“The human will, that force unseen, The offspring of a deathless soul, can hew a way to any goal, though walls of granite intervene” – James Allen in these words from As a Man Thinketh captures the essence of High-Performance Cultures, especially in times of Adversity.

While many were taken off-guard, struggled to gain focus and organize teams for performance through remote working, others moved through the maze of uncertainty and restrictions to deliver performance despite the same constraints and challenges of mobility, uncertainty, interdependence, proximity, and business continuity.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues its Black Swan disruption of the global economy, the vulnerability of organisations to stay afloat is apparent. How can organisations remain High Performing despite adversities? What is in the nature of High-Performance Cultures? What is the secret sauce that enables ‘Performance Continuity’ even in the face of a crisis?

  1. Leadership Matters in High Performance Cultures: Leaders are the foundation on which High Performance is built. In a High-Performance Culture, Leaders drive goal execution and are a catalyst for Team Performance. But most of all Leaders set a bar for Performance through their own Behaviors and Actions. In the face of challenges, they Role Model all that they expect from Teams – Optimism, Adaptability, Flexibility, Resilience, Ingenuity, Collaboration. Leaders motivate employees to do their best by being both their Cheerleader and their Coach. Tackling the challenges of a constantly turbulent environment calls for up-skilling and re-skilling the teams to be productive and competitive. The Servant Leadership style is most relevant, as it emphasizes on developing employees, providing emotional healing and support for communication – while developing savvy Leaders for tomorrow who also become Servant Leaders in turn through the contagion generated.
  2. High Performance Cultures build Empowered and Engaged Employees: High Performance Cultures enable Distributed Leadership authority and Empowerment of Teams – the current adversity has been an accelerator for decision-making moving closer to the challenge. Organisations with High Performance Cultures do more than ‘say’ they want their Teams to be empowered – they also ensure employees have the skills, knowledge, and good judgment in making optimal decisions. High Performance cultures encourage Employee voice to work on mistakes and encourage two-way feedback to help transparent and agile execution.
  3. Building the Learning Organisation: Some organisations alarmingly pulled back on development investment during the crisis. Instead, High performance organisations recognize the need to constantly upgrade and strengthen their world-view -and increase focus on new Learning and Thought leadership in a crisis. Leaders emerge as Coaches and are constantly scouting High Performers across levels to create a deep bench of Leadership Capabilities for sustaining High Performance for the Future.
  4. Adaptability and Openness to Change: High-Performance Organisations need to constantly keep pace with change within their own industries. They re-think strategies and re-invent jobs to Pivot as maybe needed. They are not afraid to Rethink, Re-cast work practices and internal processes to constantly embrace Change, and to drive Creative Thinking and Innovation.
  5. High Performance Cultures have a strong sense of Ownership and Accountability: to achieve the goals of the Organisation. Working in silos and not sharing information across verticals is frowned upon. Collaboration is considered a Key-value and behavior to deliver on the promise to Customers. They co-create solutions and demonstrate candour for upholding team norms while challenging Group Think where required.

Building an everybody culture for Feedback is much desired in the Knowledge Economy and High-performance Cultures place a premium on Employee voice.

What can you do to start building a High Performing Culture within your Organisations? With disruption an everyday reality, changing company culture to become more agile, risk tolerant and experimental is easily the biggest business opportunity you could cultivate.

Company Culture can seem a fuzzy term – but it can be defined by Mindsets, Values and Behaviors practiced within the Organisation. It’s like pouring concrete – it takes a while to set and requires work to change. Also, while Culture is espoused as incredibly important by Leaders – it is often undervalued and mismanaged.

But the Pandemic is an incredible accelerator of Change- acting as the vaccine itself- creating anti-bodies to address many persisting malaises. This is the most opportune time to start driving positive Culture change to sustain future Performance.

But Culture building, especially in an ever-changing Business environment where uncertainty and interdependencies are high – need a shift of focus from Practices to Principles. Companies with High Performance Cultures have embedded these Principles of Adaptability, Resilience, Goal-orientation, Collaboration, Problem-Solving, and employees are empowered to do their part. Once this Leadership work is done – Teams become unstoppable on Performance!!