5 Steps to Creating a High-Performance Culture

Authored by Matt Hommel

To build a successful empire, you must understand that this journey is a long game, not a quick hack. When sustaining an empire - a powerful one; it is essential that you know your people are your most valuable asset during the journey.

Culture is people. 

How well you can motivate and inspire a group of talented, team-oriented people to execute the strategic mission of the organization, is ultimately what will dictate your success. Getting the right people into the organization that share the same values and beliefs as you, and want to achieve what you want to achieve, leads to collaborative success; for the organization, and its people. This leads to better morale, performance, and bottom-line results, among many other things as well.

You don't want buyer’s remorse, AKA employee turnover, so don't sell people on something they're not going to actually do or achieve.

Realistically, people don't care about you, they care about them.

"People will never care how much you know, until they know how much you care"

... about them.

Get people that have similar values & goals that can align with that of the organization’s and show them the roadmap of how they can achieve these things. There must be an innate care about the individual themselves though and helping them achieve their goals. If there is alignment between individual goals and organizational goals, magical things happen.

Step 1: Vivid Vision

To really be able to build an empire, and a high-performance culture, you must first be able to "see" what that actually looks like.

The first step to creating a high-performance culture is to create a vivid vision of what your ideal organization looks like. Clearly describe this picture, it must create imagery, you must be able to actually "see" this picture and feel inspired by it.

What does your organization look like?

Who is there with you?

How do the people act?

How do you interact with one another - in conversations, and about projects?

What are the resources you have?

What are your customers or fans saying about it?

When creating this image it must be clear enough, and yet broad enough, to where others can fit their vision inside of it as well. This is what will help you attract others with similar goals to help execute this vision as an entire organization.

Creating a crystal clear image of this provides you with clarity, as well as helping you attract the right people, and repel the wrong people. Once the organization has a clear image of where specifically it wants to go, you can proceed to share this vision with the world and march there in a straight line.

If you're a tech company, it shouldn't be "yeah were trying to do some cool things with technology".

Nice... there's a gazillion other people just like you.

You have to be able to invoke feeling, inspiration, and empowerment. People want to know that if they are boarding your bus, they're going to be a part of something great. People already on the bus, want to be able to see where they are all going and that it leads to a great place; otherwise, they're going to get off at the next bus stop, and get on a different one that actually knows what beautiful place it wants to go to next.

Steve Jobs didn't say "yeah I want to build some cool phones and computers...and uh, I want to invent some stuff nobody has seen"

He communicated the aura of "I want to revolutionize the way people use technology" and then proceeded to paint a crystal clear image of what that looks like and feels like to those he wanted to hop on board and help execute the project.

Vivid, yet broad enough where others can fit their goals underneath the umbrella of that strategic vision.

Actionable Steps For The Reader: 

If you don't have a vivid and yet broad vision yet, do this...

go to a mountain, or get in nature somewhere, make sure you bring a journal and something to write with.

When you get there, sit, relax, take a few deep breaths. Now close your eyes and lean out 3 years into the future. Create a vision of your ideal business as you would like to see it in 3 years. Imagine that for the next 3 years everything goes perfect in your business and life. How's your career-life, how's your health, your relationships, who's there with you? How does Information Technology (IT) look? How's marketing? What are clients saying, what's the media saying about this? How do you feel about the success of your business that has been created? Really lean out and step into this moment as if you are living it currently. Walk around, smell the air. You should be able to feelthis moment. It should be special.

If you can't cultivate feeling, visualize harder. Look for inspiration, what is your dream business?

When you see this moment, and it cultivates feeling in you, write down all the details as vividly and descriptive as possible. Imagine you are a talented writer putting together the best piece of imagery that exists.

For those wondering, why 3 years? It's okay to have this "Big 20 year vision". But if you focus too hard on that, you won't know where to start, you simply cannot take a direct route that far ahead, you'll lose yourself and focus on way too much... you'll end up going a mile wide, and an inch deep, never breaking out of the soil; instead of going 1 inch wide and a mile deep.

Get a crystal clear image of what this 3-year vision both looks and feels like, it should be SPECIAL!

Now, test it's vivid and broad applicability.

Can IT relate to this?

Can Human resources relate to this?

Can my employees set meaningful goals for themselves that lead to this?

When it's not difficult to answer these questions, you'll know you're heading in the right direction.

Step 2: Mission 

After you understand the vision and can see a crystal clear image of it, there needs to be a compelling reason for doing such a thing. Otherwise the people of the organization, even the founder, will burn out.

The mission simply refers to your purpose of existence. Why do you exist?

How do you serve?

This can either mean you serve your employees a certain way, or your customers, or even both.

Some companies simply exist to "help give their employees a good job so they can buy a home and send their kids to school; because not many of them have college degrees". Other companies exist to "democratize travel" and make it more accessible to people who don't have high incomes, namely, Southwest does this.

Regardless of the purpose, the most important thing is that the mission must be meaningful to the ACTUAL PEOPLE WHO EXECUTE the plan itself.

Too many organizations often times get caught up in creating this sexy & gramatically appealing mission statement to hang on their walls... only to forget about it or not even feel deeply inspired to - 1. read it, and 2. actually execute it at full capacity.

Your mission statement can be 1-2 sentences, or it can be 1-2 paragraphs, it really does not matter. As long as everyone knows explicitly what that mission means, there is no ambiguity, and they are incredibly inspired to take action on it - everything will take care of itself!

Never prioritize external factors like "grammar" or aesthetics to your mission over the internal factors such as the inspiration of the actual people carrying out the plan.

Actionable Steps For The Reader: 

If you don't have a sound mission yet, start with the following questions:

Why do you exist?

Who do you serve?

Why do you serve them?

If this is troubling, go a layer deeper..

What do you lose if you don't carry out this plan?

You have your vivid vision...

What does the world miss out on if you are to not satisfy this need?

What does your family miss out on? your customers? what harm are you causing them, or letting them continue to live with if you don't pursue this forward?

Once you have some of these questions answered, begin to put them together in a way that applies to your stakeholders. This mission should be a compelling reason for existence that transcends beyond who you are, and what your business is personally. There should be a clear reason that aims to better humanity. 

Step 3: Individual "Why?" and goals 

The "Why?" refers simply to why are your people in this organization, what is there own personal reason for being here? Something obviously brought them here, but do they even know what that is? or is it even a compelling reason to begin with?

Maybe they're here because their own personal why or mission statement is directly aligned with that of the organizations. Or maybe it allows them the opportunity to put in great work and grow in preparation for their next venture. Or perhaps it's a job that lets them pay the bills and put food on the table for their kids.

If a member does not have a reason why though for being in the organization, then, quite literally, they do not have a reason to be in that organization whatsoever. They're wasting both their own time and the organizations. Morale will suffer, especially when things get tough, and so will performance. If they have a compelling reason why though, this helps provide significant clarity and resilience for when things do get tough.

It provides performance enhancement benefits too as a result of having such clarity.

Understanding the power of the "Why?" Allows you to gain a better understanding of the things you're doing.

"Why am I here?"

"Why am I willing to suffer for this project?"

The next step after this would be allowing members to set strategic goals that fit under the umbrella of the organizations vision and mission.

Goals that, both inspire the individual to grow and push to their limits, while also directly working towards the organizations goals and vision.

Steps For The Reader: 

If you are struggling with finding a compelling reason "Why" you are a part of the organization & willing to help it achieve it's goals; start by asking yourself the following questions:

Why am I here?

Why did I join this (or start this)? What is my job specifically?

What is it in this organization that needs doing? What is one thing that I know will not get done and will not serve humanity if I personally don't take action for it?

Leaders - feel free to have somebody, or yourself, draft up these questions in a google doc, etc., print them out and give them to the front line. It serves everybody.

Goals:

When members have a clear sense of "Why?" let them set stretch goals.

Stretch goals are highly important. Human beings are motivated by autonomy, purpose, and a drive towards mastery.

As a leader, let your people set clear stretch goals that align with the company'sVivid Vision. You can either hold a goal-setting/personal development seminar for your people, or have HR embed these things into their performance management system.

There is plenty of ways to implement this practice, the importance is that you actually do it!

You set the vivid vision, so this should be an easier practice to allow employees to set meaningful goals aligned with the companies vision & strategy.

Step 4: Values & beliefs 

You're values determine your character, and your character determines your value. By character, we mean the traits the people in the organization possess and demonstrate through their daily actions.

Beliefs are an attitude towards something, and whether we agree or hold it to be true.

We can have a good attitude or bad attitude about something; or, we can think something is true or false. Somebody can believe you should have no tolerance for people who can't keep their word, and that it's cowardice; while others may believe it's only human for people to make mistakes, break a promise, say something they didn't mean, or make a permanent decision based on temporary feelings.

Values determine the degree of importance over one thing. Simplified, values mean this certain construct is valuable to us. Someone can value freedom while someone else values interdependence. Others can value achievement while others value leisure.

They are both very similar and there can potentially be some

overlap. Both of these will govern the way you behave and interact with others.

If your beliefs constitute drugs and alcohol as a good time, but the organizational culture believes in team bowling outings instead, there's going to be a misalignment and you might not fit in.

Additionally, If you value growth and learning and the organization doesn't offer much opportunity to do that, morale will

suffer. Conversely, if you don't value growth and learning, but the organization has a serious training and development focus, there will be a misfit. Determining your own values and beliefs in your company helps correct any of these potential misfits, morale depreciation, or performance inefficiencies. You need to ask yourself things like, what specific standards do you hold? What do you believe in? What is okay and what is not okay with you? How do you act?

What is most important for your people? 

Having clarity of these things and also being able to apply "what's our purpose?" and "where are we going?" (vision) to situations; you are better able to assess these situations as a culture, as well as how future decisions will effect both your people and its customers. This helps you authentically head in the direction you want to go, attract those who are a good fit, and repel or screen out those who don't belong. This allows for efficient and yet effective group decision making

When values are clear, decisions are easy

Steps For The Reader: 

If you're an entreprenuer just starting out, ask yourself what do you personally value? What is the difference you want to make?

If you are the leader, your company values 100% need to have aligment with your own core values.

If you are unsure of your own values, a great first step is to start

out by taking a few psychological assessments to cultivate awareness. This would be the fastest starting point in the right direction that offers you the best ROI.

Two free ones I highly recommend are the VIA test, and the High5test. These will be a great starting point for you.

If you have a business but don't understand what your culture is, or what things you value; ask probing questions to get there.

Such as:

What are some of the themes most present when we make big- time decisions?

What are 3-5 of the top behaviors we expect from all levels of our staff?

What type of behavior DOES NOT represent who we are as a culture?

Step 5: Accountability & Leadership 

All of the steps and components we have covered thus far are all great in theory, and truly create the foundation for clarity and success. However, if there is nothing to keep all of that intact, than it will never truly come to fruition. Leadership & accountability is the glue that holds all these policies in place and helps drive it forward. It ensure's standards are being met, and results are being hunted after.

It means that when somebody is screwing up and not doing their job, you have someone to hold them accountable and make it right before things get out of order.

It means as the head boss you are also consistently articulating that vision, and reinforcing clarity and inspiration among your

people, helping to create a snowball effect of the front-line leaders doing the same to others throughout the company; and then having everyone hold themselves and each other accountable to hold that line and achieve bottom end results.

you can have great culture principles in your organization, but you need leadership & accountability to develop those things and allow them to remain sturdy. Many teams and businesses have experts come in and give seminars, leadership talks, culture fixing talks, etc. and it works for a week, maybe two weeks, maybe even a month; but with no leadership, the effects are unable to carry through, and the organization resorts back to it's old defeating habits.

Unless, there is leadership able to hold the line of these principles to make sure they stick; it becomes just ideas with less

action. Namely, nobody ever say's anything or continues to articulate why it's important, so nothing changes; soon enough, the culture can quickly go back to being dysfunctional again.

There is a saying that goes “keep telling them as it is, and it will be”

There has to be continuous reinforcement among leaders and peers. Reinforcement of what the vision looks like, how you get there, and why it's important to buy-in to the standards and way of doing things the organization has put in place in order to get there.

Steps For The Reader: 

Standards, like goals, need very specific metrics. This defines the difference between being held accountable to what actually matters, and people just being dick's to one another.

Also, goals can be personalized. Organization standards are something everybody on the entire payroll commits to. It is a code of conduct.

Standards should be objective, measurable, realistic, and expressed clearly, not ambiguously.

Goals can be unrealistic at times, standards can't. They are there to be met 100% of the time (or else).

Setting standards can be quite like creating S.M.A.R.T goals, the difference is standards don't have a time cycle, they are your code of conduct.

Lastly, standards must be in alignment with the business strategy.

Start out by determining: 

What are the measurable elements that add up to the collective success of your organization?

Can everybody contribute to these measures being met 100% of the time?

What are the specific measures that, when hit, everybody succeeds?

If you have to frame these in ways of goals such as weekly/monthly/yearly performance targets, that's okay. Just remember these don't have a time cycle.

Leadership: your job is make sure standards are met here and action is taken when they are not met. Either through disciplinary action, or implementing further training & skill development so it never happens again, etc.

One final note, whether it's autocratic or servant style leadership, the job is to make sure behavior is driven in the way that executes the goals of the strategic vision and all people drive effort to influence the stakeholders.

Key takeaways 

No high-performance organization is developed from scratch; or remains highly successful over time, without knowing specifically why it exists, and where it intends to take things.

Having a vivid vision and helping others achieve their goals, as well as having them experience personal

and professional growth under the umbrella of that vision; is among the most important things you can do to bring in high-level talent, and keep others motivated to help the organization as a whole achieve it's goals. Alignment between the two creates bottom-line results.

Understanding your own values and beliefs as an organization allows you to know who to bring in that will fit, and who to screen out in your recruiting process. Additionally, this allows you to attract the right people and repel the wrong people.

The above principles are brilliant in theory, but if there is not collective accountability, or leadership to hold things in place and move them forward; it's simply just brilliant ideas that stand for nothing. Wisdom is absolutely useless unless actively applied & continually enforced by leadership and peers holding each other accountable; all to to serve their people authentically, achieve organizational goals, and get closer and closer towards the vision.

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To your success,

Matt Hommel

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