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Building a High Performance Culture: THIS Matters Most

March 21, 2024

On the journey to building a high-performance culture, the focus often is put on visible symbols — the vibrant office decor, wall murals, the inspiring words at company events, and the lofty ideals captured in mission statements. Yet, the true catalysts of a culture that drives performance and excellence is often found in the unspoken actions of its leaders. Specifically, it is what leaders tolerate and, arguably even more important, what they refuse to accept that shapes an organization’s culture.

The Significance of Tolerance

Tolerance as a Cultural Blueprint

What leaders choose to tolerate can either propel an organization forward or anchor it to norms and practices not aligned with their stated culture. Tolerance here is not about patience or understanding but rather about the behaviors and practices leadership allows to continue. This could range from accepting subpar performance & avoiding the tough feedback, to ignoring the formation of silos, which over time, erode team cohesion and trust.

The act of toleration, intentional or not, communicates to the team what the real standards are, regardless of what is officially proclaimed. This silent endorsement can seriously undermine a culture of high performance by establishing a gap between stated and lived values.

The Power of Non-Tolerance

On the flip side, the behaviors and practices that leaders choose not to tolerate are defining moments for an organization’s cultural identity. This is where leaders draw a line in the sand on issues like unethical behavior, performance below the standards of excellence, or any compromise on the organization’s core values.

Not tolerating such behaviors does more than just enforce a standard; it actively cultivates an environment where excellence is not just expected but required. It shows a commitment to the stated values and builds trust that the organization not only talks the talk but walks the walk.

The Path to a High-Performance Culture

Creating a high-performance culture is an ongoing journey that requires continuous effort from leaders at all levels. It demands consistency in not just setting high standards but also rigorously upholding them through actions. Leaders must stay accountable to the behaviors they tolerate and the messages their tolerance conveys.

Here are actionable strategies for leaders aiming to sculpt a high-performance culture:

Define and Communicate Non-Negotiables:

  • Clearly articulate the behaviors and outcomes that are non-negotiable, ensuring everyone understands the boundaries.

Embody the Values:

  • Leadership must live out the values and standards they expect of others, demonstrating commitment through their actions.

Enforce Consequences and Rewards:

  • Implement clear consequences for behaviors that undermine the culture and rewards for those that contribute to enhancing it.

Promote Transparency and Openness:

  • Create channels for open communication, encouraging feedback and discussions about the culture and how it can be improved.

Recognize and Celebrate Aligned Actions:

  • Regularly acknowledge and celebrate actions and decisions that align with the desired high-performance culture.


The journey to establishing a high-performance culture is less about the symbols and declarations of intent and more about the daily choices leaders make regarding what to tolerate and what to challenge. These decisions form the bedrock of an organizational culture that either enables excellence or impedes it. By focusing on the critical elements of tolerance and non-tolerance, leaders can effectively shape an environment where high performance is not just an aspiration but a reality.

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