25 Sep, 2017

Guiding Principles for a High Performance Culture that Engages and Enrolls

25 Sep, 2017

What catapults organisations to be ahead of the competition?  How do leaders and organizations achieve significant and lasting performance while others just seem to lag or cease to exist altogether?

Lots of factors affect the condition of your club/organization, some within your control, like the culture – and some out of your control like shifts in the market or economic climate.  The common denominator that always plays a key role in performance is the culture.  Culture defined as “the ways things get done, that have been developed over time”.

So, knowing how much of an impact “Culture” has on creating and sustaining high performance, how can leaders make this happen?  First of all, it is important to know who you are as a club than where you are going, for where you are going will change as the world around you changes.   Leaders change, products become obsolete, markets change, new technologies emerge, but core ideology in a high performing company endures as a source of guidance, inspiration and sustainability.

As shared by Steve Jobs, “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful – that’s what matters to me”.  His focus every day was on creating life-improving products and making an impact on a person’s life.   That’s what drove him, that’s what made him and his team get up in the morning, enroll in the purpose and be engaged at work.

A recent study done by the Gallup organization in 160 countries identified that only 37% of employees know what their organisation stands for? What percentage of your employees would know what your club stands for?

Further research identified that 70% of the variance between lousy, good and great cultures, is the knowledge, skill and talent of its leaders.  Not the employees, but the team leader.  The conclusion is that organizations should change from having command and control managers to high performance coaches who engage and enroll!

High performance coaches/team leaders share the organisations’ purpose; develop healthy relationships that are fully transparent and authentic; establish clear expectations; provide ongoing feedback aligned to the purpose, values and expectations; hold colleagues accountable; and give recognition and fair reward.

Some leaders try to assert their authority in a top-down fashion, forcing their employees to follow along or face punitive actions.  Others go to the opposite extreme, trying to befriend their employees rather than providing the leadership and vision they need.  As a leader, you must strike a delicate balance between these two extremes.

The following 4 Guiding Principles will help you strike that balance, while ensuring the ship stays steady in all weather conditions:


Guiding Principle #1

 1. Be Committed

To engage and enroll a group of people, you must be fully committed to them, the purpose of your club and to the goals you want to achieve. Are they confident that you care and that you are not going to be gone tomorrow and the focus gone too? Can they trust your commitment to them and what you are asking them to do?

You must exercise your choices in the best interest of the club and those who work there, whatever that involves.  When your employees see how truly committed you are AND that all employees can perform and contribute to their full potential, almost all will respond in kind.


2. Be Fully Present with What is

Leaders must be fully present with what is going on at the moment.  Do you get into the midst of the employees, pay attention, observe and be genuinely curious. Do you ask questions without expectations of the response; give employees your full attention when you are interacting with them; acknowledge their responses without judgment or defending; and genuinely care about understanding them.

High performing cultures create an open-ness to addressing the good, the bad and the ugly no matter how ugly it is, with the positive intention of making the culture fully transparent and the very best it can be.  This includes letting go of the behaviors and processes that no longer serve your club’s goals.


3. Engage in Deep Dialogue

Deep dialogue requires focus and vulnerability.  You cannot ask powerful questions without opening yourself up to honest answers.  This requires that you, as a leader, be absolutely secure in who you are and in your own commitment to what is best for the club.

Deep dialogue also requires emotional intelligence – the ability to accurately read emotional cues from the person to whom you are speaking and to adjust your own behavior accordingly to ensure relationships are maintained or enhanced in the dialogue.

Now of course just because people get to be heard does not mean they will necessarily get their way, but it does mean that they are taken seriously and the organisation benefits from the information.  High performing cultures are distinguished by having a mechanism whereby information can make its way rapidly to the top.

Deep dialogue can be uncomfortable for some people, but in high performing cultures, people are actually comfortable with being uncomfortable once in a while.  This is realistic when you as a leader are demonstrating commitment and cultivating similar commitment within your employees.


4. Look for Answers Within

As their leader, you have to be willing to let employees know that you don’t know all of the answers and are open to feedback, suggestions and ideas.

High performing cultures always look for the answers to their challenges from within the organization first.  Employees are consulted on answers to everyday problems, while embracing the differences of opinions.

High performing leaders are not constantly searching for the mythological  “perfect employee” who will be able to perform well despite a dysfunctional organizational culture.  You must be devoted to transforming the culture so that you get the most out of everyone you already have.

None of this is to say that a high performing organization will never have to fire anyone.  However, when you do, it is because the individual has failed the organisation, not the other way around.

If you are motivated to make your club everything it can be – to build something that will retain loyal employees, exceed customer expectations and weather any storm that comes around – these guiding principles are irreplaceable.  They take time and effort to incorporate into your leadership style, but they will deliver dividends that will be more than worth the investment.


Visit our online Leadership Guiding Principles Assessment and more at www.pbpbooks.com/assessments.


Susan Stevenson
Polar Bears and Penguins
“Transforming Organisations into High Performing Cultures”