Leading a High-Performance Culture

How to Foster an Energizing Environment That Inspires Peak Performance

A Customized and Practical “How-to” Half, One, or Two-Day Workshop

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, organizations need the bonding glue of a strong culture to hold everything and everyone together.

High performing 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.

Jim Wrote the Books on Building a High-Performance Culture

Jim and his associates have spent almost thirty years helping thousands of managers in hundreds of organizations build high-performance organizations. As cofounder of The Achieve Group, Jim Clemmer worked with California-based Zenger Miller (both are now part of AchieveGlobal) and Tom Peters to help executive teams implement a cultural change process called Toward Excellence.

Jim’s first book, The VIP Strategy, was built around Achieve’s “Vision Integrated Performance” model for cultural change and leadership development. His second book, Firing on All Cylinders, built upon Achieve and Zenger Miller’s highly successful experiences in helping organizations develop the skills, processes, and culture to reach higher levels of service and quality. His next book, Pathways to Performance extended his research and rapidly growing experience with management teams further. The Leader’s Digest provides a framework for leadership development.

The “Leading a High-Performance Culture” workshop draws from the deep expertise of The CLEMMER Group associates, the Achieve/Zenger Miller experiences, and Jim’s best-selling books.

Workshop Menu

Each workshop is tailored to the audience and organizational circumstances. Following is an overview of the main sections that Jim can draw from in customizing a session for each Client.

The What and Why of High-Performance Cultures

  • The Payoffs of a High-Performance Culture
  • Common Characteristics of High Performing Cultures
  • Defining our Desired Culture

Why Most Change Efforts Fail

  • Research Shows 50–70% of Improvement Efforts Fail
  • Assessing Ourselves Against the Top Failure Factors
  • From Failure Factors to High-Performance Stepping Stones
  • Moving From Bolt-on Programs to Built-in Cultural Leadership Processes

The Performance Balance

For a brief overview of the material covered in this section click here and here.

  • Finding the Right Balance: Technology, Management, Leadership
  • Managing Things and Leading People
  • Soft Skills, Hard Results: Harnessing the Power of Emotional Intelligence for Cultural Leadership

Pathways to a High-Performance Culture

While some development and change efforts may shift a few short-term performance indicators, many initiatives fail to change the very character and fabric of the team or organization. These efforts often make surface-level changes. But few are integrated with a systematic and strategic approach to high performance.

Transformation Pathways

The Pathways Framework has evolved over many years of best practices research and very successful use with hundreds of management teams. The process used here is a highly iterative one. It is tailored to the main areas that participants want to focus upon or feel they need to address in more depth.

Here’s the typical process used in a one or two-day workshop:

  • Differences Between Surface-Level Change versus a Deeper Level of Cultural Transformation
  • Overview of the Six Key Areas of the Compass Model (“Pathways Framework” below)
  • Gap Analysis (comparing current performance with desired performance) around each of the Transformation Pathways
  • Identifying the Team/Organization’s Most Critical Pathways to Higher Performance
  • Exploring Best Practices and Brainstorming Options for Each Top Pathway (an extensive workbook provides a menu of highly researched “Issues and Ideas” for every Pathway)
  • Establishing Key Action/Implementation Ideas

Pathways Framework

For an overview of the “compass model” used in this section and more depth on each Pathway click here.

Focus and Context (Vision, Values, and Purpose)

  • Common Pitfalls and Traps
  • Defining/Reenergizing Vision, Values, and Purpose/Mission at the Culture’s Core
  • Bringing Alive Vision, Values, and Purpose


  • From the Outside In: Building a More Customer-Centered Culture
  • Strengthening Internal Partnerships for Customer-Centeredness and High-Performance
  • Working with External Partners (suppliers, distributors, alliances)

Strategy and Direction

  • Aligning Strategy, Structure, and Roles for Higher Performance
  • Establishing Clear Goals and Priorities
  • Designing a Goal Deployment System for Disciplined Follow-through

Measures and Rewards

  • Balancing Leading Indicators (operational and service/quality) with Lagging Indicators (financial)
  • Establishing a Feedback-Rich Culture for Continuous Learning and Improvement
  • Traditional Management-Based Reward Systems and Recognition Practices versus Leadership-Based Approaches
  • Keys to Effective Reward and Recognition
  • Continuous Improvement Through Reviewing, Assessing, Celebrating, and Refocusing

Processes and Systems

  • Managing Processes at the Tactical, Cross-Functional, and Strategic Levels
  • Vital Steps to Strategic Process Management for Boosting Performance
  • Key Organizational Support Systems
  • Identifying Symptoms of System Problems That Reduce Performance and Frustrate Everyone

Learning and Development

  • Elements of Effective Education and Communications Strategies, Systems, and Practices
  • Aligning Skill Development in Technology, Management, and Leadership for Dramatically Higher Performance
  • Common Reasons That Most Groups Aren’t Teams
  • Twelve-Point Team Effectiveness Framework
  • Symptoms and Causes of Organizational Innovation/Learning Disabilities
  • Keys to Innovation and Organizational Learning
  • Building a Strong Planning Process and Infrastructure for Implementation of High-Performance Activities

Timeless Leadership Principles for Team and Organization Success

Unimproving managers rarely develop improving organizations. High-performance cultures and leadership are closely related. Part of changing “them” involves changing me. High performing cultures are only possible through high-performance leadership. High performing leaders are well-rounded and constantly expanding their personal “leadership wheel” across the “Timeless Leadership Principles.”

This section builds on Jim’s best-selling book, The Leader’s Digest: Timeless Principles for Team and Organization Success and may also draw from the accompanying Practical Application Planner.

Depending upon the length and focus of the workshop, the process typically used starts with an overview of each of the following Leadership Principles. Participants then assess their team/organization. From here, small breakout discussion groups or the whole group (depending upon workshop size and objectives) review application exercises and brainstorm potential application ideas. The workshop usually finishes with setting practical action plans.

Focus and Context: Points of Origin

  • Where Are We Going?
    • Are we confusing goals and vision?
    • How alive is our vision?
    • How important is it for us to improve this?
  • What Do We Believe In?
    • Do we have core values?
    • How alive are our values?
    • How important is it for us to improve this?
  • Why Do We Exist?
    • Do we have a powerful purpose statement?
    • How alive is our purpose?
    • How important is it for us to improve this?

Responsibility for Choices: From Victim to Victor

  • Identifying and Eliminating “Victim Speak” in Our Team/Organization
  • Ten Ways We May Be Disempowering Ourselves
  • Strategies for Busting Our Barriers to Peak Performance
  • Focusing on Areas of Direct Control and Influence While Letting Go of No Control Areas/Issues

Authenticity: Let’s Get Real

  • Assessing and Addressing Trust and Credibility Gaps
  • Leading by Example: What Behaviors Do We Need to Change to Change Their Behavior?
  • Identifying and Dealing with Our Biggest “Moose-on-the-Table“.

Passion and Commitment: All Fired Up

  • Assessing our Leadership Against the Top Ten Commitment Indicators
  • Prioritizing our Key Factors for Engaging Much Stronger Commitment in Our Organization
  • Loyalty Leadership: Retaining Our Top People

Spirit and Meaning: Matters of the Heart

  • Identifying and Addressing Our Five Biggest Spirit Killers
  • Which Stage Are We at on the Hierarchy of Spirit and Meaning?
  • Establishing Our Preferred Stage and How to Get There
  • Keys to Bringing a Deeper Sense of Pride to Our Team/Organization

Growing and Developing: All That We Can Be

  • The “Fish Tank Factor”: Measuring the Size of the Environment We’ve Built
  • The Coach’s Playbook: Assessing and Strengthening Coaching Effectiveness
  • Helping Team Members Get the Most from Training

Mobilizing and Energizing: Inspiring Peak Performance

  • Identifying Top Team/Organization Energy Drains and How to Plug the Leaks
  • Eight Factors to Build High-Performance Teams: Assessing Our Effectiveness
  • Meeting Effectiveness Checklist: What Should We Keep, Stop, and Start Doing?
  • Steps to Recharging with Recognition, Celebration, and Appreciation
  • Information versus Communication: Keys to Inspiration through Verbal Communications

Workshop Options

Customizing any “Leading a High-Performance Culture” workshop starts with defining the key objectives and outcomes of the session.


For Management and/or Frontline Staff

This is generally an interactive and inspirational session that reinforces or provides participants with an “edutaining” overview of the keys to a high-performance culture and leadership. A few assessment and application exercises may be selected on the basis of pre-workshop discussions and customization.


For Management and/or Frontline Staff

Participants complete a greater number of the assessment and application exercises from The Leader’s Digest: Practical Application Planner and/or extensive “Leading a High-Performance Culture” workbook. Participants may assess personal, team, or organizational effectiveness across Transformation Pathways and/or the Timeless Leadership Principles. This helps determine which Pathways or Principles they want to complete as a whole group or in small discussion groups (depending upon the key issues and number of people in the session). The amount of time and depth in each agenda area is determined by preworkshop discussions and customization.


For Management Staff and/or Blending with Staff (see next option)

Participants typically complete all assessments and application exercises in The Leader’s Digest: Practical Application Planner and may start selected ones in Growing the Distance: Personal Implementation Guide. They get deep into the key leadership issues that need to be addressed and develop detailed action plans. Key priorities, next steps, and follow-through processes are established.

Progressive Blending for Staff and/or Various Management Levels

This starts as a half or one-day session for staff and management together with organization or team assessments, issues to be addressed, and implementation brainstorming. Everyone gets the same message, develops common language, and gets involved in the improvement process (which dramatically increases commitment to change). Jim then facilitates a senior management team priority and action planning session the afternoon of the second day to make decisions and begin implementation. Sometimes the progression is first a half-day with everyone, continuing with a day including all management, and a final half-day with just the senior management team.

Confidential Preworkshop Web-Based Assessments (Optional)

These assessments can be built around the questions in The Leader’s Digest: Practical Application Planner and/or Transformation Pathways. All or selected assessments (depends upon the half, one, or two-day version) are completed confidentially and anonymously web site by each participant before the session begins. Scores are tabulated and a summary report is brought to the workshop for discussion, prioritization, and action.

This option provides:

  • The truest views of how participants really feel about the organization or team’s strengths and improvement opportunities
  • A savings in the time used at the workshop for completing and scoring the assessment exercises
  • Preworkshop learning that allows for deeper discussions of each Pathways leadership and change concept or principle
  • A more balanced discussion based on objective data of everyone’s perspective rather than a few of the most vocal or powerful participants
  • More thoughtful and authentic assessments since participants don’t feel rushed or that someone is peeking at their scores over their shoulder

To view the Transformation Pathways assessment click here.

What You and Your Team Can Expect From This Workshop

  • Define and agree upon what a high-performance culture looks like for your organization
  • Get practical tips, tools, and techniques clearly showing you how to develop a high-performance culture
  • Extensive ‘how to’ workbooks with hundreds of practical application ideas (with one and two-day workshops only)
  • Assess your current team or organizational culture against world class standards
  • Pinpoint performance gaps and priorities to be addressed
  • Integrate and coordinate your organization’s current change and improvement programs
  • Establish the key elements and priorities of your culture change planning process
  • Identify the barriers to energizing and mobilizing people to building a high-performance culture and establish practical action plans to overcome them
  • Clarify/redefine technical, management, and leadership roles and responsibilities
  • Reflection time to reassess personal and professional priorities
  • See how to leverage team and organizational strengths
  • Refocus and pull together culture change programs and initiatives
  • Recharge and reenergize
  • Learn how to build strong teams and foster individual commitment