What are the keys to high performance?

Most Christian institutions understand the importance of developing and maintaining a High-Performing Culture based on Christian values interwoven with the school’s mission. But few know exactly what that actually “looks like” or how to establish one.

In those special circumstances when it “clicks,” when there is a High-Performing Culture in place, nothing is as productive or satisfying. The energy of the culture becomes contagious, permeating the entire institution; and everyone feels the effects — the administration, faculty, staff, board, and most importantly, the students.

But a High-Performing Culture cannot be mandated, and it doesn’t happen by chance. Instead, it must be developed over time within a specific plan to design, develop, implement, and nurture it.

High-Performing Cultures don’t just happen, they are built!

How is your culture performing? How well do your Christian values show up in your school’s culture? How true are you to your mission and how do you know? Having a High-Performing Culture that nurtures your faculty, staff, and students can help your school stand out from the competition, drive enrollment, and attract more donors and more dollars.

The good news is that the private sector provides many excellent examples from which to identify the best practices they use to build their own High-Performing Cultures. If you look at leading companies across a wide variety of markets, you will notice that they share one thing in common. Regardless of size or industry, top-performing organizations are driven by a value-based High-Performing Culture.

Their culture is their brand: Southwest Airlines, Disney, Apple, Chase, Nordstrom, and Starbucks are just a few of the more well-known examples of High-Performing Cultures. But perhaps the best way to illustrate the process and outcomes of such a culture in a Christian context is to uncover what happened at Loma Linda University Health (LLUH) in Southern California.

For over a hundred years, Loma Linda has focused on their mission “to continue the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus Christ.”

In 1905, the school started with a couple of patients and students. Today, they serve more than 4,400 students and 1.5 million patients every year through their teaching hospitals.

You can learn more about them by watching this 30-second video from LLUH, which tells us:

At Loma Linda University Health, we are driven by a mission. A mission to heal, to teach, to innovate, to serve. It’s a mission we live every day. A commitment deeply rooted in our faith.

For the last ten years, Loma Linda has consistently been recognized regionally and nationally for the outcomes of their system of higher education and healthcare.

But this wasn’t always the case. In 2006, they learned definitively that they were not living their mission. Patient satisfaction was at 42% and their annual employee turnover rates were in the double digits for several positions. Their traditional workplace environment wasn’t built to bring out the best in their people.

What changed?

They took the time to rebuild. They knew they needed a system capable of producing a consistent, high level of behavior across the organization.

How did they do it?

Through shared purpose, values, and performance they created a “high-value” culture.

First, they independently assessed their current and desired culture.

Next, they collectively mapped out their desired culture (values/behaviors), building from the agreed strengths of their current culture.

Finally, they very intentionally integrated the desired values/behaviors into their systems of communication, hiring, recognition/rewards, and accountability (performance management). These were behaviors they needed to follow if they were to live the mission every day — for each other, their students, patients, and the larger community.

By the end of the process, everyone from the president to the lowest-paid employee had been evaluated based on how well she/he was perceived to be living the values and performing (measurable goals) 50/50.

It’s one thing to focus on your school’s mission. It’s another to live it.

The process is the same or very similar to the approach that has been used to build the brands that we continue to trust every day. It is involved but not complicated, and very rewarding.

Most importantly, building a High-Performing Culture is something that you can do at your school regardless of its age or number of students. The greatest reward is when we see its benefits show up in students as we prepare them to change the workplace and the world, starting with preaching and living a High Performing Culture.

To learn more, visit www.leadingschoolsforward.org and/or attend the “Creating a High Performing Culture based on your School’s Mission!” workshop at the upcoming TRACS conference. November 8th:

If you are looking for innovative strategies to increase enrollment, build greater relevance for Christian education and attract more donations, then this is the session for you. You will learn about the ‘Built-on-Values’ high performance culture architect model that has a proven track with hundreds of clients nationwide. Co-presenters have a 20-year track record working with a wide variety of institutions and Christian ministries.


  • Richard Sinclair

    Rich Sinclair specializes in student-centered workplace infrastructure designed to produce accountability, innovation, satisfaction, and continued momentum – “evidence-based leadership” as it is referred to in patient-centered healthcare. Rich has twenty-five years of experience working in and consulting with numerous institutions, systems, and other nonprofit organizations.

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