Forget Elon - You Need a Healthy Performance Culture

Forget Elon… We All Need a Healthy Performance Culture!

Growing a company into a highly successful organization is incredibly demanding and full of risks.  In fact, somewhere between 75% to 90% of all companies fail.  It shouldn’t be a surprise that research shows that companies with a strong idea, a good business model, ideal timing, and generous investors are more likely to be successful.  But what the research doesn’t acknowledge is that these things don’t just happen on their own.  High Performing People make them happen!

  • Idea – Industry disrupting ideas and technology does not design or build itself.  High Performing People do.
  • Business Model – Loyal customers willing to pay for your products and services don’t just pop into existence.  High Performing People find the customers, build relationships with them, and gain their loyalty.
  • Timing – Having a perfectly timed product hit the market is not luck.  High Performing People make their own luck by finding opportunities that not only fill their customer’s needs, but are executable. 
  • Funding – Investment and funding will not rain down on you because you have a compelling vision.  Investors are actually investing in High Performing People that not only creates that vision but can execute it.

High Performing People is at the heart of why some companies succeed while others fail, and in order to attract, retain, grow, and harness those High Performing People you need to have a High Performance Culture.  But at the same time, we shouldn’t go down the same path as Elon and Twitter, demanding a “hardcore work environment with long hours at high intensity.”  High Performance isn’t about results at all costs or pushing people to the verge of burnout.  It is possible to reap the benefits of High Performing People but doing it in a sustainable way.  We call it a Healthy Performance Culture.

Healthy Performance Culture

The Value of a Healthy Performance Culture
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Healthy Performance Cultures Pay Huge Dividends

High Performing People is at the heart of why some companies succeed while others fail, and in order to attract, retain, grow, and harness those High Performing People you need to have a Healthy Performance Culture.  Don’t believe me?  Research shows that Healthy Performance Cultures pay huge dividends:

  • Companies with a Healthy Performance Culture have 33% higher revenue than their normal competitors.
  • A Healthy Performance Culture leads to a 41% reduction in absenteeism, a 17% increase in productivity, and 59% less employee turnover.  
  • Finally, companies with a Healthy Performance Culture outperform their competitors by 300%.

Imagine what your company could accomplish with a Healthy Performance Culture?  What could you accomplish if your employees were so productive they delivered six days of results in five days?  What kind of strategic initiatives could you fund if you had 33% more revenue?  How much faster would you grow if you outperformed your competitors by 300%?

Unfortunately, too many leaders only talk a good game about Healthy Performance Cultures.  Even though they say it is critical, there is always a huge list of other things (customer issues, new regulations, emerging competition, etc…) that occupies their attention.  So a company’s Culture initiatives are often low priority.  And even when leaders do focus on People & Culture work, they spend the majority of their time on operational issues such as recruitment and ensuring legal compliance).  If leaders truly want to grow their company into something amazing, hiring a recruiter or an HR generalist isn’t enough.  They need to make building a Healthy Performance Culture their top priority. 


What is a Healthy Performance Culture
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What specifically is a Healthy Performance Culture?

The good news is that building a Healthy Performance Culture is not that hard or complex.  At its core, a Healthy Performing Culture is composed 4 things:

  1. Sustainably Delivering Critical Priorities – Everyone within a Healthy Performance Culture needs to be crystal clear on the top three business priorities over the immediate future.  We need to acknowledge that we cannot deliver everything for everyone.  By narrowing our focus, it helps everyone be aligned and working together. 
  2. Role Modeling the Right Way of Working – Once there are clear business priorities, leaders should ensure that everyone is working in a way that is aligned to those priorities.  This includes how the organization is structured, how the processes are aligned, and how employees and teams are meant to work together.  This is where your Culture becomes a daily reality, and not just a hollow slogan.
  3. Proactively Building Strategic Capabilities – A clear way of working together helps leaders understand what type of talented people they need within their organization.  Some of them they will need to hire, and some they will be able to grow.  Your people need to understand that their growth is a part of their job, not some extra thing they do in their personal hours.
  4. Aligning Leadership to Healthy Performance Principles – Finally, clarity on people capabilities will shape what kind of leadership and communication is required in your company.  There is no recipe for the perfect leader, but some types will work better for some cultures than others.

That’s it…  If you want your company to succeed and grow faster than you ever imagined, then you need to ensure these four things.


Tools to Build a Healthy Performance Culture
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Don’t use a Jackhammer to hang art on the wall

A Healthy Performance Culture requires the right people and right leaders to work together in the right way and on the right priorities.  That being said, not all companies require the same level of Healthy Performance tools and mindsets.  For example, a startup with 40 people does not need a formal performance management software system, when a quarterly discussion on goals is sufficient.  But a 400+ scaleup without any structured performance conversations is missing some key building blocks.

The simple truth is that the tools you use to build and sustain a Healthy Performance Culture evolves as your company grows in size. Leaders of startups or scaleups shouldn’t spend time or effort on complex tools to build their Healthy Performance Culture.  It just isn’t worth it.  Instead they should be deploying simple and practical ways to build their Healthy Performance Culture.

We recommend keeping things simple, and instead of rolling out tons and tons of Healthy Performance Culture initiatives, you should start with four.  Basically one initiative per dimension of a Healthy Performance Culture.  For example, we would recommend a scaleup with between 50-125 full time employees to start with the following initiatives:

  • All Hands Goal – Every 6 months, identify 1-2 “All Hands Goals” that everyone must contribute towards.  These are your company’s make or break goals that will keep everyone focused. 
  • Design In Nimbleness – At this size of a company, processes should be highly adaptable to fit an ever changing environment.  Allow for deviations, but only if they are critical to achieving your top 3 priorities.  
  • Build a Strong Onboarding – At smaller sizes, new hires can learn processes and the culture organically.  At this size, they can’t.  A structured onboarding process is needed to help new joiners achieve success.
  • Develop Your Leaders – Leadership development is critical.  Ignore a lot of the fancy leadership models, and instead focus on the foundations of great people management.


Building a Healthy Performance Culture
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Building Your Healthy Performance Culture Starts Today

I am not going to lie, a Healthy Performance Culture is not going to solve all of your company’s problems (customers, competition, product fit, etc…).  Even companies filled with incredibly talented people working in a Healthy Performance Culture can still fall apart.  But the quality of the people within your company will be what determines whether or not you will overcome those problems.  High Performing Talent in a Healthy Performance Culture gives you the best chance at overcoming every problem you face.

The real problem most leaders need to address is prioritizing the culture within their company.  I know it can be easy for Founders and Executives to postpone working on their culture in favor of addressing some more “burning” problems.  But leadership through firefighting will only help with short term success.  Building your Healthy Performance Culture is what sets you up for success over the years to come.


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Cary Bailey–Findley has built High Performance Cultures within three Fortune 500 companies, and was awarded the ranking of #1 development organization in the world by the Association of Talent Development. He is currently the Talent Manager for SimCorp, but spends his free time helping startups scale up the the talent they need to succeed.

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