How to create a high-performance organizational culture

There's fanatical focus on two things

In August 2015, Tesla Motors’ new fully electric car model S P85D broke Consumer Reports’ ratings system with a score of 103 on a 100-point scale. That unprecedented success grew out of Tesla’s incredibly high-performing organization.

Like other high-performing organizations, Tesla differentiates itself with an inspiring vision and a culture that brings out the best in individuals and teams. High-performing business organizations and world-class sports teams share some distinguishing characteristics that make them measurably different than their peers:

1. Values are both performance-driven and highly ethical. The values that create the culture drive the decision making and interactions of all team members. One way to define an organizational culture is “values in action”: the actions people take reflect the values the culture supports. In high-performance organizations, values are shared, ethical and performance-driven.

2. No complaining, blaming or excuses. High performers take full responsibility for everything they’re part of, both success and setbacks. Complaining, blaming and excuses are often traits of underachievers, not high-performers.

3. The bar keeps rising. Like Tesla, high-performance individuals, teams and organizations all continually get better.

4. Focus is fanatical – on two things. The typical business is often too many things to too many people. To be high-performing, leaders must focus on two things: 1) establishing a culture and 2) brand awareness — being known for one product, service or something that differentiates them in the market.

5. Failures are valuable. Intelligent risk is encouraged when stretching into new territory, whether in leadership, marketing, sales, admin or operations. Greatness requires being different and risk is inherent in being different. Leaders, individuals and teams don’t like to fail, but are willing to fail. They view failures as valuable setbacks to learn from because: 1) you learn what doesn’t work, and 2) often you can evolve the idea or product to one that does work!

6. Motivation is driven by excitement, not fear. Excitement ignites individual and team motivation. Fearful people tend to play carefully not to lose rather than play aggressively to win. I recently worked with a team many would consider the best national sales team in its space. It has had five consecutive years of astronomical growth, while its competitors have had relatively flat, or no growth. The president of sales says, “It’s like winning the Super Bowl for five years in a row. Now everyone is gunning for us, and we have to be careful to continue playing to win rather than playing to not lose!”

7. Accountability is reversed. Traditional accountability is when the most senior person ensures that all direct reports are doing what they’re supposed to do. In the reverse, positive accountability occurs when a junior person or a team brings the agenda, progress and problems to the direct manager. The junior person or team leads these discussions to bring the senior person up to date, celebrate successes and ask for help with problems.

When you create a high-performing culture, you’re likely to meet or exceed your strategic goals. This is the bottom-line measure of becoming a high-performing organization or workplace.

Categories: Management & Leadership, Web Exclusives