In the rush to survive and excel in a complex, highly competitive, and volatile business environment, most organizations create toxic performance cultures that demand immediate results from their employees. However, instead of achieving sustainable growth, they end up overwhelming employees with heavy workloads and hostile work environments that compromise their ability to deliver. Due to the failure of performance-based cultures, most leadership experts are now promoting growth-based cultures as a more sustainable way of achieving organizational excellence.
Why A Performance-Based Culture Is Not Sustainable
Most organizations have a performance-based culture where leaders at all levels focus on delivering results rather than providing employees with a safe and stable working environment. The problem with the performance-based approach is that it creates a fear-based working environment where leaders focus on self-preservation. At the same time, workers are less incentivized to innovate or take risks. The result is high employee burnout and turnover, which leads to poor organizational performance.
While a performance-based culture can deliver stellar short-term results, the fear-based bursts of high productivity are not sustainable. Employees feel overwhelmed, unsupported, and exploited by their seniors and the organization. They eventually get burnt out and disengage, leading to a decline in performance. This results in poor individual and team performance, which hurts overall organizational performance.
Performance-driven cultures exacerbate individual insecurities by creating a zero-sum game where people are classified as winners or losers. While growth cultures also value results and reward success, the main difference is that they treat failures and shortcomings as essential to sustainable growth. Failure provides critical opportunities for learning and improving individual, team, and organizational capacity.
Building A Growth Culture
Instead of focusing on performance, organizations should instill a growth culture. The key to achieving sustainable growth is creating a safe working environment that encourages continuous learning, risk-taking, and feedback. Organizations should appreciate and reward risk-taking to drive innovation and instill a culture of mentoring and coaching novices and learning from each other.
When employees are supported with the resources they need to succeed, they feel empowered and tap into their intrinsic motivations to focus on growth and continual learning. They find meaning and value in their work and are more engaged and committed to the organization. Such employees are likely to thrive in their role and sustainably produce exceptional results.
Everyone should be committed to continuous learning for personal and team growth. Continuous feedback loops should be implemented throughout the organization to promote a continuous learning and growth culture.
Implementing a Growth Culture
Leaders should adopt a growth mindset in their leadership style and consistently employ a growth approach to the daily functioning of the organization. They should create a safe work environment where all workers can acknowledge and address their weaknesses. Workers should be encouraged to identify gaps in their understanding, skills, and capability to execute their role. This helps eliminate harmful behaviors such as information hoarding and dysfunctional competition that undermine organizational performance.
With a growth mindset, employees view their weaknesses and limitations as developmental opportunities rather than obstacles. They work collaboratively to address limitations and overcome functional silos that undermine productivity. They are willing to engage in iterative experimentation to learn and grow. The result is a collective drive to achieve sustainable personal, team, and organizational excellence.
Focus on The Four Components of Growth
In a growth culture, employees develop the capacity to identify and address their weaknesses. They acknowledge shortcomings and insecurities rather than acting them out unconsciously. They spend their energy collaborating and creating external value instead of defending their tuff. To build a sustainable growth culture, organizations need to focus on four components:
Safety and Stability
Organizations should create a work environment where workers feel safe. Leaders should lead by example by deliberately exposing their vulnerabilities and taking personal responsibility for their mistakes and shortcomings. With time, employees learn that fear and self-preservation narrow their perspectives, making their problems more complex than if they had guidance and support from others.
The key to achieving stability is creating a work environment where employees can trust their leaders and people within the organization. Leaders can create stability by being compassionate, providing employees with resources to succeed, transparency, clarity, and visionary leadership. Leaders should readily communicate about new changes and address the organization’s challenges. They should provide regular updates of new developments and provide context on issues that need clarity.
Organizations should embrace a culture of continuous learning through inquiry, risk-taking, curiosity, and transparency instead of self-preservation, judgment, and certainty. Create psychological safety by asking employees to contribute their ideas and expertise on different tasks and projects. Hold reviews to discuss mistakes and lessons learned from previous projects.
Organizations should continuously trial short-term experiments and pilot projects modeling new behaviors to test the response to new ideas and approaches that challenge the status quo. Leaders should encourage employees to experiment and fail forward fast. They should feel safe to expose themselves and take appropriate risks. Recognize bold ideas and innovations even if the project fails to achieve its objectives.
Organizations should create a feedback system that provides reviews up, down, and across the organization. The feedback loop should be premised on a shared commitment to help each other grow and become more effective in individual and team roles. For example, the management can create an anonymous communication line where employees assess each leader’s scores on measures such as authenticity, trust, honesty, intentions, integrity, standards, and results.
Developing a growth culture requires maintaining a delicate balance between challenging and nurturing employees to achieve their potential. Employees should be encouraged to expand their horizons with new, regularly assessed challenges, constant feedback, and reassurance. Leaders should build psychological safety that makes employees confident, optimistic, resilient, and willing to persevere with difficult work conditions.
Collaborate with Experts
Implementing a growth culture can be a daunting task, but it is much easier when you have a reliable partner to streamline your operations. Platinum Group helps clients improve operational efficiency by providing customized HR, payroll, and accounting solutions to meet challenging business demands.