“ The journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step” – Lao Tzu
Phrases such as ‘high performance culture’, ‘cultural challenges and dilemmas’, ‘culture is the most important element of business’ bounces of the walls of corporate boardrooms frequently.
Company culture as a broad philosophical concept is already complex by nature without even considering the practical application and creation of a high performance culture.
Culture can be defined in simple terms as nothing but the collective behaviour of the employees or people within the culture observed.
The Impact of a Toxic Culture
Even with the potent combination of a brilliant product and strategic genius, failure can be possible within the context of a toxic culture. Visible symptoms of a toxic culture are disengaged staff, gossip and continuous conflict, a general lack of integrity, very high staff turnover and very low levels of commitment.
In a lot of poor performing businesses staff are over managed and under led which eventually leads to very low levels of inspiration and commitment.
Inspirational leadership must be well balanced with daily management controls. An over focus on either Leadership or management at the expense of the other erodes performance over a period of time.
In its true essence empowerment means the gradual suspension of control. Balance the relinquishing of control by mentoring those with leadership potential. The true measure of Leaders is the quantity of other leaders that they have left behind. High performers are those who constantly work on their leadership skills.
It is not only a relatively complex feat to create a high performance culture but also challenging to sustain and increase performance over a long period of time – Nobody said business in general or entrepreneurship was easy .
Yet for a highly committed, competent and inspired leadership team it is not only a possibility to create and sustain a high performance culture it literally becomes part of their DNA as they engage in disciplined behaviours that underpin, sustain and support such a culture.
A high performance equation:
High performance = Potential x commitment x Inspiration – Interference
The equation ‘unpacked’
1. High performance
In general the team is inspired, committed, competent and engaged. More often than not employees meet their KPIs and goals and even occasionally exceed them. Constant creativity and useful innovation is at the order of the day.
Communication in the organisation is clear and a common bond is created through a shared value system. Conflicts are resolved rapidly and any toxic behaviours addressed immediately.
Constant positive strides are made towards the actualisation of the company Vision. Job descriptions are very clear and rewards are fair and equitable. People are praised for effort and not for talent.
The ‘right people’ are carefully hired, people who’s personal values are in alignment with that of the company. People who are inspired by a mutual cause and purpose form part of your team.
Meetings are characterised by brevity, clarity and inspiration and are catalysts to action. Performance is not only constantly measured but coached and trained. Learning does not happen occasionally but is a pivotal part of the culture. The most prominent learnings to engage in are to embrace failure and change.
Individually or as a team we only truly find out what our individual or collective potential is when we test it and force ourselves to venture outside the self-imposed boundaries of our comfort zones. The human brain is surprisingly malleable and IQ can be improved as well as emotional intelligence albeit that a high degree of commitment is a requirement.
As the great American football coach, Vince Lombardi exclaimed – ‘Potential simply means you have not done it yet’
Potential is a dormant force until we take action to constantly learn, improve and learn from our mistakes.
Related: 7 Fears That Immobilise Leaders
Muhamad Ali used to only start counting reps when doing sit-ups once he started feeling the pain. James Buster Douglas is the only man to get up after being knocked down by Mike Tyson because of his commitment to his dying mothers’ prophecy that he would beat the menacing adversary that was Mike Tyson.
The Navy Seals’ teach their recruits to ‘embrace the suck’ because on the other side of it lies greatness. Apple as a company is truly committed to their cause of always ‘challenging the status quo’.
Nike has been renowned for decades as a company truly committed to innovation and change.
Tun Dr Mahathir the 93 year old president of Malaysia still performs his duties with unwavering commitment putting a lot of young people in the workforce to shame.
You have to be willing to push yourself and your team to unknown territory. You have to be brave. You have to have good old fashioned grit. You have to be willing to do the things that the average people and companies are not willing to do.
Being on time for work and simply doing what is required from you is not enough, not if greatness is your standard.
Motivation is fickle and finite. Motivation often lasts as long as the short lived caffeine buzz derived from the first ‘cuppa’ of the day. Being truly inspired by a shared and defining purpose, shared values and a love for the difference you are making in others’ lives can be an infinite resource to overcome adversity.
My personal purpose as a high performance coach is to support others to make their dreams a reality. What is yours? If you do not know you are not alone. Find out. It is not only your duty but your calling.
Individual and collective fears, doubts and insecurities interferes with performance. Senseless gossip and negative attitudes erodes performance.
Bureaucracy, inflated egos and poor communication hampers performance. Lack of strategy, an uninspiring vision and slow action impacts performance negatively.
As company culture is a complex phenomenon it is not uncommon for CEOs’ and other executives to feel overwhelmed by the weight of being responsible for creating and sustaining the culture.
However as the famous Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said –‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’. Start small and with a great deal of focus on each single step towards creating a high performance culture.
Be open to learn, be trained, be mentored in order for the complex paradigm of a high performance culture to be demystified and clarified to you. The clichés’ are true. Culture indeed is everything.