Cultivating a High-Performance Culture: Insights for Executive Teams

Sports teams with high-performance cultures are the teams that win championships. Their play is fluid; they move as one entity. Their play seems scripted—or even magical. And if that’s the kind of synergy you want for your business, the key ingredients are a shared vision, accountability, and recognition.

When everyone on the team is working toward the same end goal, knows their role and what they must do to be successful, and recognizes the value of each person on the team, you’re well on your way to achieving a high-performance culture.

Power of a Shared Vision

Defining your team’s shared vision is critical to cultivating a high-performance culture. You must define your organization’s North Star and live by your company’s core values. You need to lead by example for your team to buy into the shared vision. Without a singular end goal for the team, different personalities form their own opinions about what the team’s goal should be.

It’s easy to recognize the power of a shared vision in sports. For an NFL coach working with a football team, it’s simple: win the Super Bowl. As the team puts in work and practice, that trophy is in their minds. Each game, no matter the outcome, they’re considering how they can improve to get to the championship. Whether they’re a starting quarterback or a rookie who doesn’t see game time, a win for the team is a win for everyone. They’re working toward the same end goal.

It’s a little more complicated in business, but you can begin by determining what the Super Bowl is for your team—and creating a strategy to get there. Just like great football coaches observe their athletes, watch your team closely to learn their skill sets. Help them buy into the shared vision by making sure their work aligns with their lives, skills, and interests. Get to know your team well; talk with them, learn about their interests, and understand their passions.

Culture of Accountability

Accountability is simple: If someone says they’re going to do something, they do it. The best way to develop accountability is to establish a self-policing team. Feeling accountable to peers on a team creates a different dynamic that just answering to the boss’s expectations. It’s easy to come up with excuses when it’s just the group leader you’re accountable to. The holy grail of accountability is an environment when your team feels more accountable to one another—and the end goal—than they do to the boss. In a high-performance culture, everyone works for each other.

On a sports team, accountability is easy to spot. The quarterback knows exactly where the offensive line should position themselves to block, and if they don’t, everyone can see what went wrong. In your business, it’s crucial to establish similar clearly defined roles. When everyone on the team knows their role on the team and how they belong, it’s much easier for employees to fully commit to their workload and take responsibility for mistakes when they arise.

Importance of Recognition

In a high-performance culture, accountability and recognition go hand-in-hand. Accountability keeps the team focused on accomplishing the task in front of them, and recognition is the reward for a job well done. As a leader, you might dangle the carrot to give your team a prize to work toward, but make sure you take time to celebrate when you’ve achieved it. The strongest teams have members who not only know, understand, and value their own role, but they also know, understand, and value the roles of their teammates. They know each role is beneficial to the team as a whole and appreciate one another’s efforts.

On a football team, not everyone can be the quarterback, but each position has its purpose. Success comes when each person plays their own position to the best of their ability; that ensures the team is operating at peak efficiency. It’s up to the coach to pick the right position for each player. They know they can’t put eleven quarterbacks on the field. They recognize the value in different skill sets, and that sets the tone for a culture of high performance.

Next Steps for Your Organization

As a leader, you’re responsible for the culture within your organization. Take steps toward cultivating a high-performance culture by establishing a shared vision, a sense of accountability, and a system of recognition. Begin by analyzing your organization’s current culture.

Questions to Consider

  1. Do you believe you have a high-performing team? If not, what’s missing?
  2. Have you defined your organization’s championship? What’s your Super Bowl trophy?
  3. Who is your team accountable to?

If you’d like to discuss how to improve your organization’s culture, contact me. I’d love to help you learn more about leading a high-performing team.