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How to Lead a High-Performing Team with Effective Performance Management

Jul 12, 2022| Reading time: 12min

BY Ben Pollack

Group Manager of Growth Marketing

What makes a high-performing team? The answer is two-fold. 

First, high-performing teams are performance-focused. These are the teams that consistently hit their goals, drive revenue, and increase productivity. But that’s not all they do. Second, high-performing teams also fit seamlessly into the rich, diverse fabric of a company’s culture. In addition to being productive, they’re highly engaged and collaborate effectively with one another, as well as the rest of the organization.

Especially in the age of remote work, managers need to acknowledge that performance and engagement aren’t mutually exclusive. They can’t exist without each other; disengaged teams won’t drive the results they’re expected to drive, which will impede the success of the overall organization. In fact, Gallup reports that highly connected, collaborative teams increase profitability by 21% over disjointed teams, leaving too much at stake to not prioritize employee engagement.

So, on top of managers successfully leading teams remotely — something they’ve been thrust into almost exclusively since the start of the pandemic — how can they cultivate and support their own high-performing teams?

While there’s no single, definitive answer, an effective performance management strategy is a good place to start. Teams need to understand their objectives, feel supported by their leaders, and have a way to own their growth — all things a robust performance management strategy can do.

5 Ways Real Leaders Use Performance Management to Support High-Performing Teams

Below, business leaders share their insights on how they use performance management to foster high-performing teams. Managers, keep reading for tips on leading with confidence, too.

1. Consolidate Team Data

Managers have a lot on their plates. Between overseeing their direct reports and checking off their personal tasks, managers juggle a litany of different apps and technologies to support their high-performing teams.

Unfortunately, a side-effect to feeling spread thin is accidentally allowing things to fall through the cracks. To combat this, consider how you consolidate your team data.

Ian White, founder and CEO of ChartHop, encourages this streamlined strategy. He explains, “With the move to more flexible, more rapidly responding organizations comes the need for a better system of record and a better data strategy. If you’re working across the globe in a flexible, remote model, you need to be able to understand, centralize, and unlock the digital map of your organization.”

And White is right. Managers don’t need another platform. They need one platform to consolidate and leverage all of their data in order to work swiftly and effectively.

With the right people analytics platform (that includes performance management functionality), managers can collect and centralize data from disparate team systems and store it in one, shareable place. From a management perspective, leaders can access and share an arsenal of data to make more-informed team decisions around hiring, skills analysis, and budget.

A centralized location is also helpful when sharing information with remote employees. Since managers can’t pop over to desks in-person, having data and updates ready to send with the click of a button streamlines communication and makes their jobs that much easier.

2. Align Team OKRs With Business Objectives

High-performing teams need to know exactly how they contribute to overall business success.

This means managers should explicitly share their company’s overarching mission and goals so teams have a holistic understanding of where the company is headed and how they individually fit in.

Growth isn’t always measured by output, so it’s also important to set cultural OKRs for your high-performing team members to inspire things like professional development, leadership opportunities, and personal growth.

Sapling, for example, customizes OKRs and sets distinct output-related goals. Kevin O’Connell, Sapling’s Head of Marketing, believes that it’s important to focus on OKRs instead of how quickly remote employees are answering emails. He says, “When working remotely, it’s best to look at a team member’s contributions to a department’s OKRs or KPIs rather than this ‘always available’ mindset.”

3. Provide Team Members With A Self-Service Platform

Empower your high-performing teams to access the information they need when they need it, rather than having them constantly tap their managers for feedback or track down HR to answer questions.

Performance management features within a people analytics platform empowers high-performing teams to take their career paths into their own hands. In addition to seeing their personalized OKRs and KPIs, employees can access, document, and leverage historical performance data, professional development completion rates, feedback from 1:1s, compensation packages, and more.

Employee profiles in ChartHop

With ChartHop, every employee has the context they need to own their professional growth, including performance history, 1:1 forms, and their compensation package.

Even new employees who are joining a company can quickly get up to speed by having access to their job descriptions, personalized 30-60-90-day plans, reporting structures, onboarding tasks, team OKRs, and more — all by the start of their first day.

What’s more, modern platforms automatically update, so there’s no need to worry if your people are going off of outdated information. Joe Taranto, HR Generalist & Project Manager at Rémy Cointreau, understands the importance of this one-stop-shop for information. He comments: “When a VP or director of a team needed an org chart, we couldn’t provide it on the spot if they weren’t already fully updated,” Taranto says. This inability to surface the most relevant and accurate information at the right time created a disjointed workforce planning process, and cost his team nearly $15K in productivity losses.

In short, find a dynamic platform to serve as a system of record for high-performers – one that allows them to completely own their growth and feel confident accessing the right information. Come performance review time, they’ll have a resource to showcase their successes and advocate for themselves.

4. Communicate Openly and Often

Communicating openly and effectively can help your team members feel supported to do their best work, especially in a remote setting.

For starters, schedule regular weekly 1:1s with your team members. From there, set an agenda and use these meetings to have candid conversations with your employees: What roadblocks are impeding success? What areas of growth can they focus on? How have OKRs or KPIs shifted since they first started, and are they on-track to hit them? 

It’s also important to document and share 1:1 feedback directly with individuals before and after meetings, giving everyone a record to work from. Luckily, modern people analytics platforms provide these standardized templates.

standardized 1:1 template

Standardized templates help employees prepare for 1:1s and help reduce bias throughout your teams and company.

While these meetings are slated to discuss work, it’s okay to embrace honesty and, in some cases, vulnerability. Design company Figma recognizes the importance of addressing employee burnout and is, in turn, going the extra mile to support their people through candor.

“Sometimes managers feel like they have to put on a facade of, ‘Everything’s great’… when in reality it’s not,” says Nadia Singer, Director of Talent at Figma. “Have those conversations with your reports because it conveys to them that you’re human and you can support them not just as an employee, but as a person.”

Be honest with your people, and escalate that feedback up through leadership when applicable. Having earnest, human conversations with your employees empowers you to advocate for them, which helps everybody in the long run.

5. Inform Decisions With Data

For managers, access to data leads to more-informed decisions about how to support their teams. Regularly use insights to your advantage to gain a sense of how your team is working and what improvements could be made.

With the right platform, you can take full control of your performance management data to maximize decision-making. This goes beyond seeing how OKRs are being met. In fact, you can create custom reports on virtually any metric, including promotion and raise rates, how much budget is being spent, what engagement levels and eNPS scores look like, and other valuable performance analytics.

ChartHop enables custom reporting so that you can slice and dice your performance data by virtually any parameter.

But you also need to look beyond your team for important insights. Large scale company trends and HR insights can point to individual problems, especially when addressing engagement and employee satisfaction.

Once you slice and dice the data to different demographics you might actually find that there are certain groups of employees that need additional support. It may not come up on the individual basis but when you look at the whole group, you may start seeing some trends.

Work with HR leaders to look into aggregate engagement trends and use benchmarks to pinpoint areas for improvement, address issues, and enact team-wide change as needed.

Specifically, Devin Blase, VP of People at Truework, uses data as her north star for all decision-making. After measuring voluntary attrition of high-performers, she and her team implemented an action plan precisely for their retention. She explains, “We indexed on the NPS of this employee subset (high performers) because we believe that (outside of the founders) our high performers are most responsible for influencing the company culture.”

Build and Support Your Dream Team

A productive team is an engaged team, and vice versa. Whatever management style you have, know that inspiring performance starts with fostering engagement.

But success doesn’t happen overnight, nor does it end with these five tips. If you want to create a high-performing team, you need to continuously engage, align, and support your people. That, with the help of modern technology and robust performance management tools, will take you one step closer to managing your dream team.

Interested in designing an engaging, supportive environment in which your teams can thrive? Read how InVision managed to do so with their global, fully-distributed workforce.

Read the InVision case study here

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