How to build a positive performance culture in 6 practical steps

Sick of hearing about corporate culture?  Don’t be, there is always work to do!  Here are some practical tips.

What is a corporate culture?

Often summarised as ‘the way we do things around here’, culture is about the norms of an organisation that are talked about and demonstrated that show over time what the organisation values and how the place works.

We know that societies have initiations, rituals, sanctions, taboos and celebrations as part of their culture, so too do organisations.  Some organisations let this evolve overtime but more and more we see that organisations are taking a good hard look at the culture they want and then working actively to shape or change it.

How can you build or change a culture?

Culture is developed and sustained by the way the organisation consistently treats its customers, clients, staff and suppliers.  Actions that are rewarded and respected are the actions that are valued in the culture.  Poor behaviour, sloppy work and poor interactions with customers that are ignored, also communicate what is acceptable.  Signs, symbols, workspaces and the look of an organisation also give clear messages about what the organisation values and sees as important.  If there is conflict between articulated values and what is seen to be happening, then of course we believe what we see.  A perceived conflict between stated values and action is additionally undermining to any organisation and culture.

Everyone has an impact on culture but supervisors and senior managers have most impact.  Leadership shapes the culture!  Here are some questions and focus points to assist you to think about culture.

Who we are and what we stand for

The key steps are:

  1. Work out and write down what you stand for as a business or organisation. This gives a clear sense of purpose related to what you do.
  • We exist to……………………….and that makes a difference because …….…………………..
  1. Work out where you are going. Where will you be in 12 months, 2 years and three years?
  • Our priorities for the next 12 months in the business are………………..
  • Where the business is going in the next 2 to 3 years is………………….

The work we do and what we achieve

  1. Work out and write down what you value most in how you do business. This gives a clear sense of the values and ethics of the business.  You need to consider this from the point of view of customers/clients, staff and stakeholders/shareholders.
  • How we work with our customers/clients is………………………..
  • How we show our staff we value them is by………………
  • The way we build business relationships with our key suppliers is………….

 To achieve these goals, and support how you do business what actions will you take to show the staff that you value them. The actions you don’t take also send a big message to staff about what you value/don’t value:

  • Behaviours we want and will recognise and reward include………………
  • Behaviours we don’t want and won’t accept include……………………….

The ease or challenge in doing a good job

  1. What processes and systems are in place to support people to perform well and act in ways that help them be productive and deliver business goals?


  • Transparency in communication about business priorities and goals
  • Delegations
  • Decision making and approvals process
  • Communication about decisions made and changes needed
  • Depth of technical knowledge in the business
  • Documented processes for business-critical activities
  • IT and other resources and ease of getting work done
  • Ease of finding information that is relevant to the job and the organisation
  • Financial accountability or respect for resources
  • Link between performance, level of responsibility and salary
  • Succession plan for key roles
  • Visibility of key deliverables and projects to customers and staff
  • Accountability and responsibility for work done and behaviour at work

The way people are valued and connected

  1. What specific actions show people feel they are valued in the business and connected to each other?


  • Work environment including the resources and the look of the place
  • Conditions for employees
  • Visibility of senior managers
  • Access to senior managers
  • Leadership skills of senior managers
  • Clarity of expectations about performance and conduct
  • A sense that the work they do makes a difference to the business and is connected to business results
  • Ways for people to have a say in improving how they do their work and the results they can achieve
  • Performance that gets ignored
  • Performance that gets rewarded
  • Behaviour that gets rewarded
  • Behaviour that gets ignored
  • Opportunities for social connection or to get to know each other on a personal level
  • Opportunities for professional development and growth
  • Respect for others and tolerance of diversity

Where to start? – ask your staff members ‘what 3 changes would make is easier for you to do your job and enjoy working here?

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