How to lead a high performance culture

How to lead a high performance culture

Philip White

28 April 2022 - 9 min read

How to lead a high performance culture

As organisations are coming out the other side of the pandemic, many employees are thinking deeply about their role. People are feeling unsure about their place in their job and questioning their relationship with their employer, family and finances. 

As they do so, they are looking for positions that better align with their own aspirations. Research from the UK labour force survey estimated that job resignations were at 391,000 in November 2021. The findings show resignations at their highest in the past twenty years. 

Flexible working hours, increased salaries and other company perks may offer a short-term solution, but they don't guarantee employee satisfaction.

Leaders should use this phenomenon as a chance for a big reset; of company goals, values and initiatives. All under the umbrella of a high performance culture. 

81% agree that culture is a source of competitive advantage, according to the PwC 2021 Global Culture Survey. This finding attests to the importance of culture within today’s industries. 

Leaders who provide their employees with the right conditions to thrive are likely to see many advantages. The positive impact gained will cover growth, performance and how customers interact with their business as a whole. 

This article draws on insights from award-winning speaker Marcus Child to show how you can lead a high performance culture.  

Leading with Care and Concern 

Employees want to be led by someone who cares about them. Someone who sees them first and foremost as a person. Customers, too, value these attributes. Leaders who care about the needs of their customer will be more attentive to creating solutions that satisfy these needs. 

It’s easy to think that leadership is about charisma, magnetism or other potentially egocentric qualities. However, customers and employees alike value concern because it makes them feel included in company activity. Inclusion promotes employee engagement and engagement is a key pathway to success. 

These attributes can be justified further through William Schutz’s theory of interpersonal relations. Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation (FIRO) examines the relationship between people in a group. The theory suggests that people look for three main interpersonal needs when they are in a group. These three interests are affection or openness, control, and inclusion.

Applying these areas to your business provides a useful framework for leading a strong company culture. 

1. Inclusion:

As a leader, it’s a good idea to consider how far you want to be included in your employees' work. It is also important to think how much employees want to be included in yours. 

When you include somebody in a meeting or a work activity, you are telling that person that they matter. You can be certain that they will be committed to the cause even if they do not participate verbally. 

Inclusion can enable goals to be achieved because people will feel empowered. Not only this, but they will recognise that their voice matters in how decisions are made. Being more inclusive will ensure that wins are being shared as you begin to hit those goals as a business.

2. Control:

Consider how much control exists in your interactions with employees. Consider whether you want to be hands-on at every step or allow them to develop ideas. The answer to this question will differ from company to company. However, it is important to consider this factor thoroughly and find a solution that is appropriate. 

On one level, giving control to employees will suggest that they are capable of the task in-hand. Having this control will, then, encourage ownership and a sense of pride in those who are given this responsibility. 

Someone may also require more guidance on a task or project. This situation will, especially, be the case if they are less experienced in dealing with this work. It’s about being attuned to what allows people to work to their best ability. 

Having said that, it's generally a good idea to not give too much control. People want to feel included, but leadership is still valued. The promise that someone will be able to make the tough decisions when things change is assuring for employees. Ideally, you want to find a place where more control is being taken from those autonomous and empowered people in teams. 

3. Openness:

Affection, warmth, openness. This term has been altered slightly in different interpretations of the research. What is important, here, is that you are thinking about how open you want to be as a leader. If someone completes their work to a high standard, are you going to give them praise that they deserve?

Overlapping, in particular, with inclusion, this attribute defines how much information you wish to share with employees. How much of your own feelings you wish to communicate to them. Ultimately, when you say nice things to people, they are going to feel valued. Openness is a great way of making people feel liked and getting them onboard with your plans.

Defining Goals (and celebrating when you achieve them) 

Defining business goals is fundamental to moulding a high performance culture. Employees are likely to lack direction and motivation in their day-to-day responsibilities if you don't define a desired state.

In outlining company goals, your strategy should guide employees toward achieving them through measurable objectives and targets. As part of this strategy, culture can encourage positive action by expressing these goals through clear values and beliefs. 

Think of a business plan like organisational culture. A successful business plan provides direction and clarifies objectives. This action then means that collective actions and decisions can be made with confidence — from c-level executives to new starters. 

It is also worthwhile to look at how you are going to celebrate as an organisation when this goal is achieved. Visualising this positive result can influence an organisation’s culture greatly by giving employees something to work toward. 

Celebrations can take a number of forms, be they monetary incentives or a group activity for the organisation. An even better idea is to include a rewards system with varied options. Increasing reward variety will make everyone feel included in your journey to success.  

Whatever your celebration may be, it’s a good idea to embed these ideas into your business plan moving forward. From here, think how these potential celebrations and incentives could drive teams’ day-to-day responsibilities. 

For example, your company reward might be a trip to Spain. You could create a virtual flight map that updates every time a milestone is met. As each objective is achieved, the plane nears toward its destination. Making company benefits seem real will, ultimately, create a sense of momentum as teams race toward their desired state. 

Bridging the Gap between Customer and Employee Behaviour 

Reaching a goal is impacted by your customers and, more specifically, their behaviour. How they interact with your organisation will either accelerate or halt your journey toward a desired destination. 

On one level, this could be a case of, simply, ‘buying more’ of  whatever product or service you offer. However, you will also want your customers to keep coming back to your business and tell others about your business. 

Once you understand your customers’ place in your business strategy, you will have a better idea of what drives them. Drivers are those unique selling points (USPs) that give your organisation the competitive advantage over others. Pinpointing these drivers will allow you to make smart decisions when it comes to developing your business. 

Completing the bilateral relationship between customer and company are employees; the people who represent your organisation. The immediate relationship between customers and employees, on the surface, appears transaction or transferral. 

Employees can feel like they are, simply, going through the motions to complete the transaction of a service. Checking someone into a hotel, scanning a customer’s items, replacing a client’s windscreen. 

These actions can be elevated through strong values. Setting the right conditions that allow employees to go above and beyond in their role will also facilitate success. 

Developing a deep understanding of what drives your customers' behaviour is the first step. From here, you will be able to advise employees on how to act so that these factors happen routinely.

Creating the conditions for people to succeed 

Just as drivers encourage positive customer behaviour, so will the right conditions facilitate positive employee behaviour. Creating these conditions is tri-fold. Leaders should make people feel included, like they have enough control and that they are being recognised. These conditions will then allow employees to positively influence customer behaviour.

Values are a key condition that can give employees something to define their actions by. Too often companies use broad terms as values, like “responsibility” or “accountability”. These terms are forgettable and risk alienating employees because they are impractical. 

It is much better to have values that clearly define model behaviour. Creating these strong values will ensure that employees remember these principles whenever they are faced with a decision. 

For example, a family hotel company may exchange a value of “excellent customer service” to “care consistently”. Changing this value will encourage a more direct action for employees in an accessible way. Any organisation should have values that reflect its identity and how it wants its employees to behave in their roles. 

Digital transformation: culture is key

Creating a digital culture requires more than just technology expertise; it requires stronger leadership and culture as well. Companies who focus on culture are 5x more likely to achieve breakthrough performance in their digital transformation. 

Leading a successful digital transformation shares a lot of qualities with leading a high performance culture. For one, creating a high performance culture is an iterative process, defined by consistency and care. Actions should not take place in a vacuum. You will be able to build a high performance culture by working through the motions of your plans. 

This point is particularly relevant for actions of inclusion, control and openness, which are best carried out in iterations. High quality digital transformations are, similarly, achieved through continuous actions that reinforce improvement and development. 

Technology certainly has the potential to improve business processes. However, these improvements only occur when software solutions are integrated into a culture that is driven to improve. For long term success beyond your digital transformation, culture is key.

Audacia is a UK based software development company and digital transformation service provider who can offer a range of solutions for your business. We have significant experience working across a number of industries and organisational cultures to help businesses reach their goals. 

Interested in finding out more about how your business can benefit from digital transformation? Get in touch with us today on 0113 543 1300, or email

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Philip is the Managing Director of Audacia and is responsible for the company's overall strategy and culture.