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A high performing team working collaboratively

May | Organisational Culture | Read time: calculating...

Unlock High Performance by Building a Winning Workplace Culture


In a truly high performance culture, employee performance fuelled by a growth mindset is a key component. It allows individuals to thrive, and ultimately ensures the business’s financial results.


What to look for in a high performance culture

Several key characteristics are often observed in high performance cultures:

  • High trust amongst employees
  • A clear strategic plan to deliver the company’s vision
  • An empowered senior leadership team with strong commitment to achieving the vision
  • An open workplace culture
  • Organizational values that are reinforced and applied to decision making
  • Leadership development supported by coaching and mentoring techniques
  • Strong organizational alignment on the company’s culture
  • Regular performance reviews with a focus on development
  • Strong employee commitment to continuous learning
  • Low employee turnover
  • High client and customer satisfaction

Trust and an open workplace culture

A high performance culture is underpinned by high levels of employees trust.  Trust is built with employees openly discussing their ideas and opinions. This leads to people feeling valued, heard and appreciated.

A clear vision, plan and strong commitment to achieve goals

Allan Keogh leading a high performance culture workshop

In a truly high performing culture, employees will be able to line up behind a clearly defined and compelling vision that reflects the company culture. Everyone in the team will have contributed to the shaping of this vision. Senior leaders team will be energised and excited by the vision and possess a shared belief in what the organisation is striving to achieve whilst role modelling mission oriented behaviour.

Regular and transparent communication, clear accountabilities and a focus on delivery

High performing cultures deliver transparent and ongoing communication on company performance and progress regularly. Teams have highly visible, transparent plans, goals and actions, where employees talk regularly and frankly about the status of their plans and actions.

A high performance culture focuses on making tasks tangible, ensuring employees are clear on what is required on a task. Clarity on who needs to do what, by when, where and why enables employees to achieve high performance.

High performance cultures have results driven teams who are disciplined in their execution. These teams dissect their goals into clear actions and relentlessly pursue them. The company’s success is underpinned by empowering employees to achieve these goals, supported by upper management.

Team members will hold each other to account for delivery. If tasks or projects go off track, the team work together to get it back on track allowing employee growth from lessons learnt.

Ian Geddes leading a teamwork exercise to encourage high performance

Providing feedback and taking risks

A high performance company culture is one in which employees ask for and offer regular constructive feedback through processes such as performance management and coaching, that improve performance and employee growth. Employees feel safe to take risks, innovate and experiment and take time to improve their performance and effectiveness of their team. You’re essentially creating a feedback culture.

Clearly defined ways of working

Look for evidence of teams’ agreeing and committing to clearly defined ways of working.  High performing teams have agreed behavioural standards in place reflecting the company values. Teams will develop guidelines on managing conflict, how to achieve efficiency, communicating progress, making decisions, solving problems, and conducting meetings aimed at supporting business goals.

Success and contribution is celebrated

A high performance workplace is one where employee experience is valued by celebrating successes. Employee perceptions are shaped by their physical environment and a workplace in which they receive feedback, especially around key performance indicators. When people achieve success, reinforced through celebration, employees grow their confidence.

A high performing team celebrates wins

The employee experience becomes one where employees feel they make a difference and feel part of a high performance organization. Employee retention and employee engagement, is enhanced along with business success driven by these high performing employees.

Challenge and debate is welcome

Organizations with a high performance culture empower employees by encouraging challenge in the workplace. Diverse views are actively sought and debate on key issues is robust. This approach allows the development and clarification of new ideas and solutions improving performance and fulfilment of the organization’s purpose.

Teams spend time and have fun together

An important element to measurably enhance employee engagement, is fun. People look forward to team meetings that are high energy and have opportunities for fun and enjoyment whilst working, irrespective of being in a physical or virtual environment.

Employees are more likely to spend time with one another, both formally and informally, building the trust and the strength of the relationships.

Employees are encouraged to achieve their full potential

High performing organizations encourage and support individuals to deliver their full potential. When a team is at its best, individuals achieve performance levels above their general capability. They combine newly acquired skills, with the encouragement and excitement of working with others to achieve common goals.

Building and sustaining high performance cultures requires a holistic approach

So, what can you do to develop your organizational culture?  It’s important that the company’s culture and strategy work together integrated with the company’s capability.



Understand where you are

The first step in any culture journey is to understand your current culture. How do you describe what’s good, what’s not good, what’s working and what isn’t? What patterns of behaviours do you see that represent the current culture?

Clarity in both a qualitative and quantitative sense provides the required depth to understanding your current culture and developing effective change initiatives.

A clear purpose and existing, or new, strategic vision provide directional clarity for the business and employees. It is also critical to ensure employees buy in to a high performance culture and what it means for them.

Employees who understand the implications of a high performance culture in their work environment will be more positive and engaged.

Measure your change readiness

Before you start developing a high performance culture, it’s crucial to establish how ready and capable your organisation is to implement successful change.  Organisations change because employees do things differently.

Some important questions need to be asked:

  • Do you have clarity on what “do differently” means?
  • Do employees understand why change is needed?
  • Are your people capable of change?
  • Are your employees motivated to change?
  • Is the organisation ready to put time and resources into the desired changes?
  • What is the organisation’s track record in managing similar changes and employee development?

If you have low change readiness, you need to put in place initiatives to improve your position before starting your change initiatives.


Company culture – Imagine and Design

Strategy and Culture

Define clearly, what your culture needs to be in the future? Without a clear purpose, vision or clear strategic objectives, it will be difficult to define the future culture.  Strategy is ‘what you want to achieve as an organisation’, culture is ‘how you will get there’.

The stronger the integration between strategy and culture, the greater the buy-in and the more credible your rationale for change.

Define your future culture

Spend the time on developing a rich, detailed description of your future high performance culture. Make it come to life through stories, reflect on how you will be working together and making decisions in the future.

The more tangible, and compelling you make the future culture, the more committed people will be helping you get there.

What leaders need to be doing differently

Leaders influence culture, so articulating what the future culture means for how the business is led, and how leaders, themselves, need to behave is a critical step.

Be clear about the impact of leaders at each organisational level and how leaders need to behave differently.

Employee engagement – all levels

Don’t just define the desired high performance culture at the executive level. Get employees working on shaping the organization’s values.

The more engagement and input you have from employees across your organisation, the easier it will be to plan and implement a high performance culture.

Use online community forums as a way to connect with your employees and communicate the company’s values.

Related: Measuring Employee Engagement vs Culture

Revisit and refresh your core values

Many organisations already have a set of core values when they embark on developing a high performance culture. The executive team need to agree on the values to keep and those that are to be replaced or modified.

Sometimes organizational core values, like integrity, honesty, and respect, can and should endure, whilst it’s only a matter of refreshing and updating the behaviours that underpin the other values.

Displaying values on a wall does not equate to behaviour of leaders and employees. Values must be enacted to be powerful. Use them in decision making, as criteria in selecting people for roles, and guiding what is and isn’t done in the workplace.


Commit and Plan

Measuring your culture and developing a clear roadmap for the future culture is the ideal start for business success. Being clear and implementing strategies to ensure your organisation is ready and capable to make the changes is also vital.

Executive team alignment

Commitment by the executive team to changes and demonstrating behaviours to role model, has the largest influence in developing a high performance culture, particularly in a toxic workplace.

Executives may need support and opportunities to show commitment to a high performance culture. Crucial is that they demonstrate the desired behaviours when driving a high performance culture important for change across the organisation.

What you need from leaders – now and the future

Ideally all leaders and employees are ‘on the bus’ to achieve your desired high performance work culture.  Involving employees in every step of this process will help.

Be clear about what you expect of leaders in driving the transition to a high performance work culture.

Seek ideas and suggestions to develop a high performance culture

Use the employee input and information you have available effectively to confirm priorities, help refine issues and guide the organization’s culture planning on how best to shift the culture from where it is now to the future.

It is important to gather ideas from a wide range of employees and stakeholders. When employees see their ideas and suggestions reflected in the culture plan, they are more likely to sign up to the change.

Develop an integrated and comprehensive plan

Develop a detailed culture plan that is adaptable and multifaceted. Focus on employees, their mindsets, and behaviours, and the employee goals. Include the systems and processes that need to be addressed to support and reinforce the desired changes.

Integrate current initiatives under the culture umbrella to ensure alignment.

Culture owned by the Executive

Executives need to own the high performance culture so it is not seen as “HR’s problem to fix.” Employees follow leaders, not departments of functions.

Leaders need to talk to direct reports regularly and in performance management reviews about the culture, employees’ growth and the importance of developing a high performance culture. These discussions should be ongoing to reinforce important culture messages.


Implement and Review

A high performance culture requires consistent work over time with continued reinforcement. It’s not just about financial benefit to the company it is also about flourishing people. Culture is complex and needs to be leveraged in a multifaceted manner.


Cultivate by Keogh


Why is Cultivate different?

  • Behavioural culture assessment
  • Change readiness measured
  • Leadership behaviours measured
  • What’s important right now and in the future

Why not contact Keogh to discuss how we can help you create a high performance culture in your organisation.