Creating a high-performance culture

Creating a high-performance culture

I recently wrote a blog called What to do when you hear the phrase ‘the way we do things around here’ that primarily focused on challenging processes in an organisation creatively. Lately I’ve been thinking about how that same philosophy of the accepted way things are done in an organisation extends to a high-performance culture, or lack thereof.

An organisation is effectively a team of strangers that come together to achieve an outcome. That in and of itself is fraught with issues, however once the team is constructed, the imperative of ensuring good behaviours underpin it is what will see it succeed or fail. In sport, you see it clearly. If a team is working well together and they have a strong culture, they will get results. When that culture starts to be eroded and the headlines become negative, the results quickly follow.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

In the words of the famous Peter Drucker: culture eats strategy for breakfast. There is absolutely no point spending countless months on developing a business strategy that your culture cannot support. It is like deciding you need to lose 10kg but not having any of the behavioural change processes in place to support the achievement of that outcome. Without it, you’ll still have those 10kg hanging around the same time next year.

But what about the metaphorical excess baggage in the organisation?

It starts with taking a very long, hard look in the mirror. Taking off the blinkers and really seeing what is happening. Removing the headphones and really hearing what is being said and how it is being said. That means hearing things that hurt and offend, things that no one wants to think could happen on their watch.

But more importantly it is being prepared to knuckle down and change it. That starts at the top – it’s clichéd but it’s true. Without support from the leadership, there will be no lasting change. No single department can change enough in isolation to create a seismic wave within the organisation if it’s sabotaged by the leadership team. Just like all relationships, there will be baggage.

Sometimes that baggage simply shouldn’t be taken to its new destination and needs to be left behind. This is where most organisations get stuck. It’s far easier to talk about and practice the good stuff but it’s harder to have those difficult conversations around performance, particularly when performance doesn’t meet the prescribed standard. However, without those conversations and clear action being taken, that behaviour becomes the accepted norm and will slowly erode the foundations of the culture you are trying so hard to build.

I work on a very simple philosophy when I look at creating highly engaged, motivated, driven individuals. It is called AIR: Action + Intent = Results. To change ones behaviour requires action. Constant action. Repeated action. But we all know that just going through the motions isn’t enough to affect lasting change. Having the best of intentions but taking no action doesn’t make the results happen either.

In the words of my esteemed former colleague Dr Malcolm Johnson, “practice does not always make perfect. Practice makes permanent”. What we aim to change, we need to do so with rigour and careful attention to technique.

When we take action, and add a clearly defined and accepted intent, that is when we see the real results.

This post was written by MEA’s General Manager of Membership Services, Michelle Cooper. We welcome and encourage guest posts from anyone in the Women in Contracting community. If you have a story to submit, please email us today.

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