Do You Have the High Performance Culture to Drive Your Strategy?

Different cultures are illustrated by shoes from fancy heels to scruffy cowboy boots

Once your business direction is clear and compelling, it is your job as a leader to understand, shape, and align your corporate culture to drive key strategic initiatives.

This is no easy task. While most senior executives agree that a sound strategic plan is imperative, few agree on what to do next.  In fact, less than ten percent of even well-crafted strategies are effectively executed.

For most fast growing and evolving companies, the biggest obstacles to success have little to do with designing a winning strategy.  When you look under the hood of many organizations, you find that they are not firing on all cylinders. They are not performing at their peak.  And their leaders have not created the high performance environment necessary to get sustainable results now or in the future.

The first roadblock – Culture.

Culture is how things truly get done in an organization and includes the underlying values and assumptions that drive key business practices and behaviors. Many still mistakenly believe that culture is “soft HR-type stuff” because it does not appear to them to have a quantifiable impact on performance.  Successful organizations and leaders know better.

Just listen to Dwight Howard, the former All-Pro Center for the Los Angeles Lakers, who complimented the culture of the L.A. Clippers, his cross-town rivals, and criticized his own team’s lack of chemistry following a disappointing loss.  Do your employees feel as though they are part of a winning team?

Chemistry and culture are just as significant in the corporate world as in the world of sports.  A recent Harvard Business School research report described how an effective culture can account for up to half of the differential in performance between organizations in the same business.  Our own organizational alignment research found that cultural factors account for up to 40% of the difference between high and low growth companies. This should be a powerful motivator for all leaders.

Organizational cultures exist by design or by default.  As a leader, if you do not understand, shape and align your culture and strategy, you and your organization are not performing at your peak.

Jet Blue President & CEO, David Barger, agrees:

“We got our board together four years ago to discuss best practices and strategy.  We ended up with 23 objectives and 4 pathways.  Fast forward and the 23 became 14 in year two and then 10 in year three.  Now they are crystallized into 2 – culture and offerings.”

Not only did “culture” ascend to its rightful place toward the top, but the leadership team did themselves a big favor by narrowing and simplifying their strategic focus.

If you want your company culture to drive peak performance, start with these four tips that are based on over thirty years of research with high performing organizations.  Be sure your company culture is:

  1. Clear and Modeled. To impact performance, the desired culture must be clearly articulated to employees and consistently monitored, modeled, and rewarded by the company’s leaders.
  2. Aligned and Believed. For culture to matter, it must not only tie directly to your strategy but employees must also believe that it is a key driver in helping them to achieve their objectives.
  1. Experienced and Consistent. To be effective, employees must experience your company’s desired culture on a regular basis.  Culture should defend against behaviors and actions that do not match how you want things to get done.
  1. Soft and Hard. On the “soft side,” meaningful cultures make employees proud and motivated to do their best.  On the “hard side,” performance-based cultures ensure that substandard performers (when given the required support) must improve quickly if they wish to remain employed.

Strategy relies upon culture to create the environment for success. 

Great leaders know that a strategy without the right talent and culture to implement it is just wishful thinking.  Great leaders strategically and systemically shape a high performance culture by being clear and consistent about how they want things to get done.

The bottom-line question: is your performance environment driving your strategy forward?

 

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