What is a High Performance Work Place (HPWP)?

Anyone who has worked with me knows that I am passionate about something called HPWP.  It is an acronym for high performance work place.  I first learned about HPWP while working for Southeastern Mills, in Rome, Georgia.  The reason I’m sharing this background here on my blog is because these elements will be referred to often in my writing and when I help others to work through both home and work situations.  HPWP has become part of my everyday fabric at work and at home. 

Essentially HPWP is a set of elements or ways of working that when used effectively and consistently creates a culture of high trust and employee engagement.  The HPWP framework and philosophy was developed by Ken Bingham and first implemented at Southeastern Mills.  When I joined the organization in 2012, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  Part of the onboarding process includes a full week of training for every employee to learn the elements of HPWP and how to get along well in an HPWP culture.  I have never received such wonderful, thorough leadership training and even though I have left the company, I continue to use the elements every single day. 

There are eight elements to an HPWP culture.  I lay them out below with a basic explanation of the power each of them brings:

  1. Lead with Positive Assumptions – This element requires that you stop any negative thoughts about others in all situations and rather replace those thoughts with positive assumptions about people.  For example, if someone shows up late to work it can be easy to think they may be lazy or not committed to their job.  Instead, there can be a lot of other reasons why someone shows up later than expected.  It could be an appointment, maybe they had a car breakdown or perhaps they were picking up donuts for the office.  All these things are not reflections on the person’s commitment level.  Generally speaking, 95% of people in the world are good people with good intentions.  Unfortunately, most of the world focuses on protecting themselves from the 5%ers.  These 5%ers do just what is necessary to get by and are not reliable.  Once you’ve identified someone as such, they need to exit your life, quickly.  This may mean parting ways with employment or setting boundaries in your personal life. 
  2. Identify & Eliminate Negatives – In HPWP cultures, a negative is defined as anything that minimizes versus maximizes a person’s feeling of value to the organization.  There are many examples of ways negatives can show up in the workplace but one easy one is reserved parking for executives but general parking for all other employees.  This example creates a second-class citizenship feeling within the organization.  As a leader, consider if there are any things you are doing that could be making some people on your team feel devalued and see if you can change any corporate practices that may be in place.  If you are an individual contributor, think about how you might provide feedback, in a respectful way, on how specific policies or situations make you feel devalued. 
  3. Build Trust & Mutual Respect – Give trust to others without them having to “earn” it.  This does not mean to continue to be naïve if someone has broken your trust.  Instead it means to give trust rather than starting new relationships with a cautious, negative mindset.
  4. Practice, Open, Two-Way, Adult-to-Adult Communication – This is self-explanatory.  Think about how you communicate with others – direct reports, peers and even your family.  Are you speaking to them with full respect and like an equal to you or is it more of an adult-to-child conversation?  No one wants to be spoken down to – including kids.  Ask questions to understand and don’t be quick to judge – even your kids. 
  5. Engage & Involve Employees – Ensure you are including employees in any decisions that will directly impact them.  This does not mean that they make the decisions, but you at least gather their feedback and thoughts before making such decisions.  Even if you don’t take their suggestion, at least they got a chance to speak their mind.  Best case, they provide better ideas than you originally had, and the final decision is better because of it. 
  6. Conduct Exceptional Training – Ensure you are providing the opportunity for training if you are a leader of others and if you are an individual contributor, speak up and ask for it.  This also means if you are providing the training, take the time and give the attention needed to be effective in your delivery.  Ensure that the receivers have truly learned the material and you have confidence in long term learning.
  7. Ensure Competitive Wages & Benefits – If you are in a position to influence wages or benefits in the organization, you should.  It is hard to keep employees engaged long-term without competitive pay so it needs to be a non-issue.  This does not mean the most pay, but at least in the midpoint of companies employing similar positions.  Competitive = fair.  With each company I’ve joined, I have assessed the job titles and pay bands to ensure I feel they are appropriate for my team members.  If they are not, I fight for improvement over time.  This helps with retention and building trust with your employees.
  8. Establish High Expectations – No one, except 5%ers just want to do the minimum.  Because of this, ensure you are giving people you work with the opportunity to rise to the occasion and impress you by meeting and exceeding high expectations.  Reassess the way you set goals to stretch employees and even set high expectations with your kids.  Never use the phrase, “just do your best”.  This will ultimately lead to results that are below expectations. 

I’m sure reading through this list that you found many of them to be common sense.  They are, and if you adhere to them, over time you’ll find that life gets a lot easier.  If you’d like to learn more about HPWP, I would encourage you to check out Creating the High Performance Work Place, by Sue Bingham and Bob Dusin.  You can also visit hpwpgroup.com for more information.  I highly recommend any of their workshops or resources.  I do not get any compensation for this recommendation but know you will benefit greatly from use of the skills they teach.  

Now that you know the basis for my leadership style, we can move on to actual stories from my application of these elements at work and home. Until next time….


2 thoughts on “What is a High Performance Work Place (HPWP)?”

  1. Thank you, Natalie. When I read how you and others have integrated these elements so completely into your work and home life, I am so happy. It’s also a good reminder to me to focus on those who live it and love it vs. those who choose not to listen. Thank you for taking your leadership to others and for being such a great advocate and model for what we do.

  2. Great blog. I will be sharing this with my team. I think this is a great thing to review regularly with the team. I am sure many teams have some of the items listed above, however, it is human nature to get lax on these so keeping them top of mind is important.

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