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The Characteristics of a High-Performance Culture

A high-performance culture helps the organization achieve high levels of performance and results consistently over time. It’s no wonder then that building a high-performance culture is a chief goal for many organizations as it can mean the difference between stagnation and growth, competitiveness and being left behind. Regardless of industry, company size, or location, high-performance cultures can be identified by a range of common attributes. Here are four common characteristics of a high-performance culture:

Strong Leaders

Leadership is the foundation upon which team performance is built. Leaders set the tone, communicate goals, and directly impact employee performance in a variety of ways. In a high-performance work culture, leaders drive goal execution and are a catalyst for team performance. Leaders set the bar for performance through their behaviors and actions. They also exhibit enthusiasm for the accomplishment of challenging goals and demonstrate how to overcome hurdles that can get in the way of team execution. For example, a leader who works hard to exceed sales goals or learn a new process will inspire their employees to do the same.

Leaders of high-performance teams motivate employees and inspire them to give their best to the projects at hand. They are both cheerleader and coach, creating an environment where employees feel engaged and inspired. In setting goals and giving feedback, leaders in a high-performance culture communicate clear, measurable, and action-oriented goals. They communicate with empathy and give feedback that builds trust and encourages employees to perform to their potential.

Empowered and Engaged Employees

High-performance cultures consist of individuals who possess the ability to make key decisions and own those decisions, leading to increased engagement. In a recent SHRM survey, 70 percent of employees said that feeling empowered to take action when a problem or opportunity arose was a critical element in their engagement. Organizations with a high-performance culture do more than say they want employees to be empowered; they ensure that employees have the necessary skills and knowledge to use good judgment when making decisions.

High-performance cultures feature two-way feedback mechanisms, training that promotes idea generation, and leadership that encourages employees to take ownership in the everyday performance of their roles. For example, one airline empowers employees by encouraging them to “go the extra mile” for customers.

A Focus on Continuous Learning and Employee Development

High-performance organizations recognize that people need to focus on continually upgrading their skills and knowledge to sustain long-term performance. Instead of occasionally introducing off-the-shelf training, they evaluate employee development needs and identify clear pathways for ongoing growth and learning.

Employee development in a high-performance culture also focuses on building the leadership pipeline and creating a deep bench of leadership capability that will fuel the organization for years of growth. Leadership development harnesses the talent and passion of high-potential employees and ensures the sustainability of a high-performance culture.

Openness to Change

Like all organizations, those with a high-performance culture are not immune to the constant pace of change that exists in every industry. However, individuals in high-performance cultures approach change as an opportunity, rather than just an obstacle to be overcome. Organizations with a high-performance culture aren’t afraid to rethink their strategy or reinvent jobs, work practices, or other internal processes to achieve results. They plan for and embrace change and leverage it to spur innovation.

The characteristics of a high-performance culture give many cues about the behaviors and mindset of the individuals within that culture. If you recognize there are characteristics of your company culture that differ from that of a high-performance culture, it is possible to develop and execute a plan that will transform your culture and help employees adjust their behaviors in support of sustainable, high levels of performance.

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