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Paul Roos on building the systems of success

AFL legend Paul Roos says peak performance and sustained success can be achieved through the right behaviours and implementing good systems long-term.

Recognised as one of the top leaders in Australian sport, Paul is the epitome of peak performance. His illustrious resume includes leading the Sydney Swans to its first VFL/AFL premiership in 72 years, playing 356 AFL games and winning countless awards.

With decades of experience in achieving sustained success, Paul is a sought-after coach and consultant in both the sporting and corporate worlds. He has developed his own principles on performance, which he discussed with KnowHow founder Bushy Martin on the Get Invested podcast.

“Sustained success is built around behaviours and built around what our actions are. It’s a process and it’s monotonous and it’s boring, but it leads to sustained success,” he said.

“You ask the newest person in a business what the culture is like and they won’t tell you what’s written on a wall, they’ll tell you what the behaviours are.

“So to me, walking into that footy club, we didn’t have any values on the wall or behaviours or leadership groups. We just had actions and the actions of those guys were you train really hard, you got to training on time, you left late, on optional nights you came down to practice your skills. And when we socialise together, we were respectful of each other and respectful of other people. So I learned that from a really young age.”

He believes everyone, whether you’re an employer, sportsperson, investor or family person, should consider these behaviours and values on top of the technical skills when working with others.

“The corporate world often just picks leadership groups based on technical skills. And really, it’s the biggest mistake you can make … certainly being a good role model, being a good mentor and influencing others is a really important part of it,” Paul said. 

In order to carry out these behaviours, Paul explained you need to have the right systems implemented long-term.

“The best systems are really clear on what their behaviour is going to be. The best systems then reward and challenge (team members) based on those behaviours … And if you get a really strong system like the Sydney Swans system or the Geelong system, it is sustained success and it endures over a long period of time,” he said.

“Systems are really, really important, and I think a lot of corporations just flounder because they don’t put the system in place … if you’re not really sure what the system is, then you’re leaving your culture to chance. Now, if you get enough good people, you’re going to be fine now because they’re going to naturally have really good behaviours. But if you get a really clear system in place, it’s a lot easier for people to get rewarded and to get challenged.”

But this is unachievable without accountability and the drive to stick with your systems.

“To be perfectly frank, if you want to be a high-performing team, high-performing individual, high-performing state, country or corporation, you have to have an enormous level of personal accountability and team accountability,” Paul said.

“They’ve just got to stick to their behaviour, stick to what makes them good. And again, it’s monotonous, but just keep going back to that over and over and over again. And successful organisations do that – they go back to their values, they go back to their behaviours. They bring people in that have similar values and similar standards.”

Finally, Paul explained you also need to have confidence in yourself and your principles to ensure they prosper.

“[It’s about] having the confidence, understanding the pillars and the processes you have to put in place, understanding the process you have to put in place … always have confidence in yourself and your strengths and understand what you’re really good at.”

Listen to the full interview here.

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