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Cultivating a Culture of High Performance

I spent some time recently in one of my favorite places on earth. Napa Valley in Northern California sits between two mountain ranges - the Vaca Range in the east and the Mayacamas Mountains to the west. As I toured around various vineyards, I kept coming back to the same thought - most of these properties share the same soil, climate, and environmental factors to mitigate. They utilize many of the same raw materials. Yet somehow, year after year the elite vineyards consistently produce superior wine than their competitors. So what's the difference?

Conventional wisdom would tell us that there are of course a few superstar winemakers employed by the best growers in the region and these superior talents make all the difference. No doubt, their unique abilities have an impact on their success. But I can't help but dig beneath the surface to identify the true root cause of such incredible differentiation. And the key insight is in how the best vineyards cultivate environments of sustainable high performance.

The word cultivate is defined as preparing and using for the raising of crops and/or to foster the growth of something. In our businesses we want to foster the growth of our organizations. And we must be prepared to capitalize on the myriad opportunities that may arise. The same applies in the wine business. Good weather must be capitalized upon. Ditto for good plots of land. Still, the best vineyards focus on one very important thing - their grapes.

At the heart of these operations is an institutional knowledge about grapes. Where they grow and perform best; how to combine different varietals into elegant and luscious juice; when to take risks and when to remain conservative with the latest harvest; how to ferment; how to store; how to bottle.

People are the grapes of our businesses, but because we focus more on their output than on cultivating the talents of each individual contributor - we miss significant opportunities to deliver consistently sustainable high performance.

When was the last time you felt cultivated by your company as the most valuable resource the organization possesses and absolutely essential to its success? If you are a people manager, when was the last time you made someone in your employ feel this way? Just as the more the ecosystem of a vineyard understands about their grapes, the better the wine they will produce - the more you as a leader understands your people, the better results you will produce. How much time do you spend obsessing about cultivating the exact environment your people need to grow in order to deliver their best?

In my book Leader Board: The DNA of High Performance Teams - this concept of individual cultivation is introduced as INNERviewing. INNERviewing is a process that takes place during a colleagues onboarding when the manager can get to know their new collaborator on a much deeper level by asking a series of questions designed to increase insight and build trust between the manager and the new recruit. As a team leader, understanding the intrinsic factors of each person on your team is the beginning of the understanding you have to have to expertly combine your individual talents in order to conquer your goals in shorter time than ever before.

I plan to take these lessons from Napa Valley back into my working life and keep cultivating excellence in my people and I hope by reading this you can begin to do the same. Our people are our most precious asset - it's time they felt that way!

Omar L. Harris is Associate Vice-President and Country Manager for Allergan PLC in Brazil. He is the author of Leader Board: The DNA of High-Performance Teams available for purchase in ebook or print on Please follow him on instagramtwitter, and/or LinkedIn for more information and engagement.

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