How To Build A High-Performance Culture

Take It From The Top

When it comes to developing a high-performance corporate culture, it really starts at the top. CEOs and their executive management teams are responsible for developing and spreading the qualities, values and ethics of their organizations, all of which must be clearly defined and communicated to their employees in order to encourage the habits of high performance.

That's according to Ken Thoreson, president of Acumen Management Group, who spoke to 50 top executives at some of the country’s largest solution providers Tuesday at CRN's Solution Provider 500 event in Charlotte, N.C., sharing some of the tips on how to develop the traits that are common in high-performance organizations. Here's a look at a few of them.

1. It Starts With Attitude

"You have the ability to create emotion within your organization, and it all starts with you," Thoreson said. Employees will take their cues from senior management, so solution provider executives need to remember that they have the power to energize (or deflate) their employees, he said. Thoreson suggested starting with something small. Next time someone asks how you are, give them something more animated than the predictable "fine." "It's Tuesday, so I'm terrific," he offered.

2. Find Balance

Organizations need to have balance, and so do the individuals that work there, Thoreson said. "As leaders, you have to think about the people in your organization and your own life to make sure you have the right menu," he said. "High-performance organizations have people that are in balance." It can be easy to identify yourself by your job but there's one important question you need to ask yourself, he said. "Who are you when you no longer do what you do?"

As tech-focused companies, solution provider organizations often forget to focus on people and culture, Thoreson said. How will you know when your company has found balance? "Your people are giving their best effort working on the right things," he said.

3. Tell Your Story

Storytelling is an important tool in the executive's arsenal when it comes to building employee loyalty, Thoreson said. Capture "tribal stories" about your organization's successes and employee wins, and then play them back to staff. Make sure new hires hear them too. "You're building belief," he said. Use monthly meetings as a platform to share your philosophy and ethics, provide clarity and encourage open communication. Make sure your employees have exposure to customers so they can hear first-hand how your organization helps them. And get a reference letter from every customer to share not only with prospective clients but your employees as well.

4. Collaboration Is Critical

High-performing culture is built on collaboration, Thoreson said. One of the best ways to fix a struggling organization is to create cross-departmental groups to brainstorm on how to solve problems, he said.

5. Change Is OK

One of the traits of a high-performance culture is that change is accepted, Thoreson said. Your team has to be able to quickly adapt, and your people have to be involved in change. That means employees need to be supported by management in their efforts to be innovative and creative. And above all, you have to learn from your mistakes, he said.

6. Coaching Is Key

Coaching improves effectiveness, Thoreson said. "Employees want to stay where there is a culture of high performance and people are helping them grow," he said. That means you and your team need to provide feedback to employees at all levels.

7. When Opportunity Knocks, Answer

Thoreson shared one of his personal life themes -- "Take advantage of the opportunity of a lifetime during the lifetime of the opportunity" -- meaning timing is everything. High-performing organizations capitalize on the events that open doors to unique opportunities.

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