Good leaders, reflecting on their own performance, start within the context of culture – “how are we riding as a team right now?”
- Is my team happy? Are my key stakeholders happy?
- Are we living the values we agreed?
- Are we improving where it counts, and is our pace right?
- What do my team need of me – who do I need to be for them right now?
For high performance culture needs to be front of mind and consistently assessed.
Although many leaders I talk to answer the above questions thoughtfully, what I often don’t hear are benchmarks to ascertain whether culture is building positively or being driven negatively – it’s going one way or the other at any given time, even in high performing teams. Without benchmarks, assessing culture is often tied to hoping, wishing and waiting for something to change or get better.
The environment (the ‘big picture’ – the overall purpose – of what we’re doing) creates the performance standards. The structure/systems (the dimensions of organisation and planning) creates the performance benchmarks. A great leader will never take their eye off these two pillars that drive the results achieved.
Here are three questions to consistently benchmark your team culture:
1. Is my team building momentum? (ENVIRONMENT DIMENSION)
Do you feel confident that progress is being made, for example, within your people capability, systems, or results? If so, is the progress being measured to know that outcomes are visibly and positively impacting your organisation? If there is measurable progress that is building momentum, culture is being positively built.
2. What structures (systems, processes, etc.) need to be developed, maintained or improved? (STRUCTURE DIMENSION)
This question distinguishes high performing teams. Momentum without structure is a waste of time and effort. If there is consistent focus on the core operation (engine room) of what your team does (building core, maintaining core, optimising core), culture is being positively built.
3. How is my team treating each other? (PEOPLE DIMENSION)
Great culture relies on having the right people on board.
Everyone contributes to the culture positively or negatively in any interaction, making everyone responsible for it. Culture is much more than Friday night drinks and birthday morning teas – these things are the outcomes of culture. Team culture is built from what is behind the scenes, based on a standard of gratitude and appreciation. To what degree does your team demonstrate:
- Trust and taking care “I have your back, and I know you have mine”
- Strong communication and collaboration
- 100% commitment to promises made
- Open feedback and transparency
- Willingness to lean in with a ‘can do’ attitude
- Having fun
The easiest way to know culture is slipping is to notice how your team is treating each other. If there is less care, less kindness and less reciprocal giving, it’s time to talk about culture and get everyone back on track.
One of the most important things to obsess over as a leader is your team culture. High performance starts with culture. Knowing benchmarks for assessing whether your culture is moving north or south at any given time can ensure you focus on the things that are going to build positive momentum in your team.
How does your team stack up on the cultural benchmarks: momentum, structure, and people? Are you ready to take your leadership performance to the next level? What would a positive culture boost mean for your team?