How many times have you heard the phrase “Culture is how we do things around here.”? It seems to me that this catchphrase has evolved to provide us an easy way to think about culture. I invite you to think more deeply about the important topic of culture.

How we “do things” actually is more about policies, procedures and protocols that come from organizational structure. Handbooks and procedure manuals provide operational steps and guidance on how we go about getting things done.

Culture is made up of values that are part of our belief system, customs that are often steeped in organizational traditions, and norms that are widely accepted across the organization and have become habits. Culture clearly focuses on the nature of the relationships and the behaviors that people use in their interactions.

So I conclude that culture is not about doing things, it is about how we treat people.

The nature of the relationships that exist in the organizational culture provide the framework for high-performance. When they are characterized as high-trust, high rapport and mutual respect, they create the conditions for high degrees of collaboration and creativity, and lead to high levels of inspired performance.

Today, developing a high-performance culture is in the process of becoming a strategic imperative for organizational leaders. Progressive leaders understand that culture shapes and focuses all of the human energy that is available from all of its human resources. It provides alignment and traction for all strategic objectives. Culture change, when properly understood and modeled by senior leaders, becomes a strategic imperative for the organization. Indeed, a high-performance culture is the leading indicator of organizational performance.

So – the next time you hear the phrase that “Culture is how we do things around here,” you might share a deeper truth that captures what culture is truly about – it’s about treating people in ways that empower and engage them to provide inspired performance – short and simple.