Culture’s Role in Performance
Your strategy (the WHAT) must go through your people and your workplace culture (THE HOW) to be executed successfully. And experienced leaders know that anything that includes the way people, think, behave, and interact is fraught with high risk and high rewards. The good news is that people’s work environment has a significant impact on how they get work done, and a plan for how to improve your performance culture can be designed.
High Performance Culture Research
Let’s start with the impact of culture. How leaders shape and design people’s work environment matters.
- Recent research from Harvard Business School found that a successful culture can be the reason for up to half of the difference in performance between organizations in the same business.
- Our own organizational alignment research found that cultural factors account for 40% of the difference between high and low performance in terms of revenue growth, profitability, customer loyalty, leadership effectiveness, and employee engagement.
How to Improve Your Performance Culture
Now let’s talk about the design of corporate culture. When you want all the gears of your organization working together as smoothly and effectively as possible, the most underestimated leverage point is organizational culture. But how do you improve your performance culture?
Though each organization has its own way of getting things done, there are some common elements that, once addressed proactively, can help set the stage for higher performance.
- Ensure Strategic Clarity
Before you can ask people to think, behave, and interact differently, you need to ensure that where you are headed, what you are trying to accomplish, and what sets you apart as an organization are clear enough, believable enough, and implementable enough.
Strategic clarity across all levels of the organization, starting with leadership, is a prerequisite for any successful and lasting culture change.
Do not underestimate where you stand. Employees tell us that their understanding and buy-in to their company’s strategic priorities are 50% less than their bosses.
- Ensure Organizational Health
In general, all organizations strive to be healthy, and people want to work in a healthy corporate culture. If you want to get more performance from your team, the culture must be healthy enough to handle the increased performance demands.
Make sure you assess organizational culture and do what it takes so that people feel enough trust, confidence, psychological team safety, and support to be willing to give more discretionary effort over the long term.
- Agree Upon Desired Performance Expectations
Once your overall strategy is clear enough and you have the built the foundational health required to raise expectations, your next step is to set clear, fair, accurate, relevant, timely, trusted, and meaningful performance targets and reward systems.
We recommend focusing on the two or three metrics that matter most. Every leading or lagging metric should be based upon what would constitute the desired high performance for each team and role.
If you want them to last, make sure that you actively involve stakeholders most affected in the design, implementation, and measurement of the high performance metrics.
- Identify Behavior Changes, Mindset Shifts, and Actions
Higher performance typically requires specific behavior shifts and changes in not only actions, but also in underlying mindsets, beliefs, and attitudes. That means that you must identify the pervasive mindsets and observable behaviors that must be reframed and altered to lift performance to the next level.
Ideally this step uncovers key strengths and weaknesses of the current culture, areas of cultural alignment and misalignment vis-à-vis your business strategy, and likely accelerators and inhibitors to performance.
Remember that everyone handles change in different ways and at different speeds. Help individuals understand their own behaviors so they can better learn how to adjust to be successful.
- Model and Reinforce High Performance Behaviors
Accountability is at the heart of any high performance culture. For any cultural change to stick, your leaders and high performers must consistently and visibly model the organization’s core values and desired behaviors. Then, it must be proportionately worth it for people to strive for higher performance results.
Lastly, there must be visible, timely, and fair consequences for those who do not meet performance or behavior expectations.
The Bottom Line
Are you a leader who wants to create higher performance for you and your team? Then you must address and shape your culture in a way that will support your ambition. Do you know where your organization needs to change and what you need to do to for people to perform at their peak?
To learn more about how to create higher performance, download The 3 Levels of a High Performance Culture that You Must Get Right