Every business aims to improve performance. Whether that’s through increasing sales or improving service, a high performing team can help. However, when it’s time to give employees constructive feedback, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Two Story specializes in performance analytics. The company combines AI algorithms with behavioral science to dig deeper into performance-related data and create personalized solutions to help take businesses to the next level.
Two Story’s CEO, Kerry Goyette, has built her business on the concept of healthy performance evaluations. Goyette recently shared a more intimate side of this focus by talking about evaluating her own Two Story team. The CEO addressed several of the biggest do’s and don’ts with performance reviews and expounded on how to improve on uncovering 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’s the degree to which information flows across organizational boundaries. It informs senior leaders and equips front-line employees with the metrics they need to understand the bottom-line impact of their day-to-day choices. I read in Harvard Business Review that researchers can predict with remarkable accuracy the amount of quality output solely by measuring information flow between teams.
I would also add the ability to execute and hit 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’s the habit of differentiating activity from progress. The best teams recognize when their effort has traction and remain disciplined enough to focus on the efforts that are responsible for driving results.
Gibbons: What are a few things you always look for when you’re looking to add 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’s one of the few can’t-be-trained attributes. I’d add self-starting and self-accountability to that list, too. Both of those are critical in a volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity environment. Everyone on my team must possess a bias 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’s a good question. I see three common pitfalls. I often see leaders overemphasize past performance as a predictor of future performance. Past results aren’t necessarily predictive of future results. This is particularly short-sighted when the environment shifts.
In addition, I challenge leaders to evaluate team performance using direct business outcomes. For some teams this is easy. Sales teams typically have vast datasets measuring milestones and outcomes. For others, it can be more difficult and require some creativity to identify concrete outcomes.
Lastly, it’s easy to fall into a similarity bias, rewarding behaviors that align with the leader’s preferences. Instead of finding people who look like them, leaders should identify the needs of the business and incentivize the right behaviors.
Gibbons: What are some things you do daily to help build and maintain a strong team?
Goyette: I position my team in roles and opportunities that stretch them. That means I’m encouraging them to live at the boundary of what they’re capable of. This is uncomfortable at times, but it’s a form of high support. It builds a sense of confidence in the team that I unequivocally believe in them. It’s also a high-level challenge that accelerates their growth and development.
Gibbons: Can you name some ways you help improve how your team works together and communicates?
Goyette: I drive clarity and focus for the team. That means I’m framing every meeting with relevant context and clear objectives and redirecting conversations that meander off-track back to the objective at hand. I also model authenticity and encourage my team to bring candid, respectful perspectives to the table. We also lean into task conflict — that’s debating the topic — while avoiding relational conflict whenever possible.
Gibbons: Are there any tools you use to help evaluate your team’s success?
Goyette: Absolutely. We use our product, Performance Story. It discovers the most predictive KPIs across a business so leaders can drive clarity, alignment, and accountability. We also use Slack on a daily basis, and I often check in on public channels to evaluate information flow and collaboration
Gibbons: What’s 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 that past performance is predictive of startup performance and overreliance on subject matter expertise. Being successful in a startup is a very different skill set than being successful in a large company. Let your team evolve with your growth over time.
Gibbons: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Goyette: The last thing I’ll say is that what actually predicts performance is often not what you think. It isn’t formulaic. You have to be relentless to discover what you really need. Your survival depends on it.