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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] => 13041 [post_author] => 7 [post_date] => 2015-11-19 16:33:16 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-11-19 16:33:16 [post_content] =>

“There are two certainties in life, death and taxes” said Brad Pitt in the 1998 movie  “Meet Joe Black”. Actually I believe there is a third certainty, problems.

wrong solution car


Problems are part of the journey of life, we cannot move forward without dealing with some sort of problem from the most primordial of finding food and shelter, to the most trivial of choosing the right colour tie for your next meeting. The fact is that problems are very deceiving, in so many ways they are also similar to illnesses in that we despise them deeply. Like illnesses we become aware of them only when they hurt, by which time it is probably already too late to stop them doing some damage. Once we become aware of a problem and feel its pain we tend to treat the symptoms rather than truly tackling the causes. And again, like illnesses if we leave serious problems untreated and only tend to their symptoms they generally turn into even bigger problems and sometimes far to advance to be able to fix them.

Are you feeling the pain yet?

If you are, don’t panic just quite yet. Most problems can be resolved quite easily by simply understanding them and exploring them from different angles. We often believe there is only one right solution to a problem, in reality the solution to every problem doesn't depend on its symptoms but on its desired outcome. Exploring a problem from different angles allows us to gain clarity on what is going on and provide us with the opportunity to formulate a number of options and alternatives to focus on achieving what is truly important.

Do you feel as healthy as a fish?

If you don't then perhaps you should question why? Problems become serious only if we ignore smaller issues that don’t seem to mean much when they surface. Because they are so trivial and don’t seem to have an impact on the overall big picture such small issues tend to go unchecked until they become big enough. Then this requires all hands on deck to resolve and will distract everyone from performing the way they could. It is important to question the potential impact of small issues. What can happen if you don’t tackle them? What are they the symptoms of? What critical values are they eroding in your organisation?

Have you had these symptoms before?

If you have then it doesn't mean what is happening right now is the same as what you have experienced before. It might be the same problem but almost certainly the conditions in which its presenting itself are very different and the solution that worked before might not work this time. Experience forms connections in our brain between situations and actions. This is very useful when we operate under pressure but most often it causes us to make rushed decision and bad choices. It is always important to understand: What is different this time? How different are the causes from my previous experience? Which new conditions are causing the problem this time?

dr google


Googling won’t make it better, it will almost certainly make you feel worse!

Today it’s easy to “Google” any problem and find ready made solutions very quickly. The internet is indeed a powerful resource to find interesting answers and ideas but remember your problem has very unique characteristics and to be able to solve it effectively it is important to involve the people around you that are connected with it.

Most of the time fresh eyes help finding new and innovative solutions but before throwing all your energy on any external solution it is important to be candid and open up with what is really going on internally.

  Fabio Grassi is the Programme Director for Innovative Problem Solving, a two day programme which runs on the 26th & 27th of November 2015. Fabio is a specialist in the development of team performance, collaboration and motivation.  [post_title] => Are you treating the right problem? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => bugging-treating-right-problem [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-11 20:28:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-11 20:28:03 [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] => 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 ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 4743 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2012-03-07 11:07:55 [post_date_gmt] => 2012-03-07 11:07:55 [post_content] => Cavanaghs of Charleville was singled out from among the Deloitte Best Managed Companies 2012 announced on March 2nd to receive a special accolade for ‘rising to the challenge’ which was the theme of this year’s programme. The company received a place on the IMI’s Senior Executive Programme which will equip one of its senior team with the strategic skills and leadership understanding to position both themselves and their organisation for continued success. This award reflects the fact that, this year, the judges placed a particular emphasis on the innovative strategies the companies are adopting to ensure their continued success. IMI has been involved as academic sponsor of the Best Managed Companies Awards since the programme began four years ago and Dr Phil Nolan, Executive Chair, IMI presented the Gold Standard Awards to those 16 companies who have requalified each year since 2008. IMI also organised the annual symposium which took place on Friday, 2nd March in the Burlington Hotel. Keynote speakers included leading authority on innovation Charles Leadbeater and Julian Birkinshaw, Professor of Strategy & Entrepreneurship at LBS. The afternoon's programme also included a very engaging interview with John Teeling the founder and Chairman of Cooley Distillery. Some of the presentations from the symposium are available below: Best Managed Symposium 2012 - Julian Birkinshaw Presentation Best Managed Symposium 2012 - Tom McCarthy Presentation For more information on the 2012 Winners, requalifying companies and Gold Standard recipients as well as the Deloitte Best Managed Companies Awards click here. [post_title] => Best Managed Companies Rise to the Challange [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => best-managed-companies-rise-to-the-challange-6 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-11 21:54:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-11 21:54:49 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => /news-and-events/?p=798 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )
Simon Haslam

Simon Haslam

11th Oct 2018

Simon Haslam is a lead designer on the new IMI short programme for senior leaders, Leadership Decision Making.

Related Articles

6 Steps to start the creation of high performance cultures
Are you treating the right problem?
 The ‘Simply Irresistible’ Leader
Best Managed Companies Rise to the Challange

The Big Interview: Simon Haslam, Leadership Decision Making

Why has decision-making become so prominent as something for leaders to develop over the last few years?

Two things really. Firstly, the complexity we see, and the pace required in today’s business environment has risen exponentially in the last few years. Secondly, we understand much better how people make decisions – this in turn makes us better at developing that decision-making ability.

Humans make thousands of decisions every day, and organisations make millions (Photo source)

Can you talk specifically about some of the things that cloud decision-making for business leaders?

Recently it’s been the absolute plethora of information that is available to business leaders, primarily due to technological advances. There’s so much information out there it becomes not about the gathering of information, but what to do with it all.

What I try to home in on is the idea of ‘framing’. We as individuals bring our own assumptions to every decision – if you give two different leaders the same set of data, they will come to two different conclusions because they have different frames of reference.

So, one of the key challenges is examining the lens’s that we’re looking at problems through.

One prime example is Kodak. The story most commonly told is that they were left behind by digital technologies. This isn’t true. They ‘got’ digital, but where they got it wrong was their frame of reference.

They thought digital would lead to a shift in how people would print out pictures, not that it would change consumer behaviour fundamentally. Their business model was to make profit on the margins – printers, film etc. – and tried to extend that into the digital age, whereas the consumers rejected all that stuff and started storing all their photos on their computers and phones.

How can a leader remove their bias and ego from a big decision they’ve made, particularly one that isn’t working?

With great difficulty.

The first thing a leader should do is explicitly ask themselves ‘what are my biases?’ Once they’ve shone this light on themselves they can begin to put in place what we call ‘organisational correctives’. If we accept decision makers are biased, but still must make decisions, what steps can we put in place to correct for that bias?

One client I work with has a ‘four eyes policy’, which is very much like it sounds. The leader has their ‘two eyes’ and they make a call based on a set of data. That call will never get implemented unless someone else has looked at it first. So, their biases can be mitigated against by someone else’s.

If we can have a situation where the leader welcomes challenge from people from a different persuasion, then the likelihood my own bias will be reduced because I have to accept data from a different type of person.

When you’re looking at organisations as a set of decisions – presumably millions of decisions every day – how can a leader evaluate what’s important and how do they find value in the decisions across the organisation?

One of the things we recognise as self-evident is that sometimes organisations make big calls… such as if you were deciding to expand further into Europe. But for the most part, organisations’ strategies are the culmination of lots and lots of small decisions.

The strategy of the company will be determined by the decisions that all the employees make in a moment – it’s important that leaders have a clear culture and mission for people to know where they should point. We’d call this ‘the organisation’s DNA’. If you get it right, getting those small but valuable decisions right should come naturally.

We’ve entered the era now of machine learning and AI – at what point will machines become better at making decisions than humans, and for it to be applied to the workplace?

It’s already happening, and we are well on that journey. We have well developed algorithms that are far more capable at predicting than human judgement, particularly an individual’s judgement.

So, there will be that progressive data-driven decision-making coming through. We humans are not good at putting genie’s back in the bottle, so now we’ve opened it we’re not going to put it back in the box. For senior leadership and organisations, the one Rubicon we’ve yet to cross is that we haven’t yet put creativity and decision-making into algorithms.

In terms of the mechanistic stuff, the algorithms are doing their job already. But, in terms of the more creative and lateral thinking, I think decision-making in these areas are where humans will continue to have an advantage for some time.


Simon Haslam is a lead designer on the new IMI short programme for senior leaders, Leadership Decision Making. This interview is an annotated version an episode from the IMI Talking Leadership podcast.