Creating a Dignified High Performance Culture

How would you describe a high performance culture?

To many, that simple phrase brings images of utilitarian managers, cut-throat competition, and a long, grueling workweek. To others, high performance equates passion, excitement, and growth.

At 3Pillar we’re building a culture that represents the latter without dragging along the former.

Building a high performance culture is not easy. Doing so in a manner that builds up and dignifies individuals is even harder. But I’m confident it can be done. We’ve come a long way already and have figured out several of the required elements.

Creating a Dignified High Performance Culture - David DeWolf

It requires respect.

The foundation for any healthy culture is respect. Without respect trust erodes and relationships disintegrate. Dignity is lost. A high performance culture will begin to deteriorate into a cut throat culture when people begin to value the achievement of results over the dignity of the person. When that occurs, all is lost.

It requires initiative.

Individuals and teams within a high performing culture do not wait around for instructions. The actively observe needs and act upon them. They find ways to accelerate the business and they take chart to ensure that they happen and they are given the freedom to do so.

It requires gratefulness.

If you want people to consistently produce results, you’d better be grateful when they do. Failing to be grateful for heroic results is demeaning, never mind demotivating. People want, and need, to be appreciated for the great work they do.

It requires accountability.

High performing teams know what is expected and are held responsible for producing results. Excuses are considered taboo and individuals stand up to be counted. Team members on high performing teams understand that if they do not deliver, they are letting down the team.

It requires compassion.

Accountability without compassion removes the personal dignity that counter balances accountability. Compassion injects humanity into a culture that demands excellence and follow through. It submits that excellence is difficult and encourages respect for the individual even when performance is inadequate.

It requires discipline.

High performing teams follow through. They create a rhythm of performance and discipline themselves to follow through on what they say they are going to do. They use metrics and measures to gauge performances and they remain committed to moving the ball forward.

It requires focus.

A high performing team is made up of a group of people that are pulling in the same direction. This means focus – focus on where the team is headed and focus on the next step. Strong leaders work with teams to figure out what to say ‘no’ to. Saying yes to every good ideas is not focus. In fact, it’s extremely detrimental to company culture.

It requires courage.

If you want to create exceptional results, you must make difficult decisions. Investment trade offs must be made. Debates must be resolved. High performing employees must be promoted and perpetual underperformers must be removed from the business. Leaders in a high performing culture must have the courage to lead.

It requires honesty.

High performing teams trust each other and the information at their disposal. There is no room in a high performing culture for anything but the truth. High performing cultures rely on honesty as a bedrock of both their culture and their performance. Trust is the foundation of collaboration and accountability. It is also the foundation for dealing with reality.

It requires generosity.

An element of generosity exists within high performance cultures. Team members feel as though they are taken care of by each other. Selflessness is prevalent in a high performance culture. Individuals sacrifice for each other and generosity support the work others are doing.

It requires collaboration.

Above all, a high performance culture is all about the team. Individuals work together to ensure that their output far exceeds the sum of the parts. Team members come together to make better decisions, better progress, and produce better results, than they could on their own.

High performing cultures also follow best practices.

They put these values into practice. For example, gratefulness and generosity can be portrayed through a strong rewards and recognition program.

What are you doing to create culture in your organization?

Are you deliberate? Are you building these values? Which other ones have I failed to mention?


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  • Mark Kalpakgian

    I would add trust to this stellar list. When trust is high, performance is typically high as well! And trust elevates the dignity of the person.