Culture is the engine that drives the success of high performing organizations. The value of great strategy, technology, and human capital can often go unrealized if it is not rooted in a culture of peak performance.

In the 1980’s, management guru Edgar Schein wrote “Culture determines the limit of strategy, and if you do not manage culture, it will manage you.” Culture is what determines if and how our thoughts, ideas, and plans are enacted. Regardless of what you want to happen, culture determines what will happen. We can see this in the 70% failure rate of most organizational change initiatives. Companies invest vast resources into customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP); yet, they often overlook the most important driver of success. Highly successful organizations recognize the link between their culture and their success. The good news is that it is entirely possible to create and sustain a peak performance culture.

Before you can take the steps towards shaping your culture, you need to understand what culture is. Simply put, culture is a line any group draws that separates the behaviors they advocate and tolerate from the behaviors they refuse to tolerate. The line always exists. It is incumbent on leadership to help define where that line is and to lead by example. If you are a leader within your organization, there are 3 ways of being that can allow you to transform your culture. Many leaders look for a checklist of specific things to do to shape their organization’s culture. This is because people are typically focused on what they’re doing, not how they’re being. Ways of being are not discrete actions, they are collections of enduring behaviors and values.

Being Integrity

Integrity is the cornerstone of effective leadership. There are many ways to build integrity; the simplest way is to do what you say. In peak performance cultures, “yes” means “yes.” When people give their word that something will happen, everybody knows that it’s a good as done, no matter how big or small. Nobody drops the ball. Meetings start on time. Reports are finalized and delivered when promised. Honor your word and you will inspire people to do the same. When those around you trust you, they are inclined to be authentic around you. Trust and authenticity are the essence of peak performance culture

Being Intentional

In order to get what you want, you must be clear about what you want. Intentional people and intentional organizations get assistance from the universe. Unintentional people get compassion, at best, and unintentional organizations eventually get squished by their environment. As a leader, it is important that you are intentional and enroll the people around you in your vision for the future. Sometimes it is necessary to go into the “planning closet” to refine your intentions privately. Never appear unintentional in public. In a peak performance culture, everyone maintains a posture of clear, shared intention, enabling the universe to assist in surprising ways.

Being Persistent

Persistence is a foundational way of being for those who intend to create and maintain a peak performance culture. High Impact leaders understand that persistence is critical to creating lasting change. We all know people that stop working on a task the minute they run into an unexpected roadblock. These folks find reasons to abandon their tasks and come back to you saying, “There isn’t enough information”, or “I can’t find this” or “Here is something we didn’t consider, and I don’t know what to do.” There will always be bumps in the road. People who are persistent realize this and continue on anyway. Intentions are mere aspirations in the absence of persistence.

By enacting these 3 ways of being, you will create an energy that will spread across the entire organization. The more others see you as being integrity, intentional, and persistent, the more they will internalize those values and behaviors. Remember, creating a culture of peak performance is not a one-time event. It is something that must be enacted and reaffirmed daily. Just like maintaining a high level of physical fitness requires daily exercise and a healthy diet; your approach to developing a peak performance culture must be disciplined and consistent.

About The Author

Chris McGoff

Chris McGoff is the co-founder of The Clearing, Inc. a Washington, D.C.-based management consulting firm where his client list includes many U.S. Federal Government agencies, IBM, AARP, Consol Energy, Benesch, Coffman Engineers, Harris, Lazard, the American Petroleum Institute, SalientCRGT, DuPont, the United Nations, and Boeing. He is the Washington Post bestselling author of The Primes, and his new book Match in the Root Cellar (Forbes Books) publishes February 6, 2018.

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