Culture Drives Performance

Cracking Culture Drives Performance
Culture as a Catalyst


Is your organization not growing as fast as you would like, or has performance recently declined? If so, it may be time to look in the mirror and ask yourself what cultural challenges your organization is experiencing. If we don’t like what we see in the mirror it is time to put an increased focus on getting the organizations culture back in alignment with our vision.   A cracked organizational culture will hold back the ability to improve performance. The most important responsibility of a leader is to create alignment between the image of our cultural vision and the reflection created by the behaviors in the organization. We all have the ability to be leaders in our organizations in both informal and formal roles to improve culture and performance.  Let dive into how Cracking Culture Drives Improved Performance.

4 Questions and Answers to help Crack the Code on Culture:

  • Question 1 – What is Culture?
  • Question 2 – What are the Benefits of a Strong Culture?
  • Question 3 – How Culture correlates to Performance?
  • Question 4 – How can Leaders Crack Culture?

Question 1 – What is Culture?

Culture in organizations is often mistaken as the Mission, Vision, and Values that leaders write down on a piece of paper and distribute to their teams. In reality, the culture of the organization is not the values that are written on a piece of paper. Culture is the behaviors and actions within the organization. As a great mentor once told me “Words can lie. Behaviors do not.”

Regardless of the vision and values that are written down on paper, if the members of an organization regularly act in misalignment with words on paper, then those behaviors will create the new culture within the organization. Our team members will see the pattern of behavior and over time those behaviors will become the new norms.

Leaders need to understand how our team members recognize patterns in our behaviors. As humans, our brains have evolved to develop the survival skill of pattern recognition. In life, we observe what is happening in our environment, and then we look for regularity in the information our senses perceive and then see patterns. Our brains use patterns to understand what is happening around us, cause and effect, and develop norms. We use these patterns to become more efficient and effective. In our organizations we will observe leaders and team members. We will recognize both the good and bad behaviors of our leaders and fit them into patterns to create our own definition the organizations culture.

Culture has the ability to drive involvement and participation of our teams. We can hire “head” count into our organization and leverage their knowledge to get work done. However, if we want to drive real results we need to engage more than the “heads” of our teams. We also need to fully engages the employees heart and soul, creating a true covenantal relationship and commitment to the organization.

Question 2 – What are the benefits of a strong culture?

A strong organization culture that promotes involvement, consistency, adaptability, and shared mission + values has many benefits including:

  • Improved Performance and Productivity
  • Drives Increased Engagement
  • Creates Predictability
  • Enhanced Trust and Cooperation
  • Reduces Unnecessary Conflict
  • Improves Decision Making and Decision Quality
  • Guides Action in the Absence of Process
  • Provides a Sense of Identity – “Who are we?” “Who do we want to be?”

The effort to build a strong culture can take time and commitment. The outcome of that investment can create significant long term organizational performance benefits.   A strong organizational culture and identify can be a competitive advantage that increases employee commitment, improves employee retention, and allows the team to adapt and overcome adversity.

Question 3 – How are Culture and Performance correlated?

Performance improvement is a process. In the performance improvement process we need to measure the outcomes from the actions that we perform. Those performance measurements can be quantified as increases in volume, frequency, quality, or time to completion.   To drive performance, we must have inputs in the form of actions and outcomes in the form of measurable results.   The goal is to be able to predict the outcomes from the actions to improve results.

As mentioned above, one of the traits of a strong culture is consistency. Consistency provides members in the organization with expectations on the actions, behaviors, and predictable outcomes. When team members know what to expect in terms of cultural responses to their actions, and are not worried about unpredictable leadership, it allows them to focus on their activities and performing activities better, faster, and more frequently. In essence, inconsistent culture and behavior adversely impacts performance by distracting the team from performing their job functions.

There is a very high correlation between culture and performance.   As organizational leaders we all have goals to pursue and we are looking for ways to improve the performance. Effective leaders recognize the importance of eliminating cultural distractions so that our teams can focus on performance execution.

Simply put – predictable behaviors lead to predictable outcomes. Predictable outcomes can lead to improved performance over time as our teams become more skilled, efficient, and effective. When employees buy into the company with their head, heart, and soul the performance will be greater. Culture drives performance.

Question 4 – How can Leaders Crack Culture?

Leaders can crack culture in two ways.

The first way leaders crack culture is negative and analogous to breaking a mirror. When a mirror is smashed it destroys the vision. Like a cracked mirror, cracked culture destroys the clarity and vision the organization has of itself.   Culture gets cracked when leaders do the following:

  • Exhibit Behaviors that are not in alignment with their words and organizational values
  • Positional Power – Leaders that focus on organizational hierarchy solely using the authoritative/directive leadership styles inhibit talent from achieving its full potential
  • Focusing on squeezing productivity from others to advance themselves as leaders
  • Tolerating team members that act in violation with the culture
  • Promoting Individuals that do not act in alignment with the culture
  • Tolerating poor behaviors in a tradeoff for high performance

The authenticity of a leader is at stake when the Mission, Vision, and Values on paper are not in alignment with the behaviors the leader exhibits as a role model to the organization.

The second way leaders can crack culture is positive, and that is by cracking the code to build strong culture. Cracking the Code to a bank safe opens up the door to all of the valuables inside.   Leaders that crack the code to building strong organizational culture unlock the true value and potential of talent in their organizations. When this talent is freed from being locked up, it can lead to break through performance and results. In order to crack the code of culture leaders should:

  • Alignment their behaviors with their words
  • Act as role models for the behaviors expected of the organization
  • Understand their responsibility as social influencers
  • Focusing on maximizing the effort of others to achieve common goals
  • Treat team members with respect and value them as peers
  • Embrace a talent mindset focused on people and the results will follow

Leaders that understand their responsibility as social influencers, unleash their talent, and align their organizations for success by building strong cultures will drive results and success.

The culture of organizations is a direct reflection of the leaders at the top. Leaders that recognize the importance of culture and develop a culture that is in alignment with the mind, heart, and soul of the people in their organizations will be able to deliver higher levels of performance.   Leaders that do not recognize the importance of investing time in building a strong culture and focus only on short term performance will not be able to drive sustained performance and growth.

If as a leader you don’t like what you see in the mirror, don’t smash the mirror. The reflection you are looking at is yourself. The best way to change it is to start behaving in alignment with the culture, values, missions, and vision that we want our organization to follow.

Don’t crack the mirror. Crack the Code to culture!

If you are a formal or informal leader in your organization and agree culture drives performance please “Like”, “Share”, or “Comment” on this article so we can empower our organizations to accelerate performance improvements.


About the Author: Tim Igo is an Executive Leader who has successfully deployed culture as a tool to accelerate the performance of team to deliver breakthrough performance and growth.  In his personal life, Tim is a mountaineer that has been involved in many climbing expedition teams that have used strong culture as a tool to drive peak performance including being a member of an expedition team on Mount Everest in 2010 that put 100% of our team on the summit.