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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 ) )


14th Jun 2023

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5 Priorities for Becoming a More Strategic People Manager
6 Steps to start the creation of high performance cultures

The 3 Key Facets of Leadership Presence with Paula Mullin

In our recent IMI Mini-Masterclass hosted by Paula Mullin, we explored the the importance of creating compassion and connection as a leader. Paula emphasised the significance of leadership presence and its impact on inspiring, engaging, aligning, and motivating others. Paula gave an insight into key concepts like the dimensions of leadership presence: character, substance, and style. In particular, she explored the facets of humility, concern, and resonance, which foster connection and compassion within leadership.

The first importance facet of leadership presence is humility. Humility serves as a cornerstone of leadership presence. It goes beyond measuring whether leaders are humble or not; rather, it centres on their comfort with not having all the answers, and their willingness to let others shine. Leaders who exhibit humility demonstrate an awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses, acknowledging that all individuals possess inherent worth. Nelson Mandela is often cited as an exemplary global leader who embodied humility by shattering the myth of his superiority and recognising that he was only in his unique position due to the contributions of his colleagues and comrades. Overcoming barriers to humility, such as a strong action bias, being caught up in personal energy, and the fear of relinquishing control, allows leaders to create an environment that encourages collaboration, vulnerability, and empowerment.

The second facet that Paula explored was concern. Concern encompasses the act of caring for others and demonstrating it through leadership behaviour. Building a feedback culture within organisations is crucial for fostering trust and compassion. Brene Brown’s words, “Clear is kind, unclear is unkind,” highlight the importance of honest conversations that challenge individuals directly while caring for them personally. By striking the delicate balance between caring and challenging, leaders establish an atmosphere of radical candour, avoiding ruinous empathy, obnoxious aggression, or manipulative insincerity. Communicating with concern involves sharing feedback, encouraging self-trust and growth, actively listening, and showing genuine interest in people’s perspectives and well-being.

Self-compassion forms the foundation for extending compassion to others. It involves cultivating mindful awareness, recognising our shared humanity, and embracing kindness towards ourselves, in our actions and thoughts. By treating ourselves with the same compassion and understanding we offer to friends facing challenging situations, we create a connection with our own well-being. Practicing self-compassion allows leaders to nurture their emotional resilience and promotes a healthy work environment centred on empathy and understanding.

Resonance was the final facet that Paula explored. Resonance surpasses mere empathy and encompasses actively choosing to be present for others. Leaders high in resonance engage in active listening, adopt a coaching approach, and acknowledge emotions and non-verbal cues. By noticing and acknowledging these subtle cues, leaders foster deeper connections and create an inclusive environment. Developing resonance requires utilising the “head, heart, hands” tool, which involves encouraging open discussions of thoughts and feelings, thereby nurturing collaboration and a shared sense of purpose. Mindful presence, adopting a coaching style of leadership, and being attuned to the emotional well-being of individuals within the organisation all contribute to the development of resonance.

Creating compassion and connection as a leader requires nurturing humility, concern, and resonance within oneself and the organisation. Leaders who embrace humility are open to vulnerability, empower others, and foster collaboration. Expressing concern through honest conversations, feedback, and genuine interest builds trust and empathy within teams. Additionally, cultivating self-compassion lays the groundwork for extending compassion to others. Finally, developing resonance allows leaders to truly connect with their team members, acknowledge their emotions, and create an inclusive and empowering work environment. By integrating these qualities into their leadership approach, individuals can cultivate an environment of compassion and connection, inspiring and engaging those around them to reach new heights of success.

IMI Corporate Members get access to regular in-person and virtual events. Find out more about IMI membership.