The final post in a series based on the National Center for the Middle Market’s in-depth research report, High-Performance Culture: How Middle Market Executives View & Harness the Power of Culture, this post outlines actions executives can take to promote high-performance cultures that support an organization’s growth goals.

According to our recent research, culture is a top priority for middle market executives— especially executives in companies that experience annual year-over-year revenue growth of 10% or more. And for good reason. Both the type of and strength of a company’s culture are clearly associated with growth, as well as with a company’s ability to attract and retain both high-value customers and associates.

The research also shows that culture can be hard to budge. But it is possible to create a high-performance business culture that contributes to an organization’s objectives. We found that leaders in high-growth companies devote a significant portion of their time and attention to overseeing culture. Specifically, these leaders invest in:

  • Keeping the pulse of employee perceptions.
  • Executives and employees don’t always see eye to eye when it comes to the organization’s culture. Indeed, executives often have a rosier view than the rank and file regarding the strength of the culture and what, specifically, employees value in their workplace. In companies where high-performance culture works well, leaders make the effort to better understand employees’ attitudes through anonymous surveys as well as by actively engaging employees in initiatives to define and improve culture.

  • Living and breathing the desired high-performance culture, starting from the top.
  • According to the executives we talked to, the most important factors for promoting a high-performance culture in their businesses are for leaders, middle managers, and supervisors to model that culture day in and day out. Leaders must make decisions that reflect the culture, and they must consistently demonstrate their own commitment to the company’s focus. Overall, leading by example packs a much stronger punch than training and development or other efforts designed to mold associate behavior. It’s up to the executive team to illustrate what the desired culture looks like through their day-to-day actions and interactions.

  • Setting clear expectations.
  • After modeling, communicating a clear set of expectations for employees is the next most important factor in promoting the culture a company wants. This should include a defined mission statement and a set of core values that aligns with company culture. Of course, actions are always more powerful than words. So, while communication is important, it must be backed up by executive and leadership behaviors.

  • Measuring the impact.
  • To better understand if and how culture moves the needle on company performance, executives in fast-growth companies keep tabs on customer and employee metrics, including acquisition, retention, and referrals. They combine this data with employee and customer survey results and other analytics to more clearly understand the role culture plays in their business’ success.

  • Rewarding behaviors that reflect culture.
  • Where high-performance business culture is a priority, executives and leaders make that clear by consistently recognizing and rewarding behavior that is consistent with the desired culture. This comes through in everything from hiring and training policies to promotion decisions. Some companies tie bonuses and incentives to culture, and they also make an effort to quickly and efficiently address cultural compliance problems. Across all of these areas, it’s important to make it clear how culture ties into decisions in order to reinforce the message that culture matters and the company is deeply committed to it.

Discover the impact of a high-performance culture.

For the details and data on why culture matters and additional insights into how to improve or nurture the type of culture that engages and attracts talent and customers and generates faster growth, download our full research report, High-Performance Culture: How Middle Market Executives View & Harness the Power of Culture.

Post 4: Struggling with High-Performance Culture Change? 6 Facts You Need to Know


This post is part of a larger research project by the National Center for the Middle Market. Get the full picture through the resources below: