Does Your Work Environment Create Top Performers?

By Wayne H. Ottum

“Select a person, set expectations, motivate the person and develop the person… If a company’s managers are unable to play this role well, then no matter how sophisticated its systems or how inspirational its leaders, the company will slowly start to disintegrate.”
Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman in ”First, Break All the Rules” 1999.

The professional development aspect of the culture of an organization has an enormous impact on its ability to continually and effectively reach its strategic objectives. In order to create an environment that fosters top performance in the pursuit of these objectives, an organization must Lead from Strength™. In fact, the quote above is from the book that started the “strength” movement when the Gallop organization studied and reported on what makes a great manager in the book entitled, First, Break all the Rules. The result? Those great managers “broke all the rules” that focused on determining and “fixing” the weaknesses of their staff. Instead, these great managers discovered the particular strengths needed for the particular role, aligned staff’s strengths to those roles and then set expectations, motivated and developed those strengths.

To determine if you are creating an environment that fosters success now and in the future, we encourage you to ask your employees the following 10 questions routinely and continually:

1. Is your role clearly defined and do you know what is expected of you in your role with the company?
2. Do you have the necessary resources to complete your work properly?
3. Is your work aligned with your strengths, skills and passions?
4. Do you feel your supervisor cares about you as a person?
5. Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
6. Do you feel your work is important to the operation and growth of the company?
7. Do you feel your coworkers are committed to doing quality work?
8. Do you have solid relationships at work?
9. Is career progress clearly defined and consistent across all departments?
10. In the last year, have you had the opportunity to learn and grow?

If you ask these questions routinely and you are continually improving your scores in these areas, chances are your company, and your staff, is in very good shape. You have developed a healthy culture that effectively creates top performers. You are in a scenario where you have formed one of the keys to continually reaching your strategic objectives. You are also in very rare company. Probably the top 1% of all companies. Congratulations!

If, on the other hand, you feel your staff would agree with 6 to 8 of these questions, then while your company may not be visibly struggling, you are vulnerable. If the market shifts dramatically or if you lose a key person in your organization, you could suddenly find yourself in rough waters. If continuously reaching your strategic objectives or taking your business to the next level is what you desire, you should address the current gaps in your company’s culture. Only then will your company have the necessary environment for sustaining long-term growth and value.

And if your staff would disagree with 5 or more of these questions, then you are most likely experiencing tough times; and if you are not now, you soon will. The environment you have created in your company is one that potentially (or eventually) leads to dissatisfaction and poor performance. Realigning the cultural environment of your company should be a top priority.

The most desired culture is one that is geared toward achieving the company’s strategic objectives, from the inside out! It should not only foster success now, but should also create top performance in the future. It is an organization where you choose to Lead from Strength™. But there is no one “right” culture, only the culture that is “right” for your unique organization. To consistently reach your unique objectives, this high performance culture must be aligned with the organization’s strategy, structure, process, tools, and people through a focused and thorough annual strategic planning process.

If you are interested in more information on how to:

• Effectively align your organization to foster an environment that creates top performance;
• Develop a meaningful annual strategic planning process, and
• Lead from Strength™

…please visit our website at, email us at, or call us at (206) 351-4656.


About the Author

Wayne Ottum is the President and founder of Ottum Enterprises, LLC, a consulting firm committed to guiding business owners, executives and individuals to ever greater levels of success through discovering and fully utilizing their unique gifts. An expert in clarity and widely known as the “Coach’s Coach,” Wayne’s trademarked coaching processes guide you to discover the personal and authentic clarity that empowers you to take confident action, each and every day, to achieve what you deeply desire. Wayne is also an exciting motivational speaker and provides many “ah-ha” moments for every audience. He is the author of Live from Strength, creator of the Lead from Strength™ methodology, and director of the Business Growth Challenge™ consulting process. Built on over 30 years of experience, Wayne guides you to Lead, Live & Love from Strength™. Follow him on Twitter at @WayneOttum or @OttumEnterprise and find him on LinkedIn at