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Thursday 14th Jun 2018

How to create a high performance culture

In organisations where culture is strong, people either fit in or they don’t. It’s as simple as that. It’s a very effective filter. The ultimate success measure in whether you have developed the right culture will be how proud your people are to wear your company badge.

how to create a high performance culture

How to create a high performance culture

Over the past few weeks I’ve focused my weekly blog on what it takes to build a high performing organisation.  I’ve covered the need to create a compelling Vision / Purpose, the necessity to define a common set of Values and defined Behaviours, the importance of a strategic plan and then being flawless and disciplined in its execution.

Now, there is just one final component to consider; Performance Culture, and more specifically how to create a high performance culture in your business, which can often be a misunderstood concept.

Take Google as a leading example, known for its unique approach to mixing work and play. But Google’s strong performance culture has nothing to do with playground offices; in fact, it is the strong performance culture that makes those playgrounds possible, not the other way around.

Google is widely held to be an organisation where high performing individuals undertake work that is ‘important’ and has ‘meaning’ and for that reason has always attracted an unusually high calibre of high performing individual.

In organisations where culture is strong, people either fit in or they don’t.

It’s as simple as that.

It’s a very effective filter. The ultimate success measure in whether you have developed the right culture will be how proud your people are to wear your company badge.

Culture is the ‘thing’ that gives two companies in the same industry, with similar services and products, and similar pricing, distinctly different flavours.

Consider the differences between Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, for example.


Both are excellent organisations, flying modern aircraft on competing routes, aiming for the same customer demographic. But step on board an aircraft operated by each of them, and the feeling is quite different. Where one is aiming for high energy, and a modern, fun, innovative experience, the other expresses traditional British Values of reliability, sturdiness, professionalism, and politeness.

Those elements reveal the essence of their culture, which is undoubtedly evident in their hiring criteria, their training, their internal language, and the way their people think, feel, and act.

A common mistake is thinking of culture as a ‘nice to have’, rather than a potent competitive advantage.

Culture may earn companies a strong showing on annual ‘best companies to work for’ lists, but it’s greatest strength is the achievement of high levels of performance through shared Vision/Purpose, Values, and beliefs.

That’s why performance culture sits firmly at the epicentre of the High Performing Organisation Model.

high performing organisation

Think of it as the central nervous system for your entire organisation. All the roads lead back to culture.

Making it real for your business

To make this real for your business, let me share an exercise with you, which I do when running workshops, coaching, or consulting with a client. I ask the business leaders the following question;

‘Write an executive summary capturing the essence of the “to be” performance culture in your business; what would it look like, feel like and act like?’

The reaction to this question amazes me.

Some people will hit the ground running and enter a stream of consciousness as they scribble down their ideas. Others find the exercise difficult and struggle to articulate the key characteristics and traits.

What’s even more fascinating is when I complete this exercise with the Senior Leadership team of the same business.

Guess what?

99.9% of the time the answers are all different.

If the Senior Leadership team are not on page with one version of the truth what chance do employees, customers, strategic partners, and other key stakeholder groups have in understanding what you’re about and what you stand for?

Culture, heritage, language are the foundations upon which you build your identity. Culture is everything!

What would your executive summary say?

Would all the leaders and people in your business describe the ‘to be’ performance culture in the same way?

how to build a high performing culture

Management guru Peter Drucker is credited with one of the most often repeated statements about business: ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast every time.’

In a business where Vision/Purpose, Values and Behaviours, Strategic Plan, Disciplined Execution, and Performance Culture all work together, leading, leveraging, and supporting each other, their power is in the ‘whole’.

One cannot overpower the other if you are truly committed to building a high performing organisation.

The five elements working in unison will ensure accelerated and sustained business growth and high performance will become your reality!

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