How to Build & Sustain a Great Workplace Culture

Today I want to speak to you about something that is so important yet so ignored especially by organizations and leaders who have been caught up in the old way of doing things. They’ve been successful for a while then; competition goes through the roof and there is market opening up and all of a sudden, they’re not doing as well.

One of the things I realized apart from having great leadership, a great product, great customer service and consistently innovating, is an important pillar which I want to talk to you about; organization high performance culture. Culture is one of the things that determines whether a company stays long term or short term.

A company that has long term sustainable success or sustaining success usually has a great culture that guides it. When you find an organization that has got the culture right, it doesn’t matter who is in charge, it doesn’t matter what is happening out in the competition, they will always be successful. And it amazes me that old school leaders don’t understand or appreciate the importance of culture.

I have been doing high performance for organizations for a very long time. In the last five to six years, most of the success we have had is when we go in and we help organizations to begin to craft a new culture of high performance. Culture is not happiness; it’s not having snacks and it’s not having a canteen. Culture is more than that.

Culture is a set of behaviors and ideas and values that define how things are done here. How do we get things done here? What behaviors do we have?

When we do Rapid Influence System and we implement it in your organization, one of the things we will say is, “you have got to start telling a story”. Your culture is a story that develops over time, it is a story that is told and narrated by the leadership and is lived by the entire team and is shared by everybody else. That is what culture is about. It has the elements of engagement as one of its pillars, growth as another pillar, communication and underlying all that is ultimate results.

So, having a great culture and implementing a culture change programme has got to be that, you’ve got to create something that consistently produces results. Every time there are take overs or amalgamation or one company takes over the other, they struggle quite a bit because of the two cultures coming together and they clash, why? They cannot fit in properly or they don’t have an expert who can come and help them to begin to rewrite the story and come up with a better winning culture.

That is where we really excel to help companies to know; where they are at now, what kind of culture do they want, what kind of behaviors, values and ideas are they going to come up with so that, they propel the organization to another level.

Usually the first thing that I do when I go to an organization is; you just walk in and how are you received at the reception. If you have a complaint how do the customer complaints team respond. When you walk through the corridors what is the place like, what is the mood, how are the people. Do they say hello to you? When you have a rejection or when you have a problem with the product how do they respond, how do they react? All those things help you to get to know this is the kind of culture.

I just get to spend an hour in a place, and I will get to know how the organization works most importantly, I will know how well they are doing and how badly they are doing simply because you get to understand the culture.  Wondering how to create a high-performance culture check this out;

The leadership team must initiate a great way to communicate across the organization.

There has got to be an open way of communicating across the organization. Listen openly to your people because they know so much about the organization that they will help you to begin to create that culture. When you go into an organization where there is free communication from top to bottom, where people feel free to bring their ideas, something magical happens.

This organization grows bigger than the owner, bigger than the initial vision, why? People are contributing, people are bringing in information. And if you maintain that culture, it is inevitable you begin to create a high performing engaged team. One that knows the leaders listen to us then, you are beginning to create some trust and it goes to the next level. When anybody walks into the organization, they can feel that openness, trust and comfort immediately.

You must foster personal and professional development.

It is not a human resource duty. It is one of those where from the leadership all the way down, everybody knows that in this organization when you join, two things must happen, you must grow professionally and, also on personal development. Every organization where we have introduced this. Where people are going out for professional courses but also, they create an intranet where they have information to pick up on how to become a better at this or that. They begin to work on their mindset and putting in some good stuff. That kind of culture propels an organization at a speed that you can’t believe.

You see that things are beginning to happen, and it creates this vibe of growth. This vibe of, things are getting better, people are feeling better, people are growing and before you know it, it is the way we do things here. When the young apprentices or the young great mangers come in, they come and find this environment that is so fertile for growth. That is the kind of culture that creates organizations that last forever.

It doesn’t matter who comes in as a CEO, anybody who takes over finds that culture. Why do companies like Coca-Cola, IMB and all these companies, when the CEO changes nothing much changes. They still are competitive, attract great talent and grow. It is because of the initial culture that has been created which fosters that kind of environment. 

Create traditions which are grounded in values.

Create traditions within the organization that are driven by the values of the organization. Great organizations with great culture come up with 2 to 3 fantastic values. Those are the values that are used to create a culture. There is quote from a gentleman Mr. Great Smith resides from Goldman Sachs. He says, “Culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs. It evolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret source.”

This is to illustrate the 3rd point, but also to illustrate that it is as important as anything else for the success of an organization. “The culture was a secret source that made this place great and allowed us to earn our client’s trust for over 143 years,” he adds. He says, “I am told to look around today and find no tress of the culture that made me love working for this firm for these very many years.”

You create traditions within the organization that are based on your values. You create situations where you celebrate the journey. You celebrate the winners. Where you also celebrate when you don’t do too well but you celebrate the lessons. You learn, okay, this is what you are going to do. Create traditions grounded in values where there has been great integrity, growing others.

Be innovative and creative as a community.

You want to create a great culture, let the innovation and creativity be a community thing. It’s not just one department. Let every department come with some innovation and creativity. How many departments do we have at Google? How many kitchens do we have at the Google headquarters?

Each restaurant has got to come up with an innovative way of doing things. Let marketing come up with an innovation. Let it be that we innovate as a community then that culture percolates all the way through and before you know it, this is the way we do things here. That guarantees a great future. It doesn’t matter who comes in as a leader. There are leaders who come in and try to disrupt the culture, but if it is so strong, they find that they have to fall in line.

Mentor and coach like a superstar.

Let it be that everyone in the organization understands that you cannot go to the next level unless you have mentored and coached two other people. This is not a succession plan, this is about ensuring that you are producing champions in every part of the department. Everywhere champions are being produced then you have an organization with a culture of producing the best of the best.

It is one of those things where you challenge the company and say, if we got rid of the entire senior management, how well would the company survive. If that is possible where the top management can all resign and go, and the company remains steady. That culture is great and that is what we call high performance culture.

So, in your business, I want to challenge you and ask you, with those five points that I have given you; where are you at,

  1. Do you listen openly to your people? Have you opened those communications where the leadership initiates the open communication?
  2. Do you foster personal and professional development? It is not a luxury. It is part of how we do things here.
  3. Do you create traditions that are grounded by your values?
  4. Are you doing innovation and creativity as a community? It is not just one research and development department; it is a community thing. Everyone is encouraged. The prize goes to everybody.
  5. Are you coaching and encouraging world class mentoring? When you find a world class coach, when he is coaching a world class player. He coaches with a different mindset. He coaches with a different attitude because he is dealing with a world class champion. That is the kind of training and coaching and mentoring that you need to introduce into your organization.

Then everybody becomes a mentor and a coach then the culture becomes that when you come here, the only way you can develop is if you are mentoring and coaching for world class.

There you are, you have an opportunity to go back and make your organization a World-Class High-Performance culture organization.

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