I’ve been asked before, “How do you create a high performing culture?” There is no secret sauce for a killer culture other than the values that make it unique.
For example, Google’s vision is to make information accessible while Facebook’s belief is that “everyone should own their information.” Whatever your organizational values, vision and beliefs are you'll need the behaviors to support them, which speaks to the importance of habits.
Habits are unique to each business as they’re based upon the organizational leadership that drives company culture. By “organizational leadership” I am referring not just to the founders at the top of the org chart but also the analysts, assistants and subordinates that contribute to the way work gets accomplished every day. Yes, the founder may set the direction for what he or she wants to see but actually executing the behaviors that become habits that become culture is something incumbent upon everyone.
To ensure you’re on the right track, here are five high performing habits to instill within your company (in no particular order):
1. Ask for help.
There were many things that would get a SEAL kicked off the team at my last command in the Navy, one of which was being stupid -- not just behaviorally, but personally as well. What I mean is if there was a task that clearly necessitated more people, yet the task owner refused to ask for help, then the question became, “why not?”
What does a refusal to solicit help reveal about someone? It reveals excessive ego, and there’s no place for ego on the battlefield or in the boardroom.
2. Have “practices,” not meetings.
Just the word “meeting” is enough to make people shiver -- they’re boring, unproductive, monotonous. Should I go on? A practice, on the other hand, is something that connotes improvement. Have you ever had a sports, musical or team-based practice after which you didn’t feel good?
Now, keep in mind that just changing the word from “meeting” to “practice” isn’t the answer. Rather, it’s the actual behavior-based actions and positive intent inherent to a “practice” that are key.
Look at it this way: When you have a sports practice, there is a clear goal with well-understood roles, responsibilities, expectations and repercussions. Meetings “practices” are no different.
3. Engage in critical reflection.
Before you can truly understand others, you must understand yourself first. You must understand how and where you fit amidst the broader organization, and the best way to do that is through after-action reviews (AARs). AARs are a means to collaborate with fellow employees designed to build learning through self-reflection. Specifically, AARs examine three things:
- The intent of a specific task.
- The actual outcome of said task.
- The behaviors, assumptions and decisions that led to the difference between what was supposed to happen and what actually happened.
It’s within the third item that significant learning takes place. When you share lessons learned as a team, you unearth new insights and situational contexts to which you weren’t privy before, thus creating a standard of judgment the next time a similar challenge occurs.
4. Have difficult conversations.
Falling right next to AARs is breaching the discomfort factor of having uneasy conversations. The willingness to face what is currently wrong for the sake of what is right is the difference between a leader and all the rest. It’s also what accountability is all about.
5. Hold yourself and others accountable.
There’s nothing wrong with holding your co-workers accountable just as long as you live that same standard. In fact, whatever standard you enforce upon others, hold yourself to the next level higher. That way, there’s no question about who you are or where you stand. You’ll be better because of it.
These are just a few of the habits that I’ve seen ingrained in high-performance cultures. Take the good, discard the bad and develop your own habits, but whatever they are, make sure they deliver value every day.