Leaders never aim for mediocrity but for excellence. Do you agree? Who wakes up in the morning and thinks, “let’s have some mediocre results today!”. Not very likely. Leaders want to utilise full potential, chase hyper-growth, build an effective organisation and create lasting change. The fact of the matter is that:

Many leadership, corporate culture and training and development programs produce only short-term gains that fade away as teams go back to their old habits.

This means that the main challenge for any leadership team is to build a lasting culture of excellence throughout the entire organisation. The key to moving your organization from the status quo to an expectation of excellence is your corporate culture. When you build a culture of excellence, you create organizational capacity and a structure that empowers focuses and engages employees.

You shift from an ad-hoc problem-solving culture to nurturing long-lasting mindset of change and growth. Don’t get me wrong, I believe any culture should be able to deal with ad-hoc issues, but what I’m talking about here is the deep underlying DNA of the company. You equip your teams with the right mindset and skills necessary to focus on creating the desired results.

The key to moving your organization from the status quo to an expectation of excellence is your corporate culture.

How does your company culture impact your results?

A company culture works like the foundation of a skyscraper. It’s the same with your business. If you don’t have the right strong foundation in place, you won’t achieve your performance goals—no matter how much time and money you spend. Many executives mistakenly think of corporate culture as an intangible concept. Culture goes way beyond the inspirational quotes on the wall, the colourful bean bags and the pool table in the canteen. In interviews I’ve done with several industry leaders the idea sometimes exists that you can fix the culture by team building activities or skill training. I agree the development of your human resources is critical, but these types of one time events are merely putting out little bushfires without considering the current climate or environment.

Team building activities and training sessions tend to address only the symptoms and not the core problem of a culture.

Even though culture is sometimes referred to as something intangible, it definitely is tangible and can be quantified and measured. By prioritising culture you are unlocking the full potential of a company and are accessing real growth. Key characteristics of a culture of excellence are:

1. Purpose and Meaning

Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs clearly show that the three core needs any human being has are:

  • Feeling safe
  • Sense of belonging
  • To Matter

In a culture of excellence, employees feel all three needs. Employees feel safe because there is a sense of trust. They feel part of something bigger than themselves, a bigger purpose, and sincerely have a sense of belonging to the organisation. In addition, when employees feel that their contribution makes a difference they’ll be more likely to give all they have and aim for excellence.

2. High Performance focused

Up or Out was one of the core values at Deloitte when I started my career. I remember this was rooted in the organisation and everyone was always motivated to perform at the highest level. It’s important to encourage high performance because it often happens that companies focus on ad-hoc problem solving instead of executing the long-term vision. The danger is that by doing this you shift focus from what is really important to ad-hoc stuff. An organisation that is able to build a culture of excellence sets an expectation of high performance organization-wide. Every employee is expected and encouraged to grow in their position and expertise. High performers are nurtured, rewarded, mentored and recognized, and average performers are coached to move into the high-performance category. Up or out.

3. Clear Vision

To have the organisation’s vision spray-painted on a wall or have the manifesto printed all t-shirts is a start. But to achieve a culture of excellence, every employee must understand not only the company’s vision, but also know their own roles, responsibilities and the specific actions they need to take in order to help achieve this vision. I like to compare it with a soccer team where everyone understands what is at stake and where to score. In the team, the roles and responsibilities of all the team members are clear and they have each other’s back. This way everyone knows the way to go, their why and trusts each other blindly along the way.

4. Embrace Change, Challenges and Growth

Everyone wants change. But only a few people want to change. This is fundamentally the biggest challenge to change. Because change is messy, frustrating and painful. This is why most organisations aren’t big fans of change and challenges. The view usually is that changes distract employees from organisational goals. Reality is that the companies that embrace change and challenges are the ones that can achieve excellence. Change and daily progress are crucial values to thriving in today’s digital world. In a culture of excellence, employees develop flexibility and resilience to deal with challenges, change and uncertainty.

5. Pioneer Mentality

Building a culture of excellence means you aim for excellence and won’t settle for mediocre results. It’s about focusing on creating something that has never been created before, breaking records and achieving unprecedented results. Elon Musk is the embodiment of pioneering. His companies (Paypal, Tesla, SpaceX) are breaking new barriers and opening up new grounds. Employees and teams are encouraged to explore, nurture and co-create to achieve common goals.

What do you do in your organisation to build a culture of excellence? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.


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