Performance Culture vs. Growth Culture

This week I want to talk about the difference between a performance culture and a growth culture, and which is the better alternative. Entrepreneurs are all about results, they’re very bottom-line, results, and outcomes driven. They tend to value hard work and outcomes, sometimes at the expense of the soft side of their organization. So I want to distinguish between two kinds of cultures – A performance culture, which is pretty typical in small businesses and entrepreneurial firms, versus a growth culture, which tends to be a bit better. 

In a performance culture, the values are knowledge, expertise, intellect, experience, providing challenges, being driven, and identifying winners and losers. This is a great manager, and this is a poor manager, and so the great manager gets more of my time and attention, et cetera. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

A growth culture, by distinction, also has those qualities. We’re not saying those aren’t desirable qualities to have in your organization, but what a growth culture adds is safety, continuous learning, feedback loops, and how people feel. That may sound a little funny to some of you, but it is important in terms of deciding what kind of culture you want to have, identifying how that culture works for your people, and gauging how they feel about it.

Going back to safety, I don’t mean physical safety. The parking lot doesn’t have broken glass all over the ground, your 
employees are not going to be assaulted on the way to the front door, and they’re safe from the elements, and have comfortable working spaces, and all – that’s not the kind of safety I mean. What I’m talking about is psychological safety where you’re not going to have negative repercussions for making a small mistake. Psychological safety simply means that the culture allows for risk taking, and making a few mistakes without being brutalized. It doesn’t mean that people aren’t held accountable, it just means that the culture is understanding of mistakes. We don’t reward them, but we don’t have terrible punishments for them either. People are safe to stretch a little bit, and get out of their comfort zones, and make a few decisions that otherwise they may not make.

In either organization there’s a delicate balance between challenging your people, and nurturing your people. If you challenge them too much too often you’re going to break them down, you’re going to burn them out. On the other hand, if you don’t challenge them enough, people will stay in their comfort zones, and won’t grow and learn and add value to the organization over time. That’s not so bad, we all need cogs in the machine, but at the same time we want to make sure that we have enough challenge for our people.

Small business leaders are some of the most intense people you’re ever going to meet. They are driven, and focused, and so results oriented. But why can’t I be a happy achiever and let that happiness flow throughout the culture? Why can’t we have fun at the same time that we’re setting new sales records, and new customer satisfaction records, and all these other things?

Think about it this way, if you want to transform the culture in your organization from being a purely performance culture to be more of a growth mindset and a learning mindset, think less about negatives like just being a driving taskmaster, and think more about being a happy achiever, offering more pats on the back  and appreciations for your people. Tell people when they do a good job. It’s as simple as that.

Written by RLO Training

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