What is a high performance culture? The Oxford Dictionary defines culture as “the attitudes and behaviour characteristics of a particular social group.” In my experience working with hundreds of businesses, culture is one of the most significant factors affecting business results. At Rapport Leadership we talk about culture as “the way we do things around here; it’s the hearts and minds of our people; it’s the living, breathing part of an organisation.” In this article I have asked some of our clients who are experts in the topic to contribute to this discussion of building a high performance leadership culture in the workplace.
While culture may seem to be an intangible, the signs of a company’s culture are everywhere you look. It’s in how people dress, it’s in how they treat each other, and it’s in how they ask or do not ask questions. Each of these signs sends a signal of exactly what a company’s culture is.
Let’s say I am a new employee in a company and I am told to be at a meeting at 9 AM. Being the new person, I show up to the meeting room at 8:55. At 9:02 the next person walks in. At 9:07, three more people are in the room, and at 9:10 the meeting finally gets started. Did I just learn something about that company’s leadership culture in the first 10 minutes of my first day? Absolutely!
While it may be difficult defining exactly what culture is, many businesses have even more difficulty defining how investing in training their staff enhances the development of their cultures. While few would disagree with the concept that training staff is a “good idea,” not all agree on how it improves top line or bottom line results, and even fewer agree on how it impacts “the way we do things around here.”
The secret to achieving the best result lies in the organisation’s approach to training. If training is approached as simply a “good idea” and is not linked to the work and outcomes of the organization, its value and relevance to a culture is limited. Yet, when training is aligned and integrated into a company’s growth strategy, there is a unifying link between the classroom and the boardroom. By linking expected outcomes (results) to performance actions (what people do) to leadership competencies (what is learned in training) optimises the training investment and improves the training outcomes and results.
I asked David Crane, CEO of Winning Appliances about the role of culture in the success of his organisation, “At Winning Appliances, our culture defines who we are and how we behave – it’s evident in the way we interact with one another, our customers and our suppliers. Every team member knows and understands our company’s mission, vision and values. They’re written on the walls within our offices, in our stores and on our desk dividers – it is a mentality we live and breathe at every level of the business.
As Australia’s leading appliance specialist, it’s integral that our team are united and working together towards a common goal. It’s safe to say your average Australian doesn’t get too excited about shopping for a new appliance so it’s essential that our team are the best in the business in order to create that excitement. Our stores provide the industry’s best appliance shopping experience and we offer free cooking demonstrations so customers can smell, taste, touch, see and hear the difference state-of-the-art appliances can make to their home. We want customers to leave satisfied with their purchase and training is key to achieving this. After all, we’re only as good as our people are, so we’re constantly looking at ways to make our team even better.”
There are multiple benefits to using leadership training as a strategic initiative. Training creates a common language, a common set of behaviours, and a common experience that aligns peoples’ actions. The company’s culture and results flow out of the new actions each person takes, every day. On-going training provides and reinforces a consistent message about what results are expected and how people are expected to achieve them. When leadership training is aligned strategically within the organisation, it is a tremendous opportunity to reinforce a company’s mission, direction, and values. If you walk into any Winning Appliances showroom, it is easy to see how vision and culture align to create an amazing experience for customers which is further driving the success of their company.
For example, in one of Rapport’s leadership training courses, Leadership Breakthrough One, participants experience teamwork, support, and accountability at a whole new level. The team supports the individual which in return pushes each individual to give the others more. This standard of performance is maintained throughout the course and individuals will “get to do it again” with the encouragement of their team should they fail to meet the standard the first time. From that common experience comes a common language of “no sympathy votes” or “change your approach if you want different results” and, of course, “Just Focus and Do It (JFDI)!”
During the course, each class creates its own culture of accountability and high performance which leads to the behaviour of increased personal responsibility. When participants return to their organisations, they have the ability to apply that same level of support, teamwork, and accountability to their daily work. When a company has many employees applying their leadership training in a similar manner, then the organisation begins to cultivate its own culture of accountability and teamwork. Thus, performance improves.
Jane Challinor, Founder of Innovative Business Coach recently completed Leadership Breakthrough One along with several of her clients had this to say about high performance culture, “Clients engage me as their business coach to help them build successful and profitable businesses. For the business to grow, the leader has to grow and the team has to grow and the best way to do this is through training. One of the reasons why I consistently create great results for my clients is I help them create the bigger vision for their business and educate and work with them to transform their company culture which is what creates a high performance team. If the leader isn’t growing, the business won’t be growing either. I found Leadership Breakthrough One to be an inspiring course which gave me powerful insights on how to be an authentic leader and bring out the best in myself and those around me. It challenged me and also my clients to step up and be even better leaders.”
The purpose of any training is to enhance performance. When a company takes the time to understand how a new skill or competency affects how an employee performs his/her job, this single action enhances the employee’s opportunity to use the new skills. And when managers take the time to communicate and share how the training will impact the overall results of the organisation, the engagement of the individuals being trained will increase. Finally, as these new skills become norms and as the increase in accountability and engagement spreads, a company has just begun taking their culture to another level of high performance!
Logan Nathan, CEO of SolomoIT and Social Media Advisor runs a business that spans three cities and two continents. “I have team members in Australia and across Asia and we work very hard to create a seamless culture between our offices for the best results. We expect great performance from our people so we get them very clear on their areas of responsibility, how we measure their performance and also the training and development required for them to be successful in their roles. Our company policy is always to promote from within so we invest significantly in training and upskilling our employees.”
Cultures are a living, breathing part of the organisation. All companies have some type of culture. Every company has the choice to be intentional about the type of culture it wants to create. The question is, is your organisation’s culture on purpose – or on accident? An aligned leadership training initiative helps to ensure the programs and skills being taught support and reinforce those elements of a company’s culture that are paramount to its success!