Building and maintaining high-performing teams is more relevant than ever. With many organisations transitioning to remote work or hybrid workplaces, Stotan has been sharing some of the techniques employed by elite teams from the military and sports to help workplaces adapt. To achieve this, many organisations are placing a greater emphasis on human-centred mission, vision and values. But what else is important for a team to reach a state of high performance?
To answer this question, we decided to cast a spotlight on organisations we have learned from and who have reached a level of high performance to realise their success stories.
BlueRock is a community-focused business that works with business owners to help them achieve their personal and business goals through multidisciplinary services such as accounting, finance, digital, law, private wealth and insurance. As a relatively young company (founded in 2008), Bluerock’s expansion, growth and success as a business has been exceptional, and we sense it has been in no small part due to their enviable culture and leadership. So, to learn more about their story, we reached out to two BlueRock leaders, CEO Bruce McFarlane, and Director of Accounting, Lisa Marshall. What did Stotan find? A business that is brilliant at the basics of empowering their people.
Q: How did you come to be at BlueRock?
“I’ve been with BlueRock for 11 years in August. I’m one of the early ‘BlueRockers’! Prior to joining, I saw an opportunity; a gap in the market between basic bookkeeping and tax agents. So, I approached [BlueRock] and set up the division originally known as BlueRock Solutions. I then worked in the accounting division, and eventually became one of the directors, trustees, and chairperson of the executive leadership team” – Lisa
“I joined BlueRock in 2017. I had been working 20 years at a national law firm but was attracted to BlueRock due to their entrepreneurial mindset, with an opportunity to do things differently. Lots of companies talk about having a people-first culture, but I’m not sure how many actually put people first. Of course, we want our clients to be happy but, ultimately, if people are happy, other things will follow” – Bruce
Q: What do you value most about BlueRock’s culture?
“I think it’s the people focus. The culture is fun, very people oriented, working hard but having a great time. We try to do a lot of social events, last year we had a retreat with 120 people in Harrietville, Victoria, focused on team building. We wanted to support a local community impact by recent bushfires and COVID tourism, so it was a good opportunity to celebrate such a tough year; a lot of people missed the social interaction, so it was nice to come together” – Lisa
“I value our meeting agendas, they always start with people first, we want to make sure that you’re enjoying [work], and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Community is also a big focus” – Bruce
Q: What do you consider integral to sustaining a high-performing team?
“The important thing is building a community, so we share the load and achieve goals as a team. We are always trying to achieve great things for our clients together” – Lisa
“To sustain a high-performing team, you must start with your vision: are you all aligned with what you’re trying to achieve? Do the things you love with people you care about, and great things will happen. The next focus is values: you must live by them, keep reflecting on them. And invest in people so they feel engaged and empowered” – Bruce
Q: How do you enable a high-performing culture at BlueRock?
“We all get together to share ideas and resources, giving everyone the opportunity to work at their best. We focus a lot on innovation and one of our big things is [our people] being able to make their own decisions” – Lisa
“It’s around risk and transparency. We foster an open and honest culture; transparency is really important, and we’re prepared to take risks and not cover up if people make mistakes. What we aim for is for people to take ownership in their decisions. We encourage people to take responsibility for their owns career and stay true to their entrepreneurial values” – Bruce
Challenges to high performance
Q: What kind of challenges does BlueRock face as a high-performing organisation?
“Something we could always do better is collaboration across all of the divisions. As new divisions come in, it’s important to learn what they do” – Lisa
“One of the challenges is being entrepreneurial. Things don’t always go to plan, and ensuring you get a resolution is sometimes a challenge. But to be high performing, it’s more than just doing things you love with people you care about; you need to be good at your job, you need to take risks and you need to ensure that you can continue to develop people” – Bruce
Advice for other leaders
Q: If you were parachuted into a new organisation tomorrow, what would be the first things you would do to improve culture and human performance?
“A lot of cultural value comes down to how the communication flows across the business; building an understanding of people go about things. How to keep a high-performing organisation is about investing in the relationships and getting to know everyone and the way they work. It’s always been the culture, working with people you like to work with and love doing it. Every decision you make, you should think, what’s the impact on people? What does that do to your culture and their loyalty they have with you?” – Lisa
“It’s about understanding the visions and values. Make sure you’re all on the same page with what you’re prioritising, and make sure you measure it too – we have regular surveys” – Bruce
Q: What should leaders do on Monday to improve culture and high performance?
“Walk around your office and chat to people; get to know them” – Lisa
“Revisit your mission, vision and values, and make sure you’re measuring performance based on all of your values, not just financials. Always put your employees first” – Bruce