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Stuart Lancaster, the previous England Rugby Manager, had a philosophy that “culture proceeds performance”. It was a slogan that was written on the walls around Twickenham. What this meant was that the delivery of sustainable performance requires the creation of the right environment and culture in order for it to thrive.

Another famous leader, Ron Dennis, former CEO of McLaren F1 motor racing said that the hardest part of managing an elite team is “making sure that everyone is pointing in the same direction!” By this, he was referring to the unity of purpose and alignment of the whole team towards a central goal.

When you examine successful leaders throughout sport and business, there is a notable similarity. They all have created high performance cultures by focusing on creating an environment where their people could perform.

Most have had the foresight and team around them to help them turn this intangible idea into something measurable. As we expand our work with global business to help create the environment for high performance, there are two questions that keep cropping up:

1.What is culture?
2.How do you measure culture?

When MyPeople’s analysts first encountered these questions in sport, a very long, philosophical debate ensued around the definition of culture. As those from an academic background will often tell you, “If you can’t define it, you can’t measure it.”

Well, our team is heavily academic and we went around and around on this question until there was a breakthrough. The question we were trying to answer was the wrong question! The real question is:

Where is culture?

Examining this question bought us far more information, data and ultimately answers. In fact, the fundamental answer to this question is deceptively simple. Culture can be found in the interactions between people in your organisation. It’s in the way that people behave towards one another. It’s the relationships between people in your organisation.

Suddenly research papers and studies came flying towards us showing how the quality of relationships impact performance regardless of whether it relates to sporting or business financial performance.

Research suggested that the quality of communication has a significant impact on performance.

The freedom to share ideas in a team and the feeling that you will be listened to by your managers and peers directly correlates with performance.

In addition, the alignment of individuals and teams around values and a shared purpose links to performance improvement. Those without shared values perform less well in studies than teams and organisations with strongly shared values.

And suddenly, we realised that by asking “where is the culture of an organisation?” instead of “what is the culture?” we had found the answer as to how culture can really be measured.

To conclude, if you are serious about wanting to create and measure a high performance culture, you must first find out where culture is in your organisation?

Christian Hughes, CEO – MyPeople Group

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