Culture is one of the most important factors to organization’s success because it defines how things are done and how people behave. Culture is the learned assumptions on which people base their daily behavior, drawing on phrases like “the way we do things around here.” Culture drives the organization, its actions and results, and guides how employees think, act and feel.
But in today’s competitive corporate climate, it’s not enough to have just a basic and operational company culture. To succeed and stand out above the rest, an organization must encourage and foster a true high-performance organizational culture. A culture of performance provides a company with its single greatest source of competitive advantage since this type of environment inspires people to go the extra mile, and to make and execute good decisions even when management isn’t looking. So what breeds these high performing cultures? Typically the environment in these companies fosters beliefs, values, character, and rituals that create a deep bond among employees, making their work meaningful and rewarding.
So how do you create this culture in your company? The first step is aligning all levels of the organization. The leadership must connect today’s work with where the business is heading and provide employees with a unified message that reinforces the company’s mission. Every manager needs to model the high performance culture and show employees how to “live” the organization’s mission. Modeling the desired behaviors shows employees that the culture and the supporting behaviors are real.
Similarly, these cultures have employees who think like owners and have an incentive to action. The leadership and employees equally participate in discussions and decisions and are open to change. When individuals understand the boundaries in which they can operate, as well as where the company wants to go, they feel supported to decide and act, and most often make the right choices. They are empowered and begin to think and act like an “owner”.
Next, high performance cultures employ an effective performance management process that allows leadership to schedule regular and open one-on-one conversations with their team. Employees need to understand their individual and collective responsibilities and management needs to support them and ensure that they are aligned to the company goals. Good leaders disseminate and individualize key messages and follow up as needed to make sure employees understand those messages. Also, help your employees set challenging targets. Your team will rise to high standards and the more they expect from themselves, the more they will achieve. But be careful to differentiate between good stretch goals, which can energize a person, and bad ones, which can lower morale.
Finally, cultures that churn out high performers are customer-centric. Employees recognize and respond to changing information from the marketplace and feel empowered to develop innovative ideas to meet market demands and stay ahead of the competition. Contributions from high performing employees at varying levels allow the organization to connect with customers and create a branded and unique experience.
Starting with these basics, you can build and better your organization’s culture and put everyone on the path to high performance and success!