Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher said, “It’s the intangibles that are the hardest things for a competitor to imitate. You can get an airplane. You can get ticket-counter space; you can get baggage conveyors. But it is our esprit des corps – the culture, the spirit – that is truly our most valuable competitive asset.” Two decades of research shows that an organization’s culture is the key factor in its performance. A multi-year Harvard Business school study on the links between corporate culture and performance found that high performance cultures resulted in 682% revenue growth versus just 166% for low-performing cultures. Net income growth was 756% versus 1%!!

The accelerating pace of change, new technologies, customer demands, e-commerce, workforce demographics, business model challenges, fierce competition, shareholder expectations, margin pressures, shrinking cycle times, shifting work ethics, and the like are pulling organizations in many directions. Now, more than ever, teams and organizations need the bonding glue of a strong culture to hold everything and everyone together.

High performing teams and organizations pull together the intangible leadership issues that define their unique character and rally people around a deeper sense of purpose. These powerful feelings are made tangible through the strong implementation of management processes and systems that translate ideals into action. It’s recognizing that vision without an action plan is just a dream. Action without a vision is drudgery.

Here are three favorite articles of mine on building a high performance culture. They are excerpted from Pathways to Performance: A Guide to Transforming Yourself, Your Team, and Your Organization :

Three Core Questions That Define Organizational Culture

The 3 Ps — picture or preferred future, principles, and purpose — are critically important questions. Our answers to these three basic questions define the team and/or organizational culture we are trying to create.

How Many Companies Lose That Loving Feeling

Many successful companies are started by passionate zealots, full of energy and excitement. But once the Technomanagers take over, people are turned into their roles, systems, and processes — then their heart and soul are lost.

Leaders Care for Organization Culture and Context

Redefining a leader’s role from operational manager to context leader, can be one of the key factors in the success of dealing with change in the organization. They spend less time managing the day-to-day business and more time caring for the organization’s culture.

I give 60 – 90 minute keynote presentations and half, one, or two-day customized management team retreats or workshops on Building a High Performance Culture. Details are available here: