivoted after listening to input from all of our stakeholders.  

When an organization relies on strong, committed teams:

  • People feel empowered to give honest and genuine feedback.
  • They have the opportunity to weigh in before they are expected to buy in.
  • The good stuff has a way of being maximized. The bad becomes a teaching moment to figure out how we can all do better and the role we as individuals can play in that turnaround.
  • Organizational wins and the joys that come from success are something that can be shared by the entire team.
  • In difficult times, no one has to take on the pain personally. We can endure it collectively.
  • Iron sharpens iron, with each person strengthening another. 

The world is changing so fast. Our willingness to listen and learn as a team has never been more important than now. Not one of us can do it on our own. We need to work together as a trusted group of people ultimately aligned around the same mission and the same goals. 

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