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What sounds better, a performance-driven culture or growth-driven culture?

They both sound good, but there are important differences.

A performance-driven culture fosters a zero-sum game mentality where there are winners and losers. In unforgiving environments of performance-at-all-costs, the tendency is to minimize mistakes, cover up, and deny weaknesses. It becomes too risky to reveal any real deficiencies for fear they’ll be used against you.

Performance is important in a growth-driven culture, too, but it happens in a different way.

In a growth culture people acknowledge insecurities and shortcomings; ask hard questions – and answer them honestly. Emotional quotient becomes as important as intelligence quotient, according to Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project. He writes in a recent HBR article that building a growth culture requires these components:

  1. Safety – leaders need to be willing to take personal responsibility for their shortcomings and missteps.
  2. Learning – inquiry, curiosity and transparency take the place of judgment and self-protection.
  3. Experiments – small, manageable, time-limited tests of new behaviors challenge status-quo thinking and gain small wins (or keep losses small.)
  4. Feedback – open, honest and direct conversations keep everyone grounded in a shared commitment to helping each other grow and get better.

Schwartz closes with this heavy thought: A performance culture asks, “How much energy can we mobilize?” and the answer is only a finite amount. A growth culture asks, “How much energy can we liberate?” and the answer is infinite.

Have a great week.

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