Leadership drives culture, culture drives performance.
This statement concisely describes the outcome that we’re ultimately trying to achieve as leaders. The primary function of a leader is to create and maintain a culture that’s conducive to performance excellence… a culture where every individual is committed to giving their best every day.
Culture is simply, the way we do things around here. It’s about the accepted norms of behavior and conduct that we fall into. Every team in every organization has a culture, but very few are formed deliberately.
More often than not, they grow organically as people learn over time what the expectations and limits of the leader truly are. If you don’t focus, deliberately and explicitly, on creating the type of culture that drives genuine performance, then the culture you get will be… whatever it’ll be!
High-performance, constructive cultures have a number of key elements, and these elements serve to naturally align the interests of the organization and team, with the individual drivers of your people.
The elements of a high-performance culture that immediately spring to mind for me include:
- Strong, clear, single-point accountability
- Appropriate empowerment and support for people at every level
- An emphasis on ‘excellence over perfection’
- Robust and respectful challenge of teammates
- High achievement orientation and professional pride
- Clear objectives, with single-minded focus on the key value drivers, and
- A collaborative working environment (which of course, is subordinate to the single-point accountability)
As a leader, you’ve got to take culture seriously. And by seriously, I mean that the culture has to be described and modeled through your own words and actions. It has to be measured and reported as a focal point of team performance… and there has to be no tolerance for people who choose to behave in a way that’s sub-standard
Remember, what gets measured, gets managed, and what gets rewarded gets done. So, if you aren’t doing this as a leader, your culture is going to form itself… and you might not like the way it turns out.
But by then, it’ll be too late… and who knows? Maybe the next leader will sort it out!