Hack into your values to create a great business culture

how you as leaders can build a high-performance culture that grows people and profits.
Posted on: Tuesday 14, June 2016
Category: Leadership Development

Whenever people work as a group, a unique culture emerges. This includes your workplace too. This article explores how you as leaders can build a high-performance culture that grows people and profits.


[3 1/4 minutes reading time]

‘This is the way things are done around here’…

Workplace cultures given no leadership direction will end up shaping themselves. Left to itself, an underlying culture forms its own identity.

So what, you might say! What’s wrong with that?

Well at first glance you might dismiss culture as nothing to do with business or profit. However, a lack of direction gives rise to its own problems. An ‘unwritten’ culture will fill the vacuum.

The common phrase: “This is the way things are done around here” applies.

Unchecked, unsaid rules creep in and managers and staff put up with them at all levels. It doesn't stop there either. Poor behaviours in the workplace become the norm and fear-based thinking can spread. In time unwritten rules root themselves into the company DNA. Employees lower their standards. Also, unwritten rules are hard to break.  The phase - old habits die hard runs true.

Ultimately these types of cultures lead to ‘jobs-worth’, yes-men and low performance. For any company, that’s a high price to pay.

On the other hand, high-performing leadership teams take a different approach. They take time out to form a great workplace culture that satisfies their peoples' growth needs. That in turn, yields sustained profits. Low-performance teams don’t – their focus is on only chasing profit.

According to Leadership Author Richard Barrett, Companies that adopt a values-driven culture, return sustained profits that exceed those that don't (see chart below).

This is the difference that makes the difference!

Building a High-Performance Culture...

Firstly, this starts with you as a leadership team, analysing your culture. It will take time too. So you need to commit and buy into building a great workplace.

The pay-off is you and your peoples' growth needs are satisfied. You all want to make a difference and make the world better. That’s not all - you earn sustained profits too.

To do this you have to work on your company culture. That means figuring out what your current and desired culture looks, sounds and feels like.

Here are some useful 'big' questions for you to get the ball rolling:

  • What do you as a team stand for?
  • What is your purpose? why do you do what you do every day?
  • How does your company make the world better?
  • What matters to you, and how do you make a difference?
  • How would you describe your current company culture?
  • What drives your people to turn up and work for you?
  • What makes your heart sing? What does your heart beat for as a leader?
  • What makes you come to work singing and go home whistling?

These big questions draw out what is important to you, what you want and desire. From the answers, you can begin to tease out your values and beliefs.

Values and beliefs are a special kind of rich language. They put into words the essence and the story behind your company. What you stand for as a leadership team, what is important to your employees, what you do and care about.

So by pinning down your values and beliefs you clarify what behaviours and attitudes are needed to build a high-performance culture. This becomes your blueprint or action plan to work with your whole company.

Rooting Out Dysfunction…

Secondly, becoming a high-performance culture means you must iron out low-performance issues in your teams. That starts with you as leaders. Here're some common examples...

  • Poor teamwork.
  • Lack of trust from one or more executives.
  • Toxic individuals.
  • Patterns of low staff morale.
  • Ego, self-centered or control.
  • Lack of commitment and holding others to account.
  • Internal conflict.
  • Unresolved conflict.
  • Resistance to change.
  • Lack of vision.
  • The ruthless chasing of profit. 

Any of the above will lead to low performance. Working on these takes time.

Shifting Gears from a Fixed to a Growth Mindset...

Thirdly, low-performance cultures are based on fear, ego survival, protection, and defence. These create basic behaviours, rules, and attitudes that lead to a fixed mindset. This results in the above dysfunctions. What’s more, a fixed mindset leads to an endless ‘hamster-wheel’ treadmill of cost savings, efficiency drives and chasing profits.

To build a high-performance culture means shifting your leadership group thinking. It’s a gear change that draws your peoples’ attention away from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

Growth mindsets are based on ethics, meaning, and purpose, making a difference and making the world better. Practically this means, seeing from your buyers' perspectives. It means producing great products and services and building a great workplace. Your profits grow too, but in a sustained way.

The essential qualities of a growth mindset begin with learning to unite, to trust and to share as a leadership group. It needs you all to bond and tune into one another. You need to understand and work with each other’s strengths and weaknesses. There is no place for ego and political game playing. These sorts of characteristics are toxic and have to be removed from your leadership team one way or another.

The three aspects above all start with you as leaders and then 'waterfall' down through your company.

Some Evidence... 

When I facilitate business teams through this process, they tell me it is a profound learning journey. That they grow as individuals and as a team. They talk through their action plans to create a great workplace. 

But that’s not all. They notice that their teams feel happier. They become proud of their workplace and its shift to a growth culture.

Hard evidence to support this can be seen from the results of annual Employee Engagement Surveys.  For a couple of leadership teams, they told me they'd noticed striking positive differences from previous years. This also tangibly supported a jump in profit growth for that year.

The annual budget setting process for a lot of leadership teams is tough. Divisional performance figures are brutally picked through by The Board with a fine-toothed comb. It is a process that few senior people relish. So setting an ambitious growth strategy based on spending more up front in a difficult economy is a tough ask. But that is exactly what one team I had worked with successfully pulled off.  It was a brave move and one that stood out. Because they had spent time becoming a high performing team they returned outstanding results.



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I am a skilled leadership and team facilitator and development consultant. Please contact me today to discuss how you and your organisation can benefit from developing your team in emotional intelligence development or high performance team programmes. Call 07795 182 860 or email andrew@pdx-consulting.com to arrange an informal discussion.

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