Some businesses focus on creating a culture of fun, so leaders fill break rooms with kegs and fruit snacks. Others pinpoint that they want a culture of transparency, so developers create open forums for inner office dialogue and feedback.
These can be good tactics to employ when working to create a company culture.
But if your culture is tactical and not strategic, these types of approaches ultimately won’t have a large impact on a more important issue — how your company performs.
Creating a High-Performance Culture
A high-performance culture creates a high-performance business.
And to do this, you need leaders who can embed this into company processes.
To create and maintain a high-performance culture, it’s crucial for leaders to be aware of their own beliefs and assumptions about how work should get done. They also need to be aware of how those beliefs influence and reinforce behavior within a company.
Leaders who are better able to reinforce behaviors that drive business strategy are better able to achieve their goals in the near - and long-term. If they are inflexible in their beliefs despite shifting strategy, the result will be a culture that elicits and reinforces unproductive behaviors from the team.
Leaders who are most effective at driving the kind of behavior that supports strategy generally share a few commonalities.
Three Traits Leaders Need to Develop
The following are three traits that all leaders need to master to improve the performance of their organizations.
Insight into the Company’s Past, Present, and Future
Leaders driving high-performance cultures crave data. They want to understand the underlying beliefs and assumptions that exist in the fabric of their organization and how they drive value-added behaviors.
Conversely, they need to understand how those beliefs drive intended or unintended outcomes in terms of business performance.
Behaviors that once helped the organization succeed may no longer be effective in getting the company from where it is to where it needs to be in the current competitive landscape.
Emphasis on Inclusion
Successful leaders don’t try to shoulder responsibility for culture all on their own; they recognize that employees play an important role in how culture evolves. Leaders must look for every opportunity to engage employees in meaningful ways and make sure that all employees feel they own the culture and its evolution.
Aptitude for Embedding Culture
Leaders should view culture as the framework for everything that happens or fails to happen in their organization. Culture can’t be perceived as an “add-on,” distinct from the rest of the business.
Rather, leaders should include culture conversations into all existing meetings and practices.
Leaders who do this can proactively shape things like recruiting processes, compensation plans, talent management efforts, and employee development to evolve and align more closely to the core business strategy.
Developing These Traits
It’s unrealistic to think that all leaders or employees will naturally embody and use every business-savvy trait from the get-go, but luckily, these characteristics can be developed over time.
Here are a few ways leaders can develop these traits in themselves and their team:
- Integrate the culture process into business processes — from strategic planning to meetings and gatherings. Every aspect of business should be a part of evolving the company culture toward an identified goal.
- Work diligently to engage employees in the process of defining the company’s culture and actively moving it in a specific or new direction. People at every level of your organization should understand how they fit into the bigger picture.
- Develop personal relationships with your team to make sure clear communication and to build a stronger culture. Don’t rely on technology (i.e., email) as the primary source of communication. Master the art of engaging your team in a meaningful way.
- Determine what skills and strengths you already have as a leader and how to use them to motivate your team in ways that align with your business. Don’t try to be something that you’re not; it only erodes trust.
- Collaborate with a company culture expert who can help you better understand your culture and how it evolves — or could evolve — over time. He or she will work with you to decide how you can use your culture as a competitive differentiator.
- Allow your company’s culture to influence your role as a leader as much as you influence your company’s culture. See success as validation for good decisions and practices, and recognize failure as a need to reevaluate choices or actions.
Your Competitive Edge
Developing a high-performance company culture is an important part of creating a competitive edge. Leaders must have an understanding of the characteristics necessary for shaping and evolving their company’s culture, as well as how to use these traits in a real-world way.
Leaders who are curious, who make sure employees “own” the company culture, and who embed culture in day-to-day processes will drive business performance that helps meet strategic goals.
So how are you doing at creating a high-performance culture at your organization? Are you recognizing areas in which you can improve your culture to be more productive? And what successes have you had in the past that point to real increases to your bottom line? I would love to hear your thoughts!
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