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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] => 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 ) )
Dr. John Briffa

Dr. John Briffa

8th Jan 2020

Medical doctor specialising in the optimisation of wellbeing, performance and resilience.

Related articles

6 Steps to start the creation of high performance cultures
A Fixed or Growth Mindset? What it Means for Your Organisation

Peak performance: strategies for boosting energy, effectiveness and sustainability

Our mental and physical state is influenced by a range of factors including nutrition, sleep and physical activity. What follows is a selection of simple strategies that I have found to be consistently effective for boosting energy, effectiveness and sustainability, providing wide-ranging benefits for individuals and businesses alike.


The body is about two-thirds water, and the brain is even more watery than that. Studies show that even very mild dehydration can impair our vitality and cognitive abilities including concentration and critical thinking.

You’re likely familiar with the idea that ‘we should drink 2 litres or 8 glasses of water each day’. Yet, fluid needs vary from individual to individual (for example, does someone weighing 100 kg need the same as someone weighing substantially less?), as well as circumstances such as temperature and levels of activity.

The ‘right’ amount of fluid to drink is the amount that it takes to ensure we are well-hydrated, whatever our size and situation. Some people imagine that thirst is the best indicator of our need to drink. The problem is by the time someone is noticeably thirsty, they are usually dehydrated well beyond the point performance has been affected.

A better guide to the state of our hydration is the colour of our urine. My advice is to drink enough fluid to keep our urine colour pale yellow throughout the course of the day, whatever the circumstances.



Without proper sleep, performance drops dramatically

Sleep restores our energy and prepares us physiologically and psychologically for the next day. A common prescription is to ensure we get ‘8 hours a night’. But, as with fluid requirements, sleep needs vary from person to person, and can even vary from time to time.

I encourage people to gauge whether their sleep needs are being met by looking for symptoms of ‘sleep debt’, such as regularly waking ‘artificially’ to the sound of an alarm, not feeling well-rested on waking, and the use of a phone’s snooze function.

Anyone suspecting they may be running chronically short on sleep might do well to address this. While a very consistent ‘sleep schedule’ is recommended for optimal sleep, I find in practice hardly anyone in employment can get close to such a thing, particularly if they have hopes on some sort of social life.

Plus, I’m a great believer in catching up on sleep when time, commitments and situation allow. The sleep scientists tell us we cannot catch up on sleep, but my experience with literally thousands of individuals tells me otherwise: the vast majority of people short of sleep are instantly revived by getting more shut-eye. ‘Sticking to a schedule’, robs us of the potential to recoup sleep in this way, though.

During the working week, ‘sleeping in’ is not normally an option, frantic morning schedules being what they are. So, the killer tactic is usually simply to go to bed earlier when we can. This is unlikely to work if the thought around this is ‘sleep is a waste of time’ and ‘my life is over’. The mindset needs to be more that while sleep is not productive, it is essential for productivity and performance, and at the same time is helping us to have healthier, energised and more fulfilling lives.



Even a few units of alcohol at night can affect you the next day

I’ve noticed over the last couple of decades that it’s become increasingly acceptable not to end up utterly ruined at work-related dinners and functions. At the same time, it seems very few business executives have taken the pledge. So, some of us have settled on drinking moderately on certain occasions.

This looks like a happy middle ground on the surface, but the issue is that, generally speaking, even quite small amounts of alcohol tend to disrupt sleep quality, particularly in the second half of the night. My experience is that usually a couple of glasses of wine will be all it takes for someone to feel significantly less well-rested in the morning compared to if they had not drunk at all.

While there may be pleasure to be had from drinking, often this is outweighed by the ‘pain’ endured the next day. While common medical advice is to ‘spread alcohol out’ or ‘drink little and often’, what I’ve found over the years is this jeopardises performance and sustainability. What experience tells me works way better for most people is to confine drinking mainly to the weekend, and drink as little as possible during the week.


We are reminded endlessly about the virtues of physical exercise, but there’s no doubt that some of us can struggle to find the time to fit it in, particularly when we’re busy at work. A common issue here is imagining that we’re not really going to get benefit unless we’re exercising quite intensely for an extended period of time.

Actually, studies suggest that even walking has considerable benefits for health and wellbeing, with evidence linking consistent moderate activity with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as delayed death. Walking, in the short term, can improve and boost mental function and creativity (many people find their best ideas come to them not while they’re thinking on a problem, but while ‘in transit’).

Some form of more intense physical activity, perhaps including something with a ‘resistance’ component can be helpful too. This does not require going to the gym, though, and it can sometimes be helpful to be mindful of Bruce Lee’s advice that “Long-term consistency trumps short-term intensity.”

A decent set of press-ups and squats, a home-based circuit such as the ‘7-minute workout’, or 3-4 rounds of sun salutations (if you’re into yoga) are all good and can usually be fitted into a morning routine with relative ease.