How to Build a High Performance Culture

What started as an innocent lunch invitation ultimately killed his business.

I’ll explain, but first a bit of context.

Ever heard the phrase, “you become the average of those you hang around”? Or maybe the old colloquial saying, “birds of a feather flock together!” 

Don’t know about you, but my life and business are infinitely better because of the people I choose to surround myself with. My goal is to never be the smartest person in the room. So when a friend told me about a critical business decision he was facing, it was natural for me to invite him to join me at an entrepreneur mastermind luncheon.

You see, my friend’s business was at a critical junction. He could either sell it, or scale it. After three years of pouring himself into his business, this wasn’t an easy decision to make. Neither option was bad. Both had pros and cons.

Personally, I believed if he devoted a couple more years to scaling his business it would be worth at least 10X the current value. Scale it, was my vote. But he wasn’t overly convinced. And so that’s when I decided to invite him to be my guest at the entrepreneur mastermind lunch.

I had been a part of this mastermind group for several months by this point, and had always left each meeting with actionable strategies. My hope was that the other entrepreneurs in our mastermind would encourage my friend to invest a few more years into scaling his business.

As luck would have it, when the fateful mastermind meeting arrived, the topic of conversation for the day was how to foster and build a high performing team. I distinctly remember thinking, “this is going to be great! Exactly what my friend needs to hear to convince him to scale his business.

But we hadn’t made it past the introductions before things took a turn for the worse!

As part of our introductions we had to state how many employees were on our teams. When the intros reached the most seasoned entrepreneur in the group, an entrepreneur with over 700 employees, he said “with regard to the number of people I have working for me, it’s about half of them.” 

Laughter erupted from the table, and without hesitation others began echoing the same sentiment. Once the room settled back down, he proceeded to share how, even after 25 years in business and dozens of long-term employees, he found himself having to deal with employee issues almost every hour of the day.

No doubt, dealing with people can be difficult. It doesn’t matter if it is work, family, or a friend, relationships can be tricky to navigate. But as John Maxwell says, “if your goal doesn’t require others, it isn’t big enough.” And that is certainly true in business. To succeed, we need others to contribute to our mission.

It doesn’t matter what your organization’s mission is, you’re going to need to master all four P’s of business:

People – the human capital that keeps your business going and growing toward your mission

Product – the item being sold, the service being provided, or the idea being presented

Process – how all the components fit and flow together

Profit – the money left over after expenses (variable & fixed) have been subtracted from revenue

The problem is, most entrepreneurs spend the majority of their time focused on the last three Ps, giving little effort to the first P (People) until it’s way too late. And when People become an afterthought, we sabotage our potential. Most entrepreneurs place leading and managing people at the bottom of their list of priorities and wait until there are problems before they “deal with people.” 

When people start to become the problem, you’ve waited too long. If you are not intentional about building a great culture, then you are intentionally building a bad culture. Building a culture is about your team. How they interact with each other and with your customers. One of the best litmus tests of culture is how people perform and behave when the boss is away.

Why is it that so many of the entrepreneurs constantly complain and bemoan all their employee problems? Why aren’t we, as entrepreneurs, more intentional about developing our teams? One of the main reasons is that our intentions and our calendars are out of alignment. We want to devote time and attention to growing our team members, but our calendars rarely reflect our intention.

I challenge you to put down this newsletter right now and block off some time on your calendar for developing your team. Treat that time as if it were a meeting with your most important customer. Don’t cave in to the inevitable “fires” that will arise, stick to the time you’ve allocated.

Not sure what to do with that first block of time on your calendar? There are four specific questions you need to begin working through. In order to thrive in their roles, each of your team members (even subcontractors) need to be able to answer the following questions:

 1 – Where are we going?

People don’t like uncertainty. They like to know what to expect. What would happen if you hired an employee but didn’t tell them when and how much they’d get paid? They would probably never start working for you, right?

And yet, this is the same mistake we often make when it comes to explaining where we’re heading as a company.

What do Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison and Elon Musk have in common? They all are/were brilliant at helping others see their vision for what could be possible. Each of them have the uncanny ability to see the future, and then get others to buy into bringing that future to life. Without buy-in from their teams not one of them would have had the impact they did on the world.

It’s your role as a leader to…

1 – Create a vision for the future of your organization
2 – Effectively communicate that vision to your team
3 – Remind constantly (A vision rarely repeated, is a vision quickly forgotten!)

Once you’ve created the vision and effectively communicated it to your team; now it’s time to ensure they understand the why.

2 – Why does it matter? 

Sadly, the vast majority of employees today don’t understand why their role is important, or how it fits within the vision the company is pursuing. If your team members don’t understand why their role and work matters, it is difficult for them to feel a sense of ownership and purpose.

In Daniel Pink’s bestselling book, Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, he explains how to use purpose as a motivator.

Define the PurposeTake steps to fulfill employees’ natural desire to contribute to a cause greater and more enduring than themselves.

Communicate the PurposeMake sure employees know and understand the organization’s purpose goals not just its profit goals. Employees, who understand the purpose and vision of their organization and how their individual roles contribute to this purpose, are more likely to be satisfied in their work.

Place Equal Emphasis on Purpose Maximization and Profit MaximizationResearch shows the attainment of profit goals has no impact on a person’s well-being and actually contributes to their ill-being. Organizational and individual goals should focus on purpose as well as profit. Many successful companies are now using profit as the catalyst to pursuing purpose, rather than the objective.

Use Purpose-Oriented Words Talk about the organization as a united team by using words such as “us” and “we”, inspiring employees to talk about the organization in the same way and feel a part of the greater cause.

Now that your team understands where you’re going and why their role matters, it’s now time to set expectations.

3 – What is expected of them?

If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you assume your new hires are being properly trained. However, according to a recent study, only 66 percent of companies train their new employees, almost half (42 percent) of companies don’t identify clear job titles/expectations, and only 39 percent of companies set milestones and goals for career advancement.

It’s your responsibility to ensure each person on your team has a clearly defined role statement, one they buy into. One of the best ways to get employees to buy in, is to allow them to help write or rewrite their own role statement.

When clear expectations are set, employees can understand:

    • the specific tasks and results they should be delivering
  • why their work matters, and how it connects with the big picture
  • how well they are performing at any point in time
  • where to go when they need help or support
  • the gap between their current and the desired performance

Knowing where, why, and what, is great, but without a simple process for judging their own performance, it’s virtually impossible for them to make meaningful progress.

4 – How/when you will measure?

Without systems and processes in place for measuring results, you have no way of knowing if progress is made. If the systems and processes are not simple, they won’t be used. And a system or process that isn’t used is no better than not having them.

As Peter Drucker used to say, “What is measured improves.”

For your team to thrive, they must:

  • have a clear understanding of how their performance will be measured
  • know where they are in relation to where they should be
  • be able to quickly calculate their own performance

Over the years at Ugly Mug Marketing we’ve experimented with literally dozens of ways to measure individual and team performance.  We’ve tried everything from daily reports to weekly goal review sessions to monthly performance reviews. What we discovered in the process is there isn’t just one thing.  It takes a combination of several tools.

Here are a few methods we use to ensure team members know how they’re performing:

Quarterly Team Meeting: Each quarter we spend about 6 hours reviewing results from the previous quarter and present our team and individual goals for the upcoming quarter. We celebrate achievements, and discuss lessons learned. This gives us an opportunity to ensure everyone is on the same page, and pursuing the same vision. 

Weekly Team Meeting: Every Monday from 1:45 – 3:00PM we have a weekly team meeting. This meeting is centered around each team member’s quarterly goal and their weekly commitment updates. Each person presents where they are in relation to their goal, reviews the accomplishment (or lack) of their previous week’s commitments, and states their three current commitments. We then spend time challenging and encouraging each other.

Weekly 1on1s: Each Tuesday morning all team members either lead or participate in 1on1 meetings. One of the things that make these meetings unique is that they are led by the team member, and not their leader/manager. The team member controls the meeting agenda. This provides them the opportunity to address issues and concerns they are facing. 

Quarterly Performance Review: We conduct our quarterly employee performance reviews based on three core areas: Goal Accomplishment; Leadership; and Intellect & Wisdom.  We use a 1 – 5 rating scale. The core focus of the QPR is personal and professional development. 

The following three are used with new hires during their first 90 days:

Weekly Goal Review: On Monday they submit their goals for the upcoming week, as well as a status update on their goals for the current week. These weekly goals directly correlate with how they’ll be rated during their monthly performance review.

Monthly Performance Review: We conduct the monthly employee performance review based on each individual’s role statement. We begin by having the employee rate themselves in each of the core areas they are responsible for (as outlined in their role statement) and then we meet to discuss and review their performance based in each of the core areas. This process of a monthly performance review keeps them in tune with exactly what is expected of them during their first 90 days.

Daily Update: At the end of each day, each team member submits a daily update. The information submitted in these daily updates varies from role to role, but the primary objective is to answer these questions:

  • What did I get done today?
  • What are my main objectives for tomorrow?
  • Where am I stuck?
  • What questions do I have?

Answering these questions each day not only helps ensure each team new hire is maintaining the proper focus, but also provides outside accountability.

As  you can see, we use a variety of methods to ensure each team member is aware of how they are performing and how they are contributing to our overall mission. Yes, all of the above requires a lot of time, energy, and effort. Don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend my time proactively building a self-accountable team, than wasting my energy “dealing with employee problems.” 


After an hour and a half of entrepreneurs complaining about employees, my friend decided he didn’t want the headache, and put his business up for sale. His days as an entrepreneur were over. For me, the saddest part is knowing that my lunch invitation contributed to the death of his dream. He chose to walk away because it appeared the only path forward would have been constant employee problems.

It may be too late for him, but not for you! There is a better way. A way that is mutually beneficial. Yes, it takes work. Yes, it requires a lot of effort. But it is better than the alternative.

So I challenge you to spend some time right now conducting a self-audit. Review the four questions above. Can each member of your team answer those questions without your help?

When everyone is pursuing the same objective, and they know why it matters, you’ll be surprised by how natural business growth occurs.  Business growth is a byproduct of people growth. Grow your people. Grow your business.

Invest the time today to focus everyone in the same direction and you’ll enjoy the dividends for years to come.