Building a High Performance Culture – Leaders Walk the Thought
Creating a performance culture requires a systematic approach to managing the performance of organizations, teams and individuals. Leaders who are clear about their company’s culture are able to deliver and sustain both performance and employee satisfaction over time.
Human performance is the function of many influences: accountability, feedback, motivation, skills and knowledge, rewards and recognition. These influences are interdependent. It is the combination of these factors that results in the desired performance and the associated leadership behaviours that support the performance culture.
Performance culture on the other hand is the “operating system” of the company, the organizational DNA.
Having facilitated several leadership workshops for clients for their culture transformation and change, over the years what I discovered is that people have very different (and unique!) ways to describe the same thing and it all managed to make sense. From “glue”, “bond”, “atmosphere” and more.
Corporate culture, in essence, is the spirit of the people, the employees, their morale. And it matters greatly. Truth is, it determines how well an organisation does over time. If the culture is not good, we may have a good year or two, but we’ll be struggling and will not enjoy good results on a consistent basis.
Culture includes communication down and up, people development, ideas flowing up, teamwork and collaboration, diversity, flexibility, levels of unhealthy (or ideally healthy stress, which is rare), and the most critical aspect i.e managers’ leadership. Leadership in high-performance cultures does not reside only at the top of the organization. It also emerges from, and cascades down to, those in customer-facing roles.
Hence, performance leadership demands that leaders exercise self-restraint and enable employees to learn and take intelligent risks so they contribute at their full potential. This means they spend more time listening and asking than speaking and telling. This approach will yield insights, which fuel curiosity, which in turn cultivates knowledge and wisdom.
When given the chance to focus on what they are best at, they will deliver and surprise. Responding to them strengthens a performance culture.
Let me suggest the following three integrated steps.
- Define values in behavioural terms:
Some organizations attempt to define their culture by establishing elaborate purpose and values statements and then publishing these statements far and wide - posting them in the workplace and on company sites. However, the most effective approach is to draft straightforward declarations of purpose with values defined in behavioural terms, which enable values metrics to be established
The result over time is a loss of respect, increased stress and anxiety, and inconsistent treatment of employees, leaders and customers.
- Clarify performance expectations:
Leaders can help contributing employees gain an understanding of their performance expectations through formal planning forms or more informal discussions. The critical outcome is for everyone to agree on standards for key goals. This step reduces confusion, clarifies targets, and focuses efforts for everyone.
One key to creating a sustainable business that creates passionate employees who exceed performance standards is to formally hold leaders and managers in his organization accountable for both performance and values.
- Hold leaders and staff accountable:
Many organizations struggle to hold leaders, managers, and staff members accountable for performance or for values. The reality is that without consequences management, we are only creating more chaos.
The process of creating a high performance, values-aligned culture requires consistent attention by company leadership and day-to-day reinforcement by managers throughout the journey. It can take 18-24 months from the process kick-off to achieve the demonstrated values-aligned behaviours across the organization.
So, it’s quite evident that in high performance cultures, effective leaders clearly articulate a strategic framework of mission, vision and values, strategic goals, and measurable priorities. They design and take accountability for managing service-oriented, efficient business processes and structures. Leaders engage their people and work hard to learn their strengths and preferences. They manage their talent well and encourage on-going learning. They communicate rigorously and often.