Every company is focused on improving performance. Whether that’s by increasing sales or improving service, a high-performing team can help. However, when it comes time to provide constructive feedback to employees, it can be difficult to know where to start. Two Story specializes in performance analysis. The company combines AI algorithms with behavioral science to dig deeper into performance-related data and create personalized solutions to take businesses to the next level.
Two Story’s CEO, Kerry Goyette, has built her company on the concept of sound performance appraisals. Goyette recently shared a more intimate side of this focus by talking about evaluating her own Two Story team. The CEO covered some of the biggest do’s and don’ts with performance reviews and outlined how to better reveal the secrets of a high performing team.
Serenity Gibbons: What are three things leaders should look for when evaluating team performance?
Kerry Goyette: Information flow is number one. That is the extent to which information flows across organizational boundaries. It informs senior leaders and equips frontline workers with the metrics they need to understand the bottom-line impact of their daily choices. I read in Harvard Business Review that researchers can predict with remarkable accuracy the amount of quality output solely by measuring the flow of information between teams.
I would also add the ability to run and meet deadlines during unexpected contingencies. This is especially crucial in a pandemic economy where uncertainty and volatility are all around us. The best teams always find a way to execute.
And third? Disciplined focus. That is the practice of distinguishing activity from progress. The best teams recognize when their efforts take hold and remain disciplined enough to focus on the efforts responsible for getting results.
Gibbons: What are some things you always look for when you want to add something to your team?
Goyette: Emotional intelligence is number one. I talk about this a lot in my book, The non-obvious guide to emotional intelligence. Work ethic is also non-negotiable. It is one of the few attributes that cannot be trained. I would also add self-start and self-responsibility to that list. Both are critical in an environment of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Everyone on my team must have a taste for action and a habit of leading themselves.
Gibbons: Where do leaders often fall short when evaluating their teams? What are they likely to overlook?
Goyette: That is a good question. I see three common pitfalls. I often see leaders overemphasizing past performance as a predictor of future performance. Past results are not necessarily predictive of future results. This is especially short-sighted when the environment shifts.
In addition, I challenge leaders to evaluate team performance against direct business results. For some teams this is easy. Sales teams typically have huge datasets that measure milestones and results. For others it may be more difficult and require some creativity to identify concrete results.
Finally, it is easy to fall into a similarity bias, rewarding behavior that matches the leader’s preferences. Rather than finding people who are like them, leaders need to identify the company’s needs and drive the right behavior.
Gibbons: What things do you do on a daily basis to build and maintain a strong team?
Goyette: I position my team in roles and opportunities that stretch them. That means I encourage them to live to the limit of what they can do. This is sometimes uncomfortable, but it is a form of high support. It builds a sense of confidence in the team that I unequivocally believe in them. It is also a high-level challenge that accelerates their growth and development.
Gibbons: Can you name some ways you are improving the way your team collaborates and communicates?
Goyette: I provide clarity and focus for the team. That means framing each meeting with relevant context and clear objectives, and guiding conversations that stray from the right track back to the intended goal. I also model authenticity and encourage my team to bring candid, respectful perspectives to the table. We also tend to engage in task conflict – that is debating the topic – while avoiding relational conflict whenever possible.
Gibbons: Are there tools you use to evaluate your team’s success?
Goyette: Absolute. We use our product, Performance story. It discovers the most predictive KPIs in a business so leaders can drive clarity, alignment, and accountability. We also use Slack on a daily basis and I often check public channels to evaluate information flow and collaboration
Gibbons: What is your biggest piece of advice for entrepreneurs tasked with evaluating their teams?
Goyette: It’s conventional wisdom, but it never gets old. Don’t assume past performance is predictive of startup performance and over-rely on expert knowledge. Being successful in a startup is a very different skill than being successful in a large company. Let your team grow with you over time.
Gibbons: Do you want to add something?
Goyette: The last thing I want to say is that what actually predicts performance is often not what you think. It’s not formal. You have to be ruthless to discover what you really need. Your survival depends on it.