All companies strive to have their team arrive each day highly motivated, ready and eager to do what it takes to get the job done. However, this is more of an ideal than reality. Motivation comes and goes, performance targets are achieved one month only to be missed the next, and achieving a high performance culture is always a work in progress.
Unfortunately, a well performing company is not good enough anymore. With the ability to do business globally, and markets saturated with companies scratching and clawing for market share, it is now more important than ever to have a distinctive, high performance culture. Even if things are operating at a high level now, you need to be looking for ways to achieve the next level of excellence. To accomplish this, you must have the key characteristics of a high performance culture in place.
Key Characteristics of a High Performance Culture
- Accountability: This starts at the top with leadership. When your people are managed effectively and clearly understand what is expected of them, positive things happen – specifically increased engagement and performance. Leaders can create accountability by clearly communicating their vision, having clear performance measures, and having a plan of action to continuously improve performance.
- Innovation: High performance cultures don’t stand still. They don’t have a “this is what we have always done in the past” mentality. High performing companies have leaders that are nimble, always willing to consider new ideas, and are never satisfied with the status quo.
- Customer focus: Customers are the focal point. High performing organizations not only understand things, it is their main focus of operations, even though it is not always easy. Companies need to be dedicated from the top down to ensure that offering exceptional customer experiences is embedded into their DNA.
- Transparency: High performance work environment are transparent and flexible. People at all levels of the organization know the strategic direction, have the ability to talk with their leaders about ways to make improvements, and there is an open line of communication travelling up and down the organizational hierarchy.
- Support: Change is frequent in high performance environments. To ensure people at all levels of the organization are maximizing their potential, it is vital to offer support, coaching, and training to ensure everyone has the skills, knowledge and resources to achieve the next level of organizational excellence.
Why You Need a Distinctive Performance Culture
Performance culture provides competitive advantage
A distinctive, high performance culture is at the heart of competitive advantage. With competition from not only local, but global organizations from around the world, companies need to have something that differentiates them from competitors. With easy access to information, companies can easily mimic other successful companies. However, one thing they cannot easily match is a culture based on performance.
You can start creating a distinctive performance culture by looking at your current performance. Ask yourself:
- What are we missing that is preventing us from beating our competitors?
- What is holding our people back from maximizing their potential?
- What roadblocks exist?
- What can we do now to improve our performance?
- What would a performance based culture look like in our organization?
Business strategies are easy to copy
Most organizations are followers. Their strategy is to simply copy what is successful in their industry. It’s no longer difficult to acquire the information, data, skills, and even the resources to copy a competitor’s business strategy—especially if they have proven it to be successful. Unfortunately, this means that strategy alone no longer creates an edge; but what you can differentiate is how you execute that strategy by developing a strong performance culture to back up your strategic initiatives.
A Distinctive, High Performance Culture Starts at the Top
This starts with leadership, and leaders need to recognize that the most important part of any strong organizational culture is its people. You are only as good as the people you lead into battle with you.
As I’ve said in Four Leadership Behaviours that Build High Performance Work Environments, “Without the proper guidance, support, and a clear vision of what is expected of them, employees are not going to create the results you want. And how can you expect them to? They are often unclear on where you want to go. They are looking for leaders to guide them. This is why high performance work environments start with leadership.”
To create a high performance culture, leaders need to display the following leadership behaviors:
- Developing and communicating a clear and inspiring vision
- Continuously challenging team members to remain focused and execute
- Provide support to achieve performance goals
Creating and communicating your vision for a performance-based organizational culture is the easy part—it’s providing support and consistently performing at a high level that will separate your organization from the crowd.