January 12, 2023

TPL Insights: Building Peak-Performance Cultures #153 – As a Leader, Are You Looking Out the Window or In the Mirror?

By Rob Andrews


By Liz Townsend

I asked Rob if I could hi-jack his blog this week to share some gold nuggets from my time running teams and organizations and coaching leaders on Total Performance Leadership. Additionally, Allen Austin hosts leadership workshops to introduce our powerful assessment tools and proven process that brings us to our core “ah-ha” moment in our leadership and how to connect the dots to achieve our goals and dreams. Like a bolt of lightning, we each had a moment in time where our mind shifted to a clear vision of what was possible along with extreme excitement to start that journey. Our goal for our workshops is for you and your leadership to find or rekindle the fire of their “ah-ha” moment and get back to building a peak performance culture. Please feel free to share feedback at ltownsend@allenaustin.com. I hope you enjoy this week’s nuggets! Liz Townsend.

One of the most important, and maybe most difficult lessons, I learned early in my leadership journey was the impact I have on my team. My behavior, decisions and actions not only affected my own personal success but could send huge positive waves through the organization or in stark contrast, create uncertainty, confusion and frustration. Just like a toddler mimicking something an older sibling or parent says or does, leadership is visual. People do what people see. It does not matter what the team member handbook says, or what our Mission/Purpose/Vision/Values statement communicates on the wall in the conference room. The team is going to look at the leader’s behavior to really determine what is important. Actions (and in some cases inaction) speak louder than words.

What’s important to the company leaders over time becomes what we know as the company’s culture. In its simplistic form, culture is just “who we are.” Since companies can’t have values, only people can, as leaders we must “look in the mirror” regarding company culture. Catch yourself “looking out the window” when using words and phrases such as, “If they could only…, I don’t understand why they don’t…, If they could just stop doing…, why don’t they care…” Leaders, as difficult as this is to hear, if “they” are not in line with what you want and expect for your organization, it is your fault. We are either setting the wrong example, not setting the right expectation, or neglecting accountability for the behaviors and actions we expect. As the culture becomes stronger, the team will reinforce these items and lend support to the leader. But the leader must go first and stay consistent.

In The Power of Positive Leadership, Jon Gordan explains that culture is a leader’s most important job,

“You must create a positive culture that energizes and encourages people, fosters connected relationships and great teamwork, empowers, and enables people to learn and grow, and provides an opportunity for people to do their best work. Culture is not just one thing: it’s everything. Culture drives expectation and beliefs. Expectations and beliefs drive behaviors. Behaviors drive habits. And habits create the future. It all starts with the culture you create and drive throughout the organization. That is where all success and great results come from.”

Just with anything in life, our leadership impact has cycles. Seasons where we have tremendous positive impact and seasons of stress and/or struggle where leading can feel like a burden. Times when we “walk the talk” and are aligned with the values and behaviors that are so critical to our team’s success and times when our well is empty and we are just not giving our team what they deserve. I made it my mission to be a life-longer learner just for this reason. I figured out that if I was not growing, then ultimately, I could not help my team and company grow. My mindset had to be right, and I had to maximize my own potential if I ever expected my organization to create unprecedented results.

Culture/Leadership Gut Check: Take these 3 steps to gauge the health of your culture.

  1. Review your own Mission/Vision/Purpose/Values statement and answer these three questions…Why do we do what we do? How do we do it? What is our product or service? If these answers are not easy and clear to articulate…the journey starts here.
  2. Quietly observe the different departments within your organization. Is each a hologram of the desired culture?
  3. Ask your team the same questions you asked yourself in #1 and how the company is performing against defined values. Now, I will warn you, if there is not a culture of trust in the organization, your team will know the answers…but they will not tell YOU. As a leader, you must listen to both what they say and what they do not say as a detective would put together the pieces. Keep in mind, actions speak louder than words.

In even the best organizations, this process will reveal gaps. Look for the common thread within the gaps and that is where you start.

Allen Austin is growing in this same way. In doing so, we survey our team quarterly on the things that matter most to the organization and foster open dialogue and discussion. In every direction we look, the most powerful starting point continues to be mindset. What leaders and companies believe they are capable of. So that is where we start. As Lou Tice, founder of the Pacific Institute and an impactful leader to our founder shared, “If you alter the belief, you can change the performance.”

In a recent chat with Mustang Engineering Founder, Bill Higgs, says that a great culture “allows you to punch above your weight class.”

Look in the mirror, starting with your own mindset. You will be amazed at how “easy” and “fun” the workplace can feel when the culture is thriving. It’s seen in financial results, it’s felt in customer interactions and it extends to the quality of life for the team that attracts future talent… And it starts with the person staring back at you in the mirror.

Warmest Regards,


Liz Townsend
Allen Austin
Consultants in Retained Search & Leadership Advisory