Building A High Performance Culture

First I wanted to start off by providing my definition of a high performance culture….

A high performance culture has a focus on and regularly achieves intended results.

Building a high performance culture starts with building a great leadership team.   A great leadership team is committed to the organizational mission, has trust in each other, and has learned to navigate conflict amongst their team.   The assignments of the team are clear, and the leaders are accountable for results in key areas.   Finally, the leadership team is aware of how their actions affect the team.

Assuming that employees care as much as they do is one of the first mistakes of average leaders.   Studies by Gallop and other organizations show that as much as 70% of employees are not engaged in their jobs.   Assuming that employees understand what is important, and know what it takes to do their job successfully, is the second mistake of average leaders.  


“He will win whose army is animated by the spirit throughout all its ranks.” ― Sun Tzu


Patrick Lencioni's research shows that leaders must communicate the same idea seven times for employees to understand and embrace the concept.  I suggest leaders communicate verbally, in writing, in pictures, with video, and any other way you can think to get your message across to your team.   When they say yes I have got it, ask them to repeat it back to you.   If your team is off track, make sure you clearly communicate what behaviors you want to see more of, and which behaviors you expect to see less often.  If bad behaviors exists, it is because the leader allows those behaviors to exist.

Scott Mautz, an expert on employee engagement, says "leaders need to re-frame company goals in a way that aligns company values and employee interests."   He says, "people won't take a risk unless they understand the rules."  For instance, they need to know what happens, if they fail.   They should understand the rewards if they succeed.   Your team should know you have their back if you want them to take risks.

In a performance culture, employees are willing to take risks to achieve their goals.   As a new manager, one of my first employees was a transfer from another manager.   I was told that this new employee needed to be put on a performance improvement plan.   In conversations with this employee, I understood that he felt he was not empowered to take risks.   Once this employee felt empowered to take risks, he went on to become one of the most successful sales people in the company (as measured by his next five years performance).   This employee understood that by not taking risks, his job was actually at risk.

Employees that understand company values are able to make autonomous decisions and take calculated risks.  Values help employees understand how to behave in the context of what is important to the company mission.   Values should be the yardstick that helps leaders decide who to hire, who to let go, and who to reward and recognize.

Do you have a culture that is based on performance?   I believe it is not worth working for an organization the does not have a clearly defined mission and organizational alignment.   Please comment if you like my ideas on building a high performance culture or if you have tried something else that works well.

Suggested Reading

High Output Management

The Advantage


Culture Trumps Everything

The Leadership Challenge