Tag Archives: high performance culture

Giving Effective Feedback

twenty six percent

A recent post highlighted the fact that a proactive and consistent performance management regimen is a key pre-requisite to building and sustaining a high-performance culture of continuous improvement.

However, a recent Gallup study found that only 26% of the U.S. workforce strongly agreed that the feedback they get from managers or supervisors as part of their performance management effort actually helps them to improve their work! Clearly, and as most people agree, giving or gaining feedback can be difficult.

Further research indicates there are two primary reasons for the difficulty, which can be associated with both giving feedback or having “difficult conversations” with team members:

  1. The feedback giver is too indirect, so others don’t recognize the importance or significance of what is being shared. In fact, in many cases the feedback shared has no impact at all and is quickly dismissed or forgotten, because the brain doesn’t recognize the input as worthwhile!
  2. The feedback giver is too direct, thus causing others to become defensive; rather than listening to or giving consideration to the feedback they are distracted by what’s often called the rebuttal tendency, which means that instead of listening they are focused on how they will rebut whatever is being said. Even worse, when others react defensively it can cause the feedback giver (or seeker) to become defensive as well! Symptoms include loss of focus, sudden reliance on filler words (i.e., ah, uhm, etc.), and making potentially antagonistic remarks.

    A similar reaction to overly direct feedback is an “amygdala hijack.” It happens when a situation causes your amygdala (the section of our brains that reacts to emotional stimuli) to hijack control of your response to stress by disabling portions of the frontal lobes.

Fortunately, there is a simple formula for effectively giving feedback or for sharing difficult messages in a “brain-friendly” way, which will be the subject of our next post.

Leadership: Another Prerequisite to Developing a High Performance Culture


Continuing with the theme of developing a high performance culture, another prerequisite to doing so is effective leadership.

This need has clearly been recognized in the marketplace as, according to data shared by Northeastern University, 58% of U.S. companies say their number one strategic priority is closing their current leadership skill gaps. The study also indicated that many more plan to increase their total spending on leadership development initiatives in the next few years— “now treating professional development as an important component of their business strategy.”

Leadership provides the energy for change and the commitment to sustain it. Today’s leaders must continually work to hone and refine a range of skills if they are to engage and lead a cultural shift.

These skills include:

  • Communication and active listening
  • Method of sharing optimism, energy and enthusiasm
  • Empathy
  • Consistency
  • Dependability
  • Motivation
  • Risk assessment
  • Delegation
  • Empowerment

In addition, creating and working with a select work group is an ideal way to exercise, analyze and improve these leadership skills.

Finally, it’s important to note that, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be in a C-level role to be considered a leader. Strong leaders exist—and are highly valued—at every level of business to inspire, engage, and influence their colleagues and stakeholders.

Developing a High Performance Culture

Over the years we have consistently found that the highest achieving organizations are those that have successfully planned and developed high performance cultures.

The first step of this process involves identifying the underlying assumptions, beliefs and values that cause people to behave the way they do (the practices), and then identifying a clear link between organizational goals and individual/team/department performance.

People at all levels must also develop a clear sense of purpose, and management at all levels must devote the necessary time and attention to a proactive and consistent performance management regimen in which they promote and recognize practices that are aligned with organizational values and objectives.

The infographic below depicts one approach to this type of performance management system.

performance management system

Framework for Achieving a High-Performance Culture

performancemanagementframework2Several things must be accomplished in order to achieve a high-performance culture.

An effective framework you might follow is displayed at right. As you can see, we must first determine the status-quo, and then specify where we need to be in terms of key performance indicators.  Then, as we develop a plan to close the gap, we must analyze our approach from three different perspectives:

  • Operational – what we do.
  • People – what are their competencies? How do we lead them?
  • Cultural – values, beliefs and norms.

Leading the CI Charge

culture2Among the highest achieving organizations are those that have  successfully planned and developed high performance cultures of continuous improvement.

Management promotes this culture by truly valuing the workforce, fostering open communication, and both educating and empowering people to think outside of the box, with amnesty, as they seek innovative ways to study and improve the work and work processes.

These organizations also tend to have a highly-engaged workforce in which most people have an emotional attachment to their work. These engaged employees are willing to go “the extra mile” because they  feel that they are part of something bigger, working on behalf of the organization and its goals.

But Continuous Improvement and Engagement are top-down-driven strategies.  Without the support and commitment of senior management, neither concept can become the cultural way.

“A culture of continuous improvement begins with leadership,” said John Knotts, a business professional leader and consultant in Austin, Texas.  “If it is not understood, influenced, and supported by leaders, it is doomed to struggle and fail.  Thus, it takes significant leadership engagement to create a culture where all employees are continuously improving what they do every day.”

The same is true about engagement, as summarized by Doug Brown, President of Engaged2Perform, a consulting company in Waterloo, Canada, who said, “If senior leadership doesn’t buy in or doesn’t understand engagement, the company isn’t likely to have engagement polices… even top corporate executives who are aware of engagement practices aren’t always aware of the financial return they can deliver.”

Finally, possibly Costco’s Jim Sinegal summed it up best when he said,  “Culture is not the most important thing, it’s the only thing”