Eight steps to achieving a high-performance culture

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May 19 2022 by Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic Print This Article

Creating a high-performance culture is often touted as the holy grail of today's organisations. It is an elusive concept, with many thinkers and practitioners offering their version of what creates such a culture.

As Albert Einstein said, "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them". We have to move from the left-brain rational and linear paradigm of traditional management to orchestrate our organizations from the heart.

In this article, the eight pillars of leveraging Humane Capital are presented, based on research published in my book Humane Capital, where I interviewed 58 company leaders, who combined high levels of passion and commitment among their employees with excellent business performance. The interviewees that were involved in the research created inspiring workplaces that were not only valued by staff, but also valued by investors.

The eight pillars needed to create a high-performing organisation include:

  1. Mindset of leaders and employees
  2. Motivation
  3. Higher purpose
  4. Values and their alignment
  5. Aligning of people and systems
  6. Self-organisation of employees in communities
  7. Caring ethos
  8. Organizational learning processes

Mindset of leaders and employees

The importance of the mindset of leaders and employees can be linked to The Management Shift 5 Level (also known as the Emergent Leadership Model) which is based on 5 Levels of mindset and organisational culture.

Each level is characterized by specific mindsets, actions, emotions, language used, leaders' behaviour and organisational outcomes. The 'Big Shift' happens when individuals and an organisation shift their mindset and culture from Level 3 to Level 4, where mindset is 'enthusiastic' and culture 'collaborative'. Whilst Levels 1, 2, and 3 are characterised by command and control and autocratic leadership, at Level 4 everything improves, from performance and engagement to innovation and profit.

Level 5 offers a 'limitless' mindset and 'unbounded' culture. This is where extremely innovative teams work on amazing ideas for humanity, where they are driven by purpose and working on big problems such as the pandemic, the recession, pollution, illnesses, and hunger.

The most significant difficulty in today's organisations is that most executives are trapped at level 3 (managing results) and they need to move to Level 4 (managing people). They also lack a clear knowledge of what it takes to be at level 5 (managing mindsets for at least some of the time), which results in most organisations lacking both innovation and great performance from their people.

The first step towards a high-performance culture is first for leaders to understand what an enthusiastic high-performance culture looks like and feels like. It is not about positive thinking but about having a mindset that has high energy and enthusiasm, that focuses on solutions rather than problems. A high performing enthusiastic culture also has a clear mission aligned with purpose, as well as deep meaning for employee engagement and happiness.

To build an enthusiastic high performing culture you have to focus on changing three things: your mindset with your leadership style; the way you manage results; and how you engage and motivate your employees.

Motivation

Motivation and mindset are intertwined. Employees who are anchored at Level 4 are highly motivated to succeed in all that they do. Employees at lower levels are not motivated, engaged, passionate about their work, and they do not have a sense of purpose.

Harvard Business Review ran a feature on the importance of motivation and mindset in the workplace, with research showing that having a positive mindset has a direct impact on performance.

Higher Purpose

Allowing people to feel that they are part of a higher purpose within an organisation is also proving to be an important catalyst. Businesses need to be more transparent and all-inclusive with everyone involved and encouraged to contribute. And by contributing, what happens is they feel that they belong, they want to work harder, and the overall outcome is it will affect the bottom line. It is about everyone feeling that they are an important and integral part of that organisation. When employees know how their work contributes to higher goals, they experience greater fulfilment and commitment in their jobs. In turn, employee engagement positively impacts customer satisfaction, productivity and profitability.

Values and their alignment

One of the major components to a high-performing, enthusiastic work culture are employees who are aligned with company values. The more personal values align with company's values, employees are happier and inspired to work. This way you create a culture where employees get things done, they love doing what they do and they make work integral part of their everyday lives. One key for unlocking human potential is to align what people do in their personal lives with what they do at work.

Aligning of people and systems

Aligning of people and systems that support their work and leveraging technology is another important building block for humanising organisations. For the past 20 years or so, since the internet was established, futurists have projected a near-future paradise in an information-rich, automated world of smart cars, smart buildings and smart workplaces.

The old, static, formal office is disappearing in many sectors, to be replaced by more mobile teams of people. Managers will have to be much better communicators and motivators, unable to rely on implicit fear and 'command and control'. The workplace will become more diverse. The answer to getting the best out of technology is, first and foremost, to get the best out of people.

Self-organisation of employees in communities

When employees are allowed to self-organise and work in communities, they can collaborate and help each other anchor behaviour. This is because they're allowed encouraged even to experiment with new ways of working that are not constrained by organisational hierarchy. For example, remote workers can try experimenting with office spaces in which there are no fixed desks or hierarchies; employees might choose different seats at different times of day or week, depending on their mood or how much privacy they want.

Caring ethos

"Enthusiastic" organizations actively care about their employees, they have embraced an ethos of caring. They have adopted strategies and actions that show they value their people as human beings and not just as a means to an end.

Doing so helps to create a high-performance culture, which sees employees voluntarily go above and beyond for their organisation and its customers.

In my book 'Humane Capital', Jules Goddard shares his view, why organisations have to embrace caring ethos and shift to Level 4: "There are three good reasons why UK companies need to make the shift, or, if they have already made the shift, need to reinforce it and work even harder to move it to Level Five. These reasons are commercial, social and moral. The commercial reason is that there is increasing evidence, as we all know, that there is a link between humane practices and economic performance, and I think it comes through the provision of an environment that meets three profound needs in human beings; a sense of identity, a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging."

Organizational learning processes

It is important to have learning and development plans for all employees as a way to keep them engaged with the company. It also sends a message, that the company is committed to providing its employees with the tools needed for success. This motivates employees to remain loyal to the company and not leave for other opportunities.

So what have we learnt?

To create a high performing organisation, the presented 8 pillars need to be in place, developed and implemented. Caring, people focused collaborative culture, enthusiastic mindset, focused on values and purpose will make a big difference. Allowing self-organisation and experimenting with ideas as well aligning people and systems and creating organisational learning processes will lead to creation of a high performing organisational culture.

It is all about people. Create the right role, assign the right people, set them free and they will soar. In this time of cuts and uncertainty, look to your staff; they have a wealth of ideas and solutions to offer. Through harnessing people-power, you can both cut costs and grow your enterprise, not just surviving but also thriving in challenging times.

About The Author

Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic
Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic

Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic is Professor of Leadership and Management at Hult International Business School (Ashridge) and founder and CEO of Management Shift Solutions Limited. She is the author of 'The Management Shift How to Harness the Power of People and Transform Your Organization for Sustainable Success' (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), and 'Humane Capital How to Create a Management Shift to Transform Performance and Profit' (Bloomsbury, 2018).