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Touching back on my last blog I mentioned that culture needs to become a strategic business priority (like sales, profit, etc.) and not just a HR priority.

boat with leader Source:

Leadership teams can start the creation of high performance cultures by implementing the following 6 steps:

1. Establish a sense of urgency

They need to make it clear that the current culture needs to change, articulate the vision and business case, and describe the opportunity (as John P. Kotter states in his book The 8-Step Process for Leading Change) in a way that appeals to the hearts and minds of people.

2. Develop a set of strategic beliefs

These are the beliefs senior executives have about their organisation’s environment that enables shaping business strategy e.g. Dell believed that customers would, if the price was right, buy computers from a catalogue rather than go to computer stores as the conventional wisdom dictated they would. They created a $7 billion business.

3. Develop a set of values

Values enable the organisation to act on its strategic beliefs and implement their strategy the right way. Values shape the culture of an organisation, define its character and serve as a foundation in how people act and make decisions. Dell’s values supporting its strategy and strategic beliefs include: Delivering results that make a positive difference; leading with openness and optimism and winning with integrity.

4. Capitalise on quick wins

Capitalize on and honour your cultural strengths and act quickly on any critical behaviour changes required.

5. Challenge those norms that get on the way of high performance

Norms are informal guidelines about what is considered normal (what is correct or incorrect) behaviour in a particular situation. Peer pressure to conform to team norms is a powerful influencer on people’s behaviour, and it is often a major barrier affecting change. It is always easier to go along with the norm than trying to change it…. Common samples of negative norms in some organisations: Perception that it is ok to yell at people, ignore people’s opinions, etc.

6. Role model and recognise the desired behaviours

As Gandhi wonderfully put it “Be the change you want to see in the world”. This empowers action and helps embed the desired culture you are trying to create. Behaviour is a function of its consequences. Behaviour that results in pleasant consequences is more likely to be repeated, and behaviour that results in unpleasant consequences is less likely to be repeated. According to B. F. Skinner and reinforcement theory “future behavioural choices are affected by the consequences of earlier behaviours”. The argument is clear; if you want people to be brave and challenge the status quo, you shouldn’t make them feel awkward or like difficult employees when they do. Furthermore, if want people to contribute at meetings make sure you actively listen to them and act on their suggestions and ideas.


On his famous article “On the folly of rewarding A while hoping for B” Steven Kerr argues that the way in which we reward and recognise people doesn’t always deliver the desired results. We all have being in situations where we are told to plan for long-term growth yet we are rewarded purely on quarterly earnings; we are asked to be a team player and are rewarded solely on our individual efforts; we are told that the way in which results are achieved is important and yet we promote people who achieve results the wrong / in a Machiavellian way. A friend of mine was recently at a hospital and he complained to the ward manager about the doctor’s bad manners and rudeness. The answer he got was “do you want to be treated by the best heart doctor in the country or a not so good doctor but with a really nice bed manner?”.

My argument is why can’t we have both?

Pedro Angulo is the Programme Director of the IMI Diploma in Strategic HR Management starting on 16th November 2016. Pedro is an Organisational Effectiveness Business Partner in AIB and Chairperson of the Irish EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council). He is a motivational speaker and regular presenter at HR, coaching, change and business conferences / events. _____________________________________ [post_title] => 6 Steps to start the creation of high performance cultures [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 6-strategies-start-creation-high-performance-cultures [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-11 19:48:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-11 19:48:25 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 11952 [post_author] => 65 [post_date] => 2015-09-25 15:20:30 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-09-25 15:20:30 [post_content] =>
sue cox
Sue Cox is a Learning and Development Consultant and a Tango dancer.  She has worked extensively with the public and not-for-profit sectors as well as the corporate world and has developed and led social inclusion projects across the UK. She is interested in how we develop our own potential and how we connect better with others in order to be more effective in our organisations and relationships. She will be a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference on 8 October 2015 IMI: Based on your current work – if you only had 6 words of advice to give a business - what would they be?

SC: Want better leadership? Develop your followership.

IMI: What does this mean? SC: Many organisations invest heavily in developing and recognising good leadership but give little or no thought to actively cultivating good followership. Leadership is, by definition, a relational process however there is no leadership unless there is a leader/follower dynamic. When we focus only on developing leadership, we give visibility and importance to one aspect only, neglecting the contribution of followership and the untapped potential of the relationship between the two.  How much do we lose by doing so? A powerful illustration of what this looks like in practice can be seen in Argentine Tango. There is a misconception in Tango that the leader is in control and the follower is relatively passive. Nothing could be further from the truth. Tango is complex, improvised and co-created in the moment and it depends entirely on the leader/follower dynamic.  Good followership amplifies and strengthens leadership; good leadership maximises the followers’ contribution. The quality of their connection elevates the whole dance to a greater level of performance. Misconceptions about leadership and followership are seen as often in the boardroom as they are in the ballroom. If you want to release potential in your organisation and be resourceful and creative in the way you respond to change and opportunity, the challenge is to develop everybody’s ability as both leader and follower, so that each can play their full part in co-creating the dance. IMI: Where should we look for further information? SC: Visit my website at 


Sue Cox spoke at the IMI National Management Conference on Thursday 8 October. This event has now reached maximum capacity however if you would like to be added to the waiting list, please email your contact details and company name to [post_title] => "Want better leadership? Develop your followership" Six Word Wisdom from Sue Cox [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => want-better-leadership-develop-followership-six-word-wisdom-sue-cox [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-11 20:42:07 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-11 20:42:07 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 20092 [post_author] => 102 [post_date] => 2017-06-29 13:19:17 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-29 13:19:17 [post_content] => [post_title] => A Fixed or Growth Mindset? What it Means for Your Organisation [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => fixed-growth-mindset-means-organisation [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-15 08:26:43 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-15 08:26:43 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 20226 [post_author] => 71 [post_date] => 2017-11-22 16:28:38 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-11-22 16:28:38 [post_content] => [post_title] =>  The ‘Simply Irresistible’ Leader [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => simply-irresistible-leadership [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-14 07:09:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-14 07:09:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )
Danica Murphy

Danica Murphy

8th Oct 2018

Danica Murphy is the lead designer on the new IMI short programme for senior leaders, Mastering the Performance Mindset.

Related Articles

6 Steps to start the creation of high performance cultures
"Want better leadership? Develop your followership" Six Word Wisdom from Sue Cox
A Fixed or Growth Mindset? What it Means for Your Organisation
 The ‘Simply Irresistible’ Leader

The Big Interview: Danica Murphy, Mastering the Performance Mindset

What is the ‘Performance Mindset’?

My working definition is that it is a mindset supported with behaviours, practices and habits to sustain an individuals’ success in a world of huge emotional demand and complexity.

Why has this concept come to the fore now? What’s different today from 20 or 30 years ago?

Quite simply, the level of complexity and pace in today’s business environment is phenomenal. Gartner has said that the average organisation has undergone five enterprise-wide changes in the past three years, and nearly three-quarters of CEOs expect this pace to accelerate.

I also know that from doing strategic facilitation with companies how the demands have changed. When I began, it was ten-year business plans, then it became five – today it’s challenging to get a business to think beyond a two-year plan.

What makes a leader become unfocused? (Photo source)

You’ve drawn out three main areas within the performance mindset – Focus, Resilience and Wellness. Why those three areas?

I see those three areas as sturdy legs of a single stool, with the seat being agility and adaptability. In other words, the outcome of developing these areas is the ability to respond in this complex world, make good decisions and succeed.

Taking Focus, what makes a leader become unfocussed? Is it innate human behaviour to lose focus or are there processes we can control?

There’re two fundamental factors in becoming unfocused.

The first is a process in our brain that rewards interruption. We like being interrupted because it makes us feel stimulated and that we’re learning something new. Stanford University did some research that said, ‘the human mind left to its own devices will seek distraction almost 50% of its waking time’.

We need to counter that by first recognising it as an unavoidable fact, and just building structures around it.

The second is knowing what the ideal balance for focus is. There’s a neuroscientist called Friederike Fabritius, and what she says the brain needs is ‘Fun, Fear and Focus’, which is the ideal combination of noradrenaline, dopamine and acetoxolone.

What that really mean is that we create the circumstances in our environment that allow our brain to be in its highly focussed state.

So, what creates the unfocused brain? It’s the absence of those things.

Taking wellness, it can often be a topic that leaders ignore or pay lip-service to when a wellness programme is being implemented in their organisation. Why should a CEO take the time to develop their own wellness?

It’s fascinating how good we are at changing the goalposts when it comes to ourselves rather than for others. If the same CEO that paid lip-service to their own wellness went to watch an athlete perform and found out afterwards that the athlete hadn’t – by choice – slept or eaten in the previous 24 hours, they’d rightfully be furious.

Why shouldn’t that be the case for themselves? Especially when they are running a much longer race.

If a CEOs objective is to hit the next quarterly target and that’s all they can see, they need to step back and to realise that the overall objective is to hit all the future quarterly targets too. It’s not based on anecdotal evidence or perceived wisdom that wellness will help CEOs perform at pace over time, it’s hard science.

A recent piece of research out of Harvard took brain scans of 63 Fortune 500 c-suite executives and catalogued their behaviours (nutrition, sleep, alcohol intake etc.) over an 18-month period. The executives that performed badly – low levels of sleep, high alcohol – had measurably lower performance in work, and even had lower salary levels.

Taking one aspect of resilience – could you just give a few pointers for a leader when it comes to dealing with failure within their organisation?

I think this is one of the most powerful areas when it comes to how effective organisations are, and I particularly see it when working with high-potential, youthful employees.

I thoroughly believe that we need controlled failure. Our employees need to know that whatever risks they take they are, first, not going to die, but mainly that they can envisage best case and worst-case scenarios and not feel scared by either.

For leaders, simple switches in language such as talking about ‘the next time’ when failure occurs can make a big difference in the mindset of their teams.

What would the transformation look like in a leader that made this type of development a priority?

It’s going to allow them to be healthier, happier and more successful. They are words that are used so often they can sound almost trite but, when you really look at their meaning, who wouldn’t want that?


Danica Murphy is the lead designer on the new IMI short programme for senior leaders, Mastering the Performance Mindset. To apply for a place on the Mastering the Performance Mindset programme, click here.

This interview is an annotated version an episode from the IMI Talking Leadership podcast. To listen to the full interview, click here