Creating A Culture Of Accountability And High Performance

Trudy featured in UK magazine VQ this month.

This month Trudy MacDonald, Managing Director TalentCode HR is featured in the Vistage UK Magazine – VQ discussing how to create a culture of accountability and high performance. Vistage operates in 16 countries around the world to support leaders make better decisions and achieve better results.


Creating A Culture Of Accountability And High Performance

As business leaders think about what ‘greatness’ looks like in their future, there is a common factor that all CEOs should be considering – doing more of the same is not an option.

The metaphor I use for businesses in this context is that they are like a sphere. The calibre of people within businesses, the outputs they deliver and the behaviours they demonstrate determine where the centre of gravity sits on the sphere. If most people are ‘great’, the centre of gravity will be towards the front of the sphere so it maintains forward momentum. However, if most people are ‘good’, the centre of gravity will shift back towards the centre of the sphere and the sphere will be standing still.

What does this mean in practice? If your average person in business is ‘good’ the business won’t achieve or maintain the forward momentum it needs to maintain a sustainable competitive advantage. Businesses need more ‘great’ people and this is achieved by having a deliberate and well executed talent management strategy.

A combination of poor financial performance, sales growth, staff retention and market share are all signs that business may have lost their forward momentum. This is often because they have not recently taken the time to re-evaluate what they are striving to achieve.

■ Adopting a strategic approach to talent

For many businesses, the first step in developing a more effective talent management strategy is to get the broader business strategy right. An effective talent management strategy needs to be directly aligned to the business strategy.

At the very core of a talent management strategy is what I refer to as the ‘heart of greatness’ – a set of deliberate practices that that are used to guide every aspect of people and performance.

In the spirit of simplicity, these practices are:

■ Defining greatness

1) Defining what success looks like for the business as a whole.

2) Determining what greatness looks like for the leader and the leadership team. This includes defining leadership at a high level and then going into more detail on the key outcomes and areas of responsibility the leadership team need to pursue.

3) Cascading the concept of ‘greatness’ to every level of the business. The outcome is that every employee and manager has a clear definition of what greatness looks like in their specific role. This is a significant undertaking, but it naturally progresses once the first two steps are in place.

This is a mindset shift for businesses that aren’t used to conceptualising greatness. They might be used to defining ‘good’, or ‘good enough’, however many won’t have taken this a step further and consider what exceptional performance looks like.

■ Measuring greatness

There are two key considerations when businesses look to measure greatness. The first is how to embed the disciplines of accountability across the business. This goes well beyond traditional performance reviews and extends to creating a cultural shift whereby everyone is having regular, meaningful conversations about the things that matter. These frameworks will look a little different in every business but the core purpose is to ensure that staff and leaders are constantly being held accountable.

The second consideration is around creating a culture whereby people want to be great. This is where a program of leadership development is critical to ensure that leaders have the skills, capability and frameworks for engaging, coaching and developing their teams to perform at their best.

It’s important to remember that accountability isn’t punishment, it’s something that people need and look for. Accountability creates goals, a sense of achievement and purpose, all of which are critical for driving a high performance workforce.

■ Rewarding greatness

Reward is often misunderstood to be just about the money. Financial rewards can be very effective if structured around achieving ‘greatness’ however most businesses reward good and subsequently end up paying more than they should be for the results that they achieve. A well structured reward strategy should incorporate:

1) Financial and non-financial rewards
l A clear link between rewards and performance

2) Alignment with the strategy of the business

At a basic level, financial rewards need to be fair to both the business and the employee. Beyond this, the decision to implement financial and non-financial rewards, such as incentive schemes, work flexibility, development opportunities or project opportunities will depend on the overall culture and strategic objectives of the business.

■ Keeping it simple

If the above three steps sound simple, that’s because they are. A good talent management strategy is one that is clear and well defined, and this hinges on simplicity. The key is in the relentless and consistent execution of the talent management strategy. With this momentum behind a business, greatness become less of an aspiration and more of a reality, which is underpinned by an equally great culture.