How to build a high-performance culture at work [5 Steps]

See higher profits, less churn, and better business outcomes

What separates a good team from a great one?

Many leaders are surprised to learn that it all comes down to culture. Research shows that building a culture of performance—where team members are engaged and work efficiently to achieve business goals—drives results.

Companies who invest in team culture with the same rigor as other business initiatives see higher profits, less churn, and better business outcomes than those who don’t.

So what does the path to becoming a high performance workplace actually look like? In this article, we’ll share 5 steps (and actionable tactics) to help you get there.

Performance culture: What is it?

High-performance culture means team members are engaged and work efficiently to achieve business goals.

This starts with hiring the right folks for the job, but it’s about much more than that too. Having a performance culture means being dedicated to building an environment that nurtures and inspires employees to achieve.

“A high performance workplace is a physical or virtual environment designed to make workers as effective as possible in supporting business goals and providing value. [It] results from continually balancing investment in people, process, physical environment and technology, to measurably enhance the ability of workers to learn, discover, innovate, team and lead, and to achieve efficiency and financial benefit.” — Gartner

In their book, Beyond Performance, McKinsey & Company's Scott Keller and Colin Price define three important characteristics of teams with high-performing culture.

  1. The ability to align: Gain clarity of vision, strategy, and shared employee behaviors
  2. The ability to execute: Move in the agreed-upon direction with minimal friction
  3. The ability to renew: Continuously improve at a pace that exceeds competitors

With those three characteristics in mind, here are some examples of what a performance culture looks like in action.

High-performing teams…

  • Share a collective vision and work together effectively to achieve it
  • Create core values and everyone at the organization works to uphold them
  • Understand how individual work ladders up to the bigger picture
  • Feel empowered, motivated, and determined to succeed
  • Operate with a baseline of openness and honesty
  • Trust each other to deliver work at a high bar
  • Rely on seamless processes and workflows that help work towards a shared direction
  • Display a growth mindset and opportunities to uplevel their skills are readily available
  • Attract, hire, and retain best-in-class talent

5 steps to build a high-performance work culture

In the following sections, we’ll walk through 5 steps to help you build a high-performance work culture.

1. Create a shared team vision

As humans, we crave purpose. Purpose gives us greater satisfaction in the things we do and, at work, helps drive results on high-performing teams.

"Purpose can be an important contributor to employee experience, which in turn is linked to higher levels of employee engagement, stronger organizational commitment, and increased feelings of well-being." — McKinsey & Company

One way we achieve purpose is by accomplishing big things together. This is why, as a team, a shared mission, goals, and core values are so important.

  • Mission: Your purpose in the world
  • Goals and objectives: The milestones you work toward together to achieve your mission—including business goals, team goals, and individual goals
  • Core values: Traits and qualities that represent your shared beliefs and driving forces, which guide how teammates make decisions and interact, both internally and externally (Ex: Integrity, transparency, fearlessness, inclusivity, honesty)

The word “shared” is key… and something that many teams inadvertently overlook. According to one study, only 15% of ICs and frontline managers feel purpose in their day-to-day work—that’s compared to 85% of execs. Your vision and goals won’t help much if they exist in a vacuum. So creating team and IC goals that ladder up to company ones, and connecting daily work to them, can help you close this purpose gap.

Connecting daily work to the bigger picture is powerful. It helps high-performing teams drive toward goals more effectively because they’re always top of mind, and gives individuals greater purpose in their work as they understand their value to the organization. It also builds accountability and ensures the right work gets prioritized to drive your shared vision forward.

Bring your daily work and goals together in Range. See how.

2. Keep information flowing and meetings to a minimum

You can’t move quickly and effectively if things are constantly getting in your way. Spending all day in meetings or hours tracking down project details are frictions that will slow your team down and prevent you from building a high performance culture. One way to solve for both is through more transparent, open communication.

Transparency in the workplace means that people know enough, at the right time, to feel empowered to make autonomous decisions.

Transparency can have a tremendous impact on performance culture. According to Deloitte, open communication is one of the most powerful ways to set teams up for success—especially in a remote or hybrid setting. Open communication gives folks clarity and leads to trust and autonomy. It also frees up more of your team’s time. When folks know where to look to find the information they need for their job, it reduces the number of meetings scheduled or hours spent hunting down details.

Tackling transparency with daily check-ins

One proven way to build up your team’s transparency is through daily check-ins, or written status updates. Why?

Because when updates happen in writing, you naturally build a source of truth that’s easier to reference or share with new teammates later on. Plus, it reduces the number of hours you’ll spend in meetings because everyone has a clear line of sight into in-flight work.

Check out daily check-ins in Range.

3. Make open feedback the norm

Feedback is how we grow, both as individuals and as teams.

High-performing teams approach feedback with the belief that their work can be better, and that they can grow their abilities over time. They look at the good, the bad, and the ugly—and learn from it all. This growth mindset helps teams thrive, but it doesn’t always come naturally. For some, feedback can feel like a deep personal challenge of character.

Here are some tactics you can use to strengthen your team’s skills when it comes to giving and receiving feedback.

Tips for more open feedback

  • Invest in psychological safety: You can’t have trust without psychological safety. Psychological safety is the belief that you won’t be punished or humiliated for your ideas or mistakes. It helps team members feel safe asking for feedback, taking risks, and being vulnerable with one another. And, according to findings from a two-year study on team performance at Google, it’s something all high-performing teams have in common.
  • Share experiences of growth and learning: Get in the habit of sharing examples of failure just as much as you share wins. As a manager, try sharing personal examples to show the rest of the team that failure is expected and encouraged—taking risks is how we grow.
  • Offer resources to help: Try the book Mindset, by Carol Dweck, Brené Brown’s feedback checklist, and the article “How to give better remote feedback” by our co-founder Jen Dennard.
  • Approach with curiosity and empathy: Done right, open feedback can help reinforce that you’re all on the same team, with the same objective: investing in growth. This, in turn, helps the person receiving the feedback be more open to understanding what’s being said, and be more likely to take action.

4. Celebrate work on a regular basis

Everyone likes to know when they’ve done good work. When we recognize and reward each other for a job well done—it not only feels good—but also builds team-wide momentum in the right direction. This positive reinforcement is one of the key elements that fuels a high performance culture.

Celebrating teammates for crushing it on a deadline or wowing the team with a presentation shows that we see and value their work, and motivates everyone to uphold that same level of excellence.

According to McKinsey, these cues we send out to each other on a regular basis are a key differentiator on high performing teams. Things like how meetings are structured or how performance reviews are conducted signal what behaviors and ways of thinking are valued, and ultimately encourage more or less of them.

Tips for building more celebration into your day-to-day

Recognizing a job well done can (and should) happen often—not just when you reach a big milestone or launch. Here are a few ways high performing teams add more celebration to the mix.

  • Add gratitude to your meetings: Spending the first or last 5 minutes of a meeting thanking teammates for their support and contributions can go a long way. Add it as a recurring agenda topic to your team meeting to ensure it happens every time.
  • Build in small moments of recognition: If your team shares daily check-ins or status updates, it can be a great, lightweight opportunity to lift up their work. (Pro-tip: Range makes it easy to celebrate wins and show everyone how much their work is valued with flags and emojis.)
  • Create and track smaller milestones: Along with your shared team goals and vision, map out smaller goals that you can tackle on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Daily goal tracking will help build accountability, ensure projects stay on track, and give folks something to rally around and celebrate on a more regular cadence.

5. Invest in your team's growth

Lastly, if you want to build a high performing culture, you’ve got to invest in your team. Building their skills and talent can help raise the bar for everyone at the org.

“Talented employees are ‘force multipliers’, raising the performance bar for their colleagues, and particularly for their direct reports. By word and deed, they model and teach winning behaviors that shape high-performing cultures. Simply adding a star performer to a team boosts the effectiveness of other team members by 5-15%.” — Harvard Business Review

This starts with understanding your team as individuals and recognizing their unique strengths and career goals. If you’re a manager, have regular conversations with your reports around growth and development, and create milestones (large and small) that can help them get there. Personalized coaching programs and mentorships—where you connect individuals with a career coach or another individual within your own organization—can help your team develop individual strengths and thrive.

If you’ve got the budget for it, invest in education and training opportunities for your team too. Empower folks to seek out educational opportunities (like classes, conferences, and more) and provide some examples to help get the gears turning.

3 benefits of a high-performance culture

From increased productivity to a healthier team environment, building a high-performance culture has a number of benefits.

1. Teams with a performance culture are more efficient

When your team has clear shared goals and less friction getting in the way of doing work, it’s easier to move it forward. Fewer meetings, better information-flow, and regular accountability around goals help folks stay aligned and fuel a more efficient work environment for everyone.

2. Individuals are more engaged and satisfied with their work

When your team is aligned around goals and work, individuals can more easily see how their day-to-day ladders up to the bigger picture. This, in turn, fosters greater individual accountability and engagement. When employees are engaged they have a higher sense of value too, because they feel like their contributions actually matter within the org.

3. Performance culture creates a healthier work environment

Investing in performance culture also makes your team one that folks want to work on—where psychological safety and trust are the norm, folks are supported taking risks, teammates can count on each other, and everyone has clear opportunities for growth and development.

Range can help you improve performance and build effective teams

Performance culture is what separates a good team and a great one. High performing teams attract and retain top talent, engage teammates and look out for their well-being, and work seamlessly and effectively towards goals together.

No matter where you are on your journey towards high performance, Range can help your team get there faster.

With tools to improve team goal setting and tracking, reduce frictions through better information-sharing, and celebrate and share feedback on work—Range empowers teams to reach their full potential.

With Range, you can:

  • Have fewer meetings & waste less time with async check-ins
  • Reduce meeting load by keeping every team member informed and connected
  • Easily share your plan and what you accomplished
  • Collaborate better with more effective meetings
  • Easily facilitate balanced discussions that make every meeting worthwhile

Try Range for Free

No credit cards required to practice better teamwork.
Smile EmojiChart EmojiStar EmojiSweat-Smile Emoji
Performance Culture: How to Build a High-Performance Culture + Benefits
  • Share with twitter
  • Share with linkedin
  • Share with facebook