Pizza or Performance?

Many leaders I meet will tell me that they have good cultures. They’re justifiably proud of their companies, their people, and the environment in which those people work. But when I press a little harder and ask what they mean by a “good” culture, I hear things like this:

  • Our people get along
  • Our people are engaged
  • Our people like coming to work

And when I ask their people what makes it a “good” culture, they add things like:

  • I feel appreciated
  • I enjoy the people I work with
  • We have pizza every Friday
  • We can wear jeans
  • We have flexible hours
  • No one is on me about results

In contrast, a “high performing” culture is not about pizza and wearing jeans. It’s about achieving results. It’s about getting everyone to perform at the highest level possible.

What’s the goal?

To be sure, you’ll never get your people to perform at the highest level if they’re not engaged, don’t enjoy their work, or don’t feel appreciated. But the goal isn’t having everyone feel good. The goal is to increase productivity so the company can achieve its objectives. Having everyone feel good is a means to an end; it’s not the end itself.

“Good” cultures tend to be the domain of the HR department. It’s their job to see that everyone’s needs are met. “High performing” cultures, on the other hand, are driven by the senior leadership team, and more specifically, the CEO.

Most of us intuitively know that the culture of an organization directly impacts how its people perform. And if it affects how they perform, it affects the results. So creating a “high performing” culture, one in which people perform at the highest level, is one of the most important strategic initiatives you can take on as a CEO.

It’s about performance, not pizza.

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