PCS in partnership with Sport NSW recently hosted a CEO Breakfast event. PCS Founder and Managing Principal, Joydeep Hor, gave an insightful presentation to the CEOs in attendance on the "Ten Things High Performing Organisations Do". This article summarises some of the key messages and points discussed.

1. Unique challenges but consistent approaches to high-performance culture

Sporting organisations face unique challenges to most other types of businesses. The definition and measurement of success is multifaceted and is not just limited to financial performance. There are the obvious expectations of success for elite performance groups and an obligation to provide prosperous athlete development pathways. There is also an obligation to promote and facilitate the sport throughout the community. All of this must be done whilst considering the wider business objectives of the organisation. As a result, there is a wide range of stakeholder input into sporting organisations and also the need to manage the merging of a paid workforce with volunteer service. Nevertheless, the approach to high performance culture is the same regardless of the type of organisation.

2. What is high performance culture?

"Culture" is a frequently-used and convenient term that broadly describes behaviour or patterns of behaviour. As in all businesses, poor performance or poor behaviour is often ascribed to problems with "culture". In the context of sport, performance "on the field" is easily and instantly identifiable and can directly affect the financial performance of the wider business "off the field". It is often difficult to ascertain whether specific events or series of events are just isolated incidents related to behaviour, or whether it is evidence of broader cultural issues. Regardless, there is a strong connection between poor culture and corresponding legal consequences, so it is something that all organisations should consider.

At the breakfast Joydeep explained that, "if you don't ask questions directly about high performance culture, then you are going to learn about it in another way." The ever-elusive concept of high performance culture is something that most organisations continually strive for, but more often than not are unable to achieve. Organisations are usually able to identify if a high performance culture is lacking, and generally think that it is an achievable concept: so how can you get it?

3. Are your values front and centre?

Are your values more than just words on paper? Values can be enlivened through storytelling, so that they are widely-known and understood throughout the organisation. When values are front and centre, they can effectively inform decision-making and set expectations within the organisation.

4. Accountability

There was significant discussion around whether people are held accountable to the same standard across the board. Specifically, whether the same performance expectations exist for the elite group of athletes, compared with the wider organisation. While the response differed depending on the organisation, there was a strong consensus that high performance culture within a sporting organisation can simultaneously deliver high performance athletes. In any type of organisation this provokes the question of whether expectations are universally applied, monitored, and enforced.

5. Poor performance and manager training

Commitment to addressing poor performance is a key to creating a high performance culture. The reality is that managers are often promoted because of their functional capabilities, rather than their people management skills. Training managers with the necessary skills to undertake frequent and informal performance conversations is a way to normalise feedback and alleviate the fear associated with what can be difficult conversations. When a manager seeks to explain rather than attempting to convince and also takes a more personalised approach to how a person may be thinking and feeling, messages about performance expectations are likely to be better received. While manager training requires an initial investment, it is inevitably less expensive than using money to settle people problems.

Developing a high performance culture is an attainable and worthwhile ambition for any organisation. PCS provides unique education and training programs that can not only assist in improving the performance of your organisation, but also help to develop a legally defendable position with respect to people management. Overall, businesses are generally diligent in considering their business objectives, and at the same time, considering the legal framework in which they are required to make their decisions. However, by taking a more holistic approach to people management and decision making, businesses can directly improve their high performance culture within their organisation.

PCS is the official People Partner of Sport NSW as well as the official People Partner to Cricket NSW, NSW Rugby, Netball NSW, Softball NSW, Volleyball NSW and Athletics NSW. PCS represented the Waratahs in the high-profile case involving Israel Folau.