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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 ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 4787 [post_author] => 7 [post_date] => 2013-10-23 15:47:02 [post_date_gmt] => 2013-10-23 15:47:02 [post_content] => Top Dysfunctions of a Team In every organisation the top team is that critical component that is tasked with setting the wheels in motion. The way in which the top team operates sets an example for the rest of the organisation and can and should be a motivating example for the rest of the business.  But just how effective are top teams in setting an organisation on the right course? And how good are they in engaging and motivating employees to do what is needed?. Working with many top teams, observing their behaviours and listening to their conversations when they meet, I have noticed some interesting patterns. Common Top Team Dysfunctions... Turf wars Many top team conversations focus on reviewing large tables of numbers and explaining how they are different from forecasted expectations.  At this point the conversations shift to who is to held "responsible" and which department or function should take praise or blame. Cynicism Top teams often talk about how employees fail to "understand the gravity of the situation", the importance of the "drastic change"s ahead or even "remember that they are paid to do a job". Incongruence While many top teams are aware they need to be a team, they often believe that any time spent working on the team is time taken away from talking about important business issues. A dysfunctional top team cannot make good decisions let alone execute them. While each top team has certainly different group dynamics and many function well in particular areas, the above behavioural patterns seem to be quite pervasive.  Where the above dysfunctions are present they are almost undoubtedly at the root of larger business challenges. ...And how to overcome them Behavioural change begins with understanding of current behaviours and a clear picture of the desired behaviours. Overcoming the above potentially destructive patterns of behaviour requires the top team to be united, caring, and authentic. Be United Firstly, while each team member has a functional role and is responsible for a specific business unit, all organisations need a unanimous commitment to a course of action. This has little to do with consensus and much more to do with well defined success criteria, a clear sense of the priorities, and a well defined decision-making process. Everyone is responsible for the success or failure of a business through clarity of purpose, consistent performance feedback and mutual accountability. Be Caring Secondly, simply paying someone to do a job is not always enough to motivate them to do the job right. People are engaged in doing a great job when they are inspired to do so by leaders that walk the talk, are honest in their interactions and more importantly care about what's going on in the life of their employees.  Being caring is not a nice-to-have - it can make the difference between a deadlocked organisation and one that is engaged to deliver. Be Authentic Finally, for top teams to be effective they need to become aware of their influence on the mood of the entire organisation.  A top team must operate as a true team, working through organisational issues with candour, vulnerability and most importantly with mutual accountability. The visible daily behaviour of the organisation's leaders is a much more powerful message than any vision or mission statement.  When the words are incongruent with the behaviours, it is the behaviours that set the truth. Before an organisation's leaders can expect the rest of the business to operate effectively, it is important that they understand how they themselves work as a team to contribute to the common goal of delivering business results. If you are interested in having your senior team work with IMI contact us on +353 1 207 8400 or or read more about our approach. Fabio Grassi is Executive Learning Director at IMI. He is a specialist in the development of team performance, collaboration and motivation.  His approach involves the facilitation of tailored workshops aimed at the achievement of specific business outcomes. He is passionate about the development of ethical leadership through executive coaching. e-mail Fabio Grassi or call on +353 87 9183282. [post_title] => Are Mummy & Daddy Fighting? 3 Ways of Overcoming Top Team Dysfunctions [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => are-mummy-daddy-fighting-3-ways-of-overcoming-top-team-dysfunctions-6 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-11 21:29:45 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-11 21:29:45 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )
Paula Milligan

Paula Milligan

10th Feb 2020

Paula Milligan is associate IMI faculty on the High Impact Leadership and High-Performance Teams short programmes

Related Articles

5 Tips when Moving from Team Member to Team Manager
6 Steps to start the creation of high performance cultures
Are Mummy & Daddy Fighting? 3 Ways of Overcoming Top Team Dysfunctions

The Secret Ingredients of High Performing Teams

“…A heaped tablespoon of emotional intelligence, a full cup of trust, empathy and transparent communication. Two pinches of common purpose and positive behaviours mixed in with a whole bowl of accountability is a good place to start…”

People who take initiative, have a vision, can strategize, plan and accomplish goals to achieve their vision are considered good leaders. Those who combine this skill with the ability to work well with others and lead their team to success are great leaders.

No matter what leaders set out to do – whether it is creating a strategy or mobilising teams to action – their success depends on “how they do it.” Even if they get everything else just right, if leaders fail in the primal task of driving emotions in the right direction, nothing they do will work as well as it could or should.

Emotions are strongly correlated with high performance and productivity, teams whose members feel emotionally supported and appreciated will likely be happier, more productive and more successful.


When your Team or Company Culture is not Right

Organisational culture can account for 1/3 of financial performance

Unresolved problems become a constant thread of tension that is never relieved. We become so accustomed to them that working around them becomes a way of life. We learn what not to say and what not to do to flare up a conflict. We become highly skilled at the dance of avoidance.

On the surface this may look OK, non-conflictual, people are doing what they are being asked but look closer and you will see what is truly lacking.

People will stop bringing their genius, passion, loyalty, creativity and innovation – they will just put in their day via the path of least resistance – high performance can never be reached here. This is highly dysfunctional and damaging to your company culture and needs addressed.

Organisational culture can account for 1/3 of financial performance, so not addressing this has a massive impact on the bottom line.

If your company culture is dysfunctional this can challenge high performing teams. Spending time and resource aligning your leadership, your people and your culture can be one of the biggest competitive advantages you will give to your team and your organisation.


Humans are a social species

One of the key differentiators within a high performing team is the powerful relationships in place between the people within them.

Good relationships allow for complex interactions, it has more depth to it. Whereas if the relationship is weak it is brittle and often rife with misunderstandings & miscommunication.

We live in a complex world and relationships need to be strong. Digitally connected networks and communities, robotics, AI, culture, changing gender roles, global integration, X Y Z generation. These things are increasing the social complexity of the world we live in. Leadership communication is difficult, and the relationships need to be up to it.

Related Programmes

If you are interested in building high-performance teams, you may be interested in these programmes.