Building a high performance culture

The Leader’s role in Building a High Performance Culture

In today’s blog post, I’m going to share what a leader’s role is in building a high performance culture. As a leader, no doubt you have a lot of responsibility and a lot of things that you have to do. I’m gonna suggest 5 things that you should be incorporating into your weekly, monthly, annual routine in order to build a high performance culture. If you are a leader who has ambitious plans to build a high performing team that basically runs itself, then sign up for my weekly email for more posts that teach you exactly how to do this.

My name is Sadaf Shaikh and I have been working with senior executives for the past 20 years up close and personal. I’ve seen some of the behaviours and qualities and characteristics that drive a high performance culture and a seen some that hinder it. In this blog post, I’m going to share what exactly those characteristics are. The characteristics that drive a high performing culture where your team works autonomously, where they manage the day-to-day, and they free up your time to focus on the strategic work and on things that are going to grow your business. 

Before we start diving into what a leader’s role is in building a high performance culture, let’s first set the set the ground on what exactly a high performance culture is. I want to ensure we are speaking the same language. Essentially, a high performance culture is one where your team manages all of the day-to-day, where you are not involved in the day-to-day decision making, and you’re not involved in fighting fires. What you are involved in is doing the things that light you up as a leader, where you’re focused on strategy and you’re focused on growing your business.

Leader’s Role in Building a High Performance Culture

Now that we’ve set a baseline for what a high performance culture is, let’s talk about what your role is in your organization.

Role 1 – Define the Aspirational Culture

One of the roles that you have is to define what your ideal culture is. That definition of what your ideal high performance culture looks like rests solely on your shoulders. Now it doesn’t necessarily have to rest solely on your shoulders but you definitely have to provide the vision to your team. The accountability of defining the culture, to ensure people that are that are coming into the organization are working in accordance with that culture, is up to you. I have a great video that I did a few months ago on how to define your aspirational culture. In it I do a walkthrough of how to define your aspirational culture. Think about where do you like to see your organization in 12 months, 18 months or 24 months from now.

Role 2 – Always Scout Talent

The second thing that you as a leader of a high performance culture should be doing is scouting talent now. I find that most leaders will wait until they need somebody to go out to the marketplace to find them. If you’ve ever struggled with hiring the right person (I know a lot of people struggle with then), this is point is for you so listen up. If you wait until you need to hire a person, you’re coming at it from a reactive position. By constantly scouting talent, you’re approaching it proactively. So, what does proactive look like? The key is to scout for potential employees no matter where you are, no matter what interaction you’re having, you have to constantly think about who could be the next person to come into organization. Who would fit your culture?

It’s funny because in business we are taught to constantly be thinking about where you can find your next client and that anyone is a potential client. Yet, we rarely think about that for our employees. We rarely think about who we could bring into the company. You could be walking a trail and strike up a conversation with with somebody who might be a future employee. Even if they’re not interested, perhaps they know someone. Plus, your existing employee population is a huge source of candidates . If you wait until you actually have a vacancy you may potentially be missing out on a really good hires who would positively contribute to your culture.

Role 3 – Building a High Performance Culture by Setting Clear Expectations

The third role all leaders need in building a high performance culture is to set clear expectations. This may sound simplistic, but if you have a culture you’re working towards, and you have certain behaviours that you expect your employees to exhibit, you have to set those expectations. There have been too many times where I’ve spoken to leaders who say things like “They’re just not doing what I want them.” And when I ask them if they’ve had a conversation with the employee about it, they say “They should know this.” No, people don’t know. They can’t read your mind and they don’t know what you’re expecting from them. So, the next time you see an employee behaving off-side or you somebody isn’t doing things the way that fits within your culture, have the conversation with them and set the expectation. For new hires coming in, proactively set the expectation by describing how you do things in your organization. .

Role 4 – Hold People Accountable

This leads me to the next point. You have to hold people accountable. Saying something one time is just not enough. People have busy lives and they have a lot of things going through their heads. Once is just not enough sometimes. You may have to repeat it. And you have to hold people accountable. If someone consistently your culture, or consistently goes against what you’re trying to build, then you have some hard decisions to make.

Role 5 – Track Your Progress Each Year

This is something I don’t see a lot of leaders incorporating, but I think is so important. Take stock every year (usually at your year end planning session) of how far you’ve come in your aspirational culture journey. Once you determine your aspirational culture goal, you need to then go back every single year and see how far you’ve come. For example, if you had a baseline customer fulfilment time of 21 days and at the end of year one you’re at 15 days because of process improvements, you have to celebrate that. Your team needs to know their hard work paid off. Another way you can take stock is to look at your calendar. As an example, from January 1st to December 31st you can see whether you have cut down the amount of time that you spend working inside the business fighting fires and working on the day-to-day operations versus how much time your spending on the strategic working.

If you’d like some support on defining your high performance culture, drop me an email at or book a call with me here. I am here to help you if you want to bounce ideas off me or if you just want to discuss your plans for the remainder of this year.

Now I want to hear from you. Do you have anything that you have incorporated in your role as a leader towards building that high performance culture? Comment below and let us know.

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