How To Build A High Performance Culture In Organizations
Our values –– the principles we deeply believe in, the issues that are important for us to stand for –– do not necessarily remain constant throughout life. Some may evolve; others may be added; others still may be dropped. There are those, though, that do remain unchanged. Those are the ones that will be more meaningful to you as a leader and therefore more powerful in creating a high performance culture, the ones you need to establish in guiding your organization.
Respect. Respect for ideas, for needs, for the whole self, is where it all starts. For the human being, the productive artist, the jazz singer, the heart surgeon, the architect, or the creative scientist, respect is what creates the space that allows conception and invention to flow. Respect for this crucial side of their nature — the need to feel untethered, the need to safeguard their autonomy — takes the form not only of understanding that this is not a personal rebellion against you as a leader, or a deficiency in adjusting to a group setting on their part, but rather that it expresses a need to achieve that sense of empowerment that constitutes an important driving force for creatives.
Freedom. Freedom is the maximum reward; it empowers, it respects, it recognizes. Freedom starts with forms as basic as freedom of style. Not all your team members will have the same need for freedom, and only your deep knowledge of them as human beings and of their track record will inform you on the size of the performing ring each needs.
Flexibility. Respect and freedom open the way for flexibility: flexibility to embrace new ideas, to accommodate life-needs, to change direction, to change your true-and- tried ways. Flexibility is the way of life in research, so leading your group to adopt it as a way of life in life will bring vitality and a “can do” and “why not?” attitude to your group. It is an important culture-creating value as it shifts the focus from the “what” to the “how.” And, just as importantly, it touches lives in all dimensions, from trivial to crucial.
Fun and Play. There is an air of lightness that the creative mind craves. Walk into a roomful of inspired artists and you will sense it. It is an energy that allows the creative spirit to free itself from limitations, that enables it to envision the changing of context and conditions that is a prerequisite to invention. Fun and play, in bringing that nimbleness, that buoyancy, help to maintain the spirit that invites novelty to emerge.
Interdependence. The principle of interdependence can be as simple as the recognition by individual members that in the work place their survival, success and well being depend on the mutual reliance of a collaborative group. Honoring interdependence does not negate the ability to act with autonomy –– that is, to be independent –– but instead brings in the additional dimension of aware- ness of the impact of your actions on the well-being of the group.
Transparency. As a leader you owe it to your people to be transparent about your intentions, your plans and your concerns, in the same way you owe them your expression of your active interest in them, their results and careers, in the form of direct feedback, dialogue and give-and-take. And though these give-and-take sessions can at times lead to difficult discussions, they are the first steps in creating a culture of open, honest communication.
Integrity. To live the value of integrity –– the willingness to give and keep your word, to walk your talk, to fulfill your promises and agreements –– is in essence to live in your commitment. And, as a leader, this is your aim for yourself and your people. Integrity is an unforgiving value, one that may exact unyielding pain if not pursued relentlessly, as the smallest of exceptions may give rise to damaging effects and consequences.
Passion. As a leader you are in an enviable position to help people unite their avocation and their vocation, and by so doing make work become play. It starts by using your intuition to become aware of the unseen potential in others and to support them to see and realize it. This is not about influencing their consciousness with what would be your personal choices, but about opening them up to their own. As leaders, our role in each case is to actively mentor and guide them into the personal path of their own discovery and, inasmuch as they are driven, their own awareness.
Trust. Trust is that fragile and vital value that must underlie every activity but that cannot be tangibly created. Trust is also essential to high performance. Expressions of trust are recognized by everyone’s willingness for open, honest communication, dialogue and feedback. They are at the core of the courage of taking intelligent risk and they underlie a sentiment of mutual respect. The utmost expression of trust is the willingness to place our future in somebody else’s hands, to follow his or her guidance into unknown territory, to pursue a trail that we had not charted or even envisioned ourselves.
Rigor. As the fundamental quality of good scientific work –– and good work in any field –– rigor is not only a necessity but an ultimate element of culture. By insisting on it, rigor permeates the thinking of a group and comes to represent an important underlying principle of every activity. Rigor translates into being clear in communicating the difference between dreams, hypotheses, theories and results. Rigor produces fully developed scientific theories, discussion of results and publications. The net result is credibility, a culture that can be trusted and results that can be relied on.
Results. For any team chartered with delivering innovation, whether in high technology, medicine or cinematography, the raison d’etre is bringing forth results. There is a delicate balance — the “creative tension” — between unleashing creative researchers and harnessing their work to deliver actual products and revenues. Two elements are important in cultivating a culture of results. First, there needs to be breadth in the definition of “results,” and this does not mean a diluting effect but a definition based on the true understanding of your mission and the means of achieving it, and then there is a need for identification of the whole spectrum of desirable results. Tangible results, those that customers will pay for and use and the processes to make them — such as the optical fiber they rely on to bring information to their home, the new cardiac surgery technique that can save lives or the new building design — are easy to classify as results.
Standing firm on these values is the cornerstone of building a creative culture in which your teams can thrive.