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While all of these elements can help to attract high-performance individuals, it is leadership and culture that create high-performance teams.
What is Culture?
In the context of business, culture is the atmosphere and relationships which make up the organisational environment. Culture encompasses values, habits, expectations and ways of communicating.
Building a healthy culture is a multifaceted process of creating an engaged team through providing the environment for them to accept ownership, realise their ability to contribute and feel that they belong. Challenging the environment can be a great start to creating the culture you want.
Thinking through things like holidays, life balance, benefits, rewards, flexibility, structure and inclusiveness is important. But this alone will not result in a consistent culture. There must be buy-in of the culture from the grassroots level. Over time, values and expectations will be set by precedent, and this is where culture is really forged.
Culture is leader led! How leaders behave will dictate how the team experiences the culture and therefore what it really is.
What Makes a Team Perform Well?
Leadership and culture are closely linked as they create engagement, which in turn creates high performance. In order to see this, it is worth examining what makes a team perform well. If you think about brands and businesses with renowned high-performance teams, you will find shared attributes. High-performance teams are:
- United in purpose and vision
- Highly engaged, delivering discretionary effort
- Wanting to build strong relationships within the team
- Enthusiastic and invested in their work
- Flexible according to the needs of each team member
- Supportive of each other and do not judge
- Psychologically safe environments
- Self-driven and motivated in the face of challenges.
Culture is the magic ingredient behind each one of these characteristics. Culture has the power to create a high level of cooperation and therefore a united team which is motivated and resilient.
A business with a healthy culture is a place of unity. This is because the right culture goes deeper than the nine-to-five grind of work and taps into the people behind the business. High-performance teams must be united in purpose and vision. In order to perform well, they must know each other well and be striving towards the same goal. The team feels safe to speak out and not be shut down or judged.
Culture, by defining values, attitudes and relationships, allows this to happen. As culture is created organically, team members are bonded. Culture takes time to form – as intentional decisions and habits are made in line with a high expectation. This process in itself unites team members over a shared vision of which they have ownership.
A healthy culture also seeks to understand each member of the team. High-performance teams know each other well. They are invested in each other’s success and lives. They know the weaknesses and strengths of each member of the team and are ready to support each other in times of need. This is a recipe for a high-performance team!
Great Culture Inspires
Culture is all about the “why” and “how” behind what you do. This brings inspiration to any team. Instead of simply aiming to complete a project, culture allows teams to aim to complete a project for the sake of their shared vision. This instantly boosts passion and therefore energy. Culture allows there to be a much deeper motivation than straightforward performance goals, which in turn enhances performance. When motivation comes from culture, there is real potential for high-performance teams to be formed.
Culture Creates Resilience
Resilience, or the ability to bounce back, is created in the face of challenge. Culture allows teams to know their purpose beyond surface-level success or failure. Their shared culture reminds them of the values, relationships and goals which unite them – despite circumstances.
This results in high-performance teams who are ready to face challenges and learn resilience – together. High-performance teams are known for consistent results and the only way to produce this is through overcoming challenges. Culture provides the foundation necessary for teams to see past their immediate problems and band together for strength.
KPIs are important – but not as important as culture. Culture is a strong force in any workplace. It creates high-performance teams through uniting them, motivating them and strengthening them.
Culture is more foundational than any other strategy and is a long-term measure of success.
Businesses that want to invest in high-performance teams must invest deeply in culture.
Phil Allison is the managing director of executive coaching firm Corporate Edge.