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The Four Secrets to Sustaining a High Performance Culture

high performance culture is at the top of many companies’ wish lists, with good reason — when colleagues contribute fully to the best of their abilities (and even stretch those abilities to become better), the company benefits. Unfortunately, leaders are facing an uphill battle in implementing a high performance culture since, according to one survey, just 10 percent of employees define success at work through high performance.

Successfully implementing a high performance culture is most certainly a reason to rejoice, given the obstacles that are in the way when creating it. However, developing the culture isn’t a “set it and forget it” exercise; to continually reap the benefits of a high performance culture, you must find ways to sustain this culture through all of your company’s ups and downs. Here are four keys to sustaining the high performance culture you’ve worked hard to put in place:

1. Leaders Must Model High Performance Behaviors

Sustaining a high performance culture starts with leaders. A company’s leaders should be the living embodiment of the company’s values, and how leaders act — and how often they show their faces outside the boardroom — has a tremendous impact on the behavior of their teams.  Researchers have even found that nonverbal cues from leaders (how they stand, how often they smile, whether they cross their arms, etc.) dictate whether their team members open up or shut down when approached.

While the leadership team may say they value honest feedback, their body language itself may tell employees something completely different. For a high performance culture that lasts, leaders must consciously embody the values and behaviors they hope to see in their own employees.

2. High Performance Culture Requires High Performance Training

A high performance culture supports the development of skills and knowledge through engaging, impactful training programs. Unfortunately, after we learn something, we all experience “learning decay” — we remember less and less of the lesson over time.

To ensure you’re fostering a high performance culture, invest in high performance training strategies that improve the likelihood that the training will stick. For example, experiential learning, where training participants take an active role in a training experience (instead of listening to a lecturer or reading a manual) greatly minimizes learning decay in comparison to more traditional training programs, like “show and tell” presentations which require minimal engagement. High performance training exercises that simulate the real-world workplace scenarios that participants often encounter make it far easier for participants to remember and apply the training lessons in their day-to-day work lives.

3. Confidence, Not Perfection is the Goal

In a culture of high performance, teams still make mistakes — the difference is how quickly they bounce back from those mistakes and continue to move forward. Colleagues in a high-performance culture will analyze what went wrong and make adjustments, rather than abandoning a plan completely in a fit of passion (or embarrassment). Plus, a hallmark of a high performance culture is a focus on collaboration: if one colleague makes a mistake, another is there to pick up the slack and keep a project moving. Empower your colleagues to collaborate, not compete, and to tackle problems (even problems of their own making) with confidence, not a sense a failure.

4. High Performers Focus on Building Strengths, Not Eliminating Weaknesses

Continually focusing on what colleagues are doing wrong results in a culture of demoralization — it’s hard to keep your head up and perform to your fullest potential when you’re constantly being berated! Instead, the focus should be on identifying and further developing strengths. In fact, a study found that when individuals are able to use their strengths on the job every day, they’re six times as likely to be engaged in their work than those who do not — and you cannot sustain a high performance culture without sustained engagement as well.

Inevitably, over time a pillar of your high performance culture may show signs of cracking. What strategies have you implemented to avoid crumbling and continue to sustain an engaged, high performance culture at your company?



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