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8 Tactics for Building a High-Performance Culture

By Scott Seroka

A lot of companies refer to their workgroups as teams.

Let’s talk about that for a moment.

Imagine you’re at the World Series, and you saw the outfielders staring at their iPhones while the opposing team was at-bat. Or, what if the quarterback of your favorite football team wandered onto the field while yawning at the beginning of a game? Or, if you’re a basketball fan, what if, during a playoff game, half the team stood around with their hands on their hips talking to each other while their other teammates were hustling on the court?

I’m quite serious. Statistically, there is greater than a sixty percent chance you have people like this on YOUR team – coming in every day doing less than the bare minimum to get a paycheck.

So, how about a real-life example.

Several years ago, in one of my roundtable groups, there was a business owner who often talked about the struggles she had with her business partner. They had opposite personalities, which should have benefitted the growth of the business, but unfortunately, it was a detriment.

Her partner was brilliant in terms of industry knowledge and the ability to bring in new business, but his alter ego was that of a bully for his style of leadership. And as you would expect, morale at her company was low and the turnover was high.

To many employees, he was a micro-manager with a zero-tolerance policy for mistakes, and he truly believed that the occasional dose of intimidation coupled with fear was the best way to keep everyone on their toes.

Because of this, she had reasons to believe some of the key players and top producers would resign if things didn’t change.

I was hired to do an internal culture assessment, and after numerous interviews with her people, her fears were confirmed. The culture was very unstable.

When the two partners were presented with the evidence, they agreed to restructure their relationship so that she would be in charge of managing, leading, and nurturing all employees. He was going to play to his strengths in growing the business by focusing more on sales, managing vendor partners, corporate strategy, and being the visionary for the company.

It was an easy solution.

Once the employees were aware of the change, I provided a strategy and framework for building a fanatical culture of high-performance, accountability, and continuous improvement.

Here are the components:

  1. Replace the dreaded annual review with ongoing face-to-face, in-person, real-time feedback.
  2. Keep employees in the know about what is going on at the company through newsletters, summits, an intranet, and town hall meetings. One of the biggest gripes employees have is not knowing what is going on at their company. We changed that.
  3. Invest in training. A few thousand dollars and a couple of days out of the office for sales, service, leadership, technical, industry or human resources training generates a very nice ROI. When employers say, “What happens if I train my people and they leave?” I respond with, “What happens if you don’t?”
  4. Invest in modern tools and systems to improve efficiency.
  5. Implement a culture of learning. This included formalizing a program where failures became learning experiences that tied well into the company’s new continuous improvement culture.
  6. Organize semi-annual appreciation days. The only way people can understand and respect the role of their counterparts is to spend a day in their shoes. Once every six months, production spends a day with salespeople, and salespeople spend a day in production to understand each other’s challenges and struggles. It’s also a great way to brainstorm ideas to become better teammates!
  7. Clean house. Going through the office to declutter is both healthy and invigorating. And yes, this may also include replacing employees who no longer provide real value to the company.
  8. Subscribe to a process for solving problems efficiently and effectively. One of my favorites comes from Jake Knapp, the author of “SPRINT” – a book that provides a method for solving big problems and testing new ideas in as little as five days. Strong cultures tackle issues head-on. Weak cultures are stuck in a perpetual state of analysis paralysis. Progress is always better than perfection.

Now perhaps you’re already doing some of these things, or maybe you’re not. My point in creating this podcast is to heighten your awareness of what you could be doing to optimize your culture so that you can also optimize your brand’s performance.

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