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Drive a high performance culture

Photo by why kei on Unsplash

This article was based on episode 030 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and Stitcher.

Culture happens whether you design it intentionally or not. As a manager, your team’s culture is often a default of what you role model. To take your teamwork to new levels, you must invest in your people and consistently drive a culture of high performance. In episode 030 of the Modern Manager podcast, I speak with Isaac Tolpin, a High-Performance Culture Expert and the co-founder the micro learning solution


In today’s business world, many people do not stay in a role solely for money and benefits. What often differentiates and retains great people is great team leadership–including the feeling that somebody cares about your future, even if it is beyond this company.

Learn about each of your direct reports’ dreams and aspirations. Then help lead them towards those through support and encouragement. Isaac explains, “really the goal is that we're helping you either make progress here or outside of here, whichever matches your dreams.”


If you want your team members to be engaged and contribute to your meetings, they need to be amazing. Start by reducing the number of meetings overall to only those that are critical. Use some of your newfound time to do a better job planning the agenda so the time you spend together has been well prepare for.

When you have fewer but better meetings, you can also set high expectations for participation. It’s easy to disengage when the vast majority of meetings you go to feel like a waste of time. Isaac suggests treating conference calls exactly the same as you would in person meetings. Demand full attention, no distractions and no devices. This is easier to uphold when the meeting itself is well designed and participants know that the meeting is an important collaboration to move the work forward.


A learning culture is a catalyst to overall culture, achieving the core values of the company and creating the right overall culture in the team. Isaac notes that people are most energized in their work when they are (1) doing a great job and getting recognized for it, and, (2) learning to do their job even better.

Unfortunately, most companies get this completely wrong. A lot of companies use stodgy Learning Management Systems. Although live training is good, only a small percentage of the information is retained and behavior change is unlikely. He says, “Unfortunately, no matter how great a speech or training is, most of that is left in the training room and people go back to their normal behavior. So to really create change takes something more like just-in-time learning. Creating a rhythm of learning that never ends.”

This is why learning is so fundamental to culture. Changing culture is essentially about implementing new behaviors. Learning those new behaviors or mindsets is an ongoing process.


What is a high performance culture? It’s a culture that aligns and positively impacts the key levers of your business. To create this kind of culture, you need to start by understanding your current culture and the key levers of your business.

Be honest about your existing culture. You may find you have really fantastic practices when things are going well, but as soon as no one is looking, people behave poorly. Research has shown that people are overwhelmingly disengaged at work. Don’t be afraid to paint an honest picture so you know where you’re starting from.

Once you have a clear sense of what is, you can craft culture-driving statements that will push those key levers of the team’s work. Examples of such statements are “how might we…?” to drive creative thinking and “what did you learn today?” to encourage greater listening and connecting with customers.

Start saying your statements and never stop, even if you don’t get positive feedback. Isaac uses his culture driving statements every single time he’s in front of his peers. He notes that using powerful language consistently, “brings certainty and authority to your leadership in good ways because when you are so certain about what matters, people are unbelievably attracted to that.”


The word “kaizen” means “good revolution” in Japanese. Kaizen is often referenced as a continuous improvement mindset. But for managers, we need to think beyond the day-to-day continuous improvement. It’s critical to find the time and the mental space to reflect on the bigger picture, to go beyond what currently is. This may be rethinking your entire meetings strategy or sales process. According to Isaac, you must “Suspend your experience and what you know, long enough to be able to think anew. And that's hard. Harder than you think.”

It’s challenging mentally but also hard simply to find the time for this kind of reflection. Isaac reserves two hours on his calendar every Friday to do this type of thinking and has found it incredibly beneficial.

This article was based on episode 030 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.

Join the Modern Manager community on Patreon and get Isaac's course to building a high performance culture.


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