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Creating a Culture of Performance

When you walk into a fighter squadron, one of the first things you’ll notice are the walls.  They are covered with photos and artwork of jet fighters, famous military leaders, and articles that share in the heritage and history of the unit. It’s impressive and fills one with a sense of pride and fellowship.  You realize you’re part of something bigger than yourself.

But the most prominent feature hanging from the walls are the awards of the squadron’s greatest performers.

'Tiger, Tiger, ROAR'Top Gun of the Quarter, Flight Lead of the Quarter, Instructor Pilot of the Year, Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year,” etc.  They are normally large wooden plaques – classy pieces of artwork that are customized with the person’s name and the squadron logo.

These plaques are sacred and mean much more than a cash bonus or a new watch. They symbolize the respect and pride the entire squadron places in its top performers. And when a pilot walks into that squadron and sees those awards, trust me, they’re thinking: “I want to be on that wall!”

Sure, every squadron has fun, high-energy pilots that everyone loves to be around.  But we don’t have a “nice-guy” plaque. The only thing that really counts is one’s ability to lead and perform in a high stress, constantly changing, and competitive environment. That’s the overarching mission of any fighter squadron.

Does this sound like the mission of your company?

To create a culture of excellence where people are motivated to do their best, an organization must be focused on performance as its ultimate criteria for success.  When you really think about it, nothing else matters.  Organizations that have great morale and teamwork aren’t going to be around for long if they don’t deliver on the mission!

As Stephen Covey once stated,  “start with the end in mind.”  That end is ultimately successful performance (i.e. execution) – be it closing a sale, delivering your product on time, solving an IT problem, or taking care of  a patient in an emergency room.  Yes – attitude, teamwork, excellent training, and open communication are critical to successful execution. Every organization must embrace these fundamentals.  But performance is the ultimate metric. That’s all a customer really cares about.

Don’t be afraid to be performance focused.  Award your company’s “top guns.”  Keep them front and center.  Create a special plaque for them.  Let your employees, customers, and partners see their names on the wall.

Finally, make it a point to call a special meeting to recognize these winners.  Get them front and center and show them off.  After all, a little pride mixed in with a dose of appreciation goes a long way.

The end result? Everyone will “want to be on that wall.”

Performance is contagious.

Never Fly Solo,




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