By Dale Hintz
Senior Consultant, Excellent Cultures.

The unique thing about organizational culture is it acts as a powerful force in all organizations; period – full stop.  Each organization competes in different markets, requires different professional skill sets (tech firm-software engineer v. construction firm-carpenters) and is pursuing a strategy based on the market opportunities and capabilities of the Team.  Culture lifts performance or holds down performance.  Obviously, there’s a scale from ‘super good’ to ‘super bad’ where we’ve all seen various organizations fit on this scale.

The title of this article says ‘drive performance’ and as a Leader, that’s our calling to get the most out of each individual on our Team and the most out of ourselves.  Leaders are the fulcrum to move the organization’s culture from where it is on the above-mentioned scale to where we need it to be to improve performance.  Leaders are the fulcrum because their individual effort has potential for exponential improvement as they influence and become positive role models for their Team.

Here’s an example of a Leader I recently worked with.  Background:  President of a 75-person Team that supports 20 independent car dealerships; part of a Global Entity; Leader of Leaders who manage individual contributors; and has a solid performance record (credibility) to build from.  I use a Leadership Assessment in a Coaching scenario to help each Leader to find two to three meaningful areas in which they can improve the behaviors they routinely utilize with their Team.  This positive example is that even though as President in this unprecedented time of business change, he found time to LEAD (this is a verb).  He also set the expectation that his reports need to find their own areas for improvement.  The combination of Expectation (words) and Role Modeling (deeds) creates significant energy to break out of the status quo.

I’m not one to delve into the past because it takes too much valuable time.  I’m more a ‘put a stake in the ground’ and move forward.  In my coaching/consulting, I embrace the John Wooden quote, “Are you good enough to get better?”.  If as a Leader you can say, “Yes, I am good enough to get better,” then literally the sky is the limit.  You then can authentically set Expectations for your Team and Role Model the new, improved behaviors you see as improvements.

Culture is complex and requires breaking it down into manageable components – pretty much like any business initiative.  Focusing on each individual Leader is the way to take something complex and make it operational.  It happens over time, so don’t think that in one day you’ll reach your goal, because it takes time, but not a lot.  As you use consistent new behaviors to set new standards, it does become contagious (in a good sense).  Another quote I depend on is Peter Drucker’s ‘what gets measured gets done’.  If you want to change and improve, it requires a goal and it requires independent measurement to facilitate adjustments and next-level development.

Now, if you liked this piece don’t just email it to your team – communicate it in a way that fosters dialog on what each individual can do to ‘put a stake in the ground’ and move forward.  Challenge yourself and challenge your Team.  Don’t let complex mire you in status quo – improve culture and no doubt you’ll improve performance.