How to Make Sense of Your Team Performance

Identify Where Underperformance Strikes to Blow by the Competition

Measuring Your Team Performance

If someone dropped you in the middle of nowhere Alaska with just a map and an X on it… would you know how to get there?

Of course not. (And if you attempted, would be lucky to avoid frostbite.)

Because, as any adventurer knows, before you can move towards a goal, you need to know where you are on the map. You would need to identify some landmarks to gauge where you are and some checkpoints to measure your progress toward the goal.

Evaluating the right route for your team—even if you know where to go—requires the same assessment. Any leader needs to know the landmarks or checkpoints that lie between the organization and optimal performance.

When assessing where you are as a team, there are two general categories of landmarks or Key Performance Indicators (KPI) you can use: tangible and intangible.

Tangible KPIs

As a general leadership rule, you should stay out of the operational weeds. It’s your job to plan and sustain the big-picture and train up the right delegates for detail work.

However, assessing your team well does require a season in the weeds to really understand who is doing what.

Only then can you assess the skills of each team member and position him or her for maximum value and production. Only then can you identify strengths and weaknesses and position each of them in the best possible position to contribute to the team performance.

You’ll want to take a look at things like:

  • Output
  • KPIs
  • Conflicts
  • Collaboration
  • Turnover
  • Wants and needs
  • Beliefs and behaviors
  • Capacity
  • Capabilities
  • Empowerment levels

Intangible KPIs

Other performance indicators are more easily missed because they don’t show up as numbers or percentages. But oh, do they matter! They are intangible so far as they are the performance indicators of healthy culture, problem-solving, and the relationship between team members. The four intangible KPIs I like to look at first are:

Trust. Trust is the currency of leadership. It starts when your team can trust you and you can trust your team. On the other hand, mistrust creates isolation. Isolation in a team environment always leads to disaster.

So, ask yourself:

  • Does my team trust me? Do I trust my team?
  • Do external customers trust us?
  • Do other departments within the organization trust us?
  • Do I know what my team can and can’t do—and how to grow where we are lacking?

Competence. Trust can only take you so far when you’ve got a competence problem. As an InSPIRED leader, you have a responsibility to create and guide a competent team. That means you’ve got to understand your team’s core competencies:

  • What is it that your department does?
  • What are the critical deliverables?
  • What are the critical roles?
  • Within the critical roles, what does competency look like?

Communication. All communication is not created equal. Many conversations among/to team members technically use all the right information—but they’re still not communicating. They’re just transmitting. Communication means not only that transmission has occurred, but also that recipients have received the information—and they know what to do with it.

Commitment. We all start with some level of competence, but knowledge in any industry has to be learned. Give me a person who has some level of competence, but is trustworthy with a heart full of commitment—and I can turn that person into a vital and integrated member of the team. You will gain competence every day if your heart is committed.

Becoming a Master Navigator

Together these KPIs make up your team compass. Most leaders focus on the tangibles, but the secret to finding true north is understanding both the measurable performance indicators and the abstract characteristics that set the context and culture for everything you output.
Keep them in your pocket at all times, and it won’t matter where you get dropped—if you can evaluate where your team is now, you can strategize how to get them anywhere.

The Secret to Enjoying a Missional Team Mindset

Unlocking Your Why to Engage with Passion

Here’s a vital question for organizational leaders to ask: Are you still on track together, or at some point did everyone get distracted from the core mission, vision, values, and purpose?

Family businesses can be beautiful instances of hard work creating something out of nothing.

They also can be prime examples of what happens when your why gets lost over time.

Grandparents carve a business out of the dirt with blood, sweat, and tears. At some point, the business gets handed off to the kids. When the second generation takes over the business, they know the passion Mom and Dad put into it, so they pour themselves into it.

But, more often than not, the grandkids will put that business in the ditch. Why? Because they didn’t share the purpose and passion or see the price paid by that first generation. They don’t share the passion, but they enjoy the privilege that has been their birthright.

Unfortunately, birthright doesn’t give passion and purpose. That’s why so many organizations, not just family businesses, flounder and lose their way over time. They lose their why.

Find the Why to Find Your Purpose

If you’re a leader of an organization that has lost its way, you must discover where you got off track and how to get back to that place of purpose. Purpose and passion produce the energy required to build an InSPIRED culture.

That’s why TOMS Shoes has been so successful. Yes, they’re selling shoes, but, more importantly, they have a social impact that drives them.

Purpose and passion are also why Michael Dell raised the money to buy his own company back. He was passionate about what he had created but knew he couldn’t make the moves he needed to protect that purpose and passion if the company was publicly traded. So, he raised the money to buy back Dell stock and make it private again. That’s what passion does.

People lose their shared sense of passion when they’ve lost their purpose. How then does an organization find or rediscover its purpose? How does it get intentional about ensuring everyone shares that purpose and passion?

  • Everyone in the organization needs to know why the organization was created.
  • What was the founding story?
  • What needs is the company serving now?
  • Could you name the why behind the how and the what?
  • Can you name the team’s core values?

Passion tears down silos and positions organizational culture to be fully integrated. When an organization isn’t driven by passion that comes from a clear and honorable purpose, it’s easy to get into a mess.

So the question is this: is your organization mission-minded or messy-minded? Do you have a mission-critical mindset in your organization or a silo-centric mindset?

3 Signatures of a Mission-Minded Team

Teams working with a mission in mind can’t help but stand out from the rest. How many of these do you see every day with your organization?

  1. With a mission-critical mindset, people will elevate mission, purpose, and passion above the need for egocentric wins. When you’re driven by a good purpose and sense of mission, you don’t have time to get involved in all the messiness—petty arguments, power trips, turf wars, and silo building. It’s not about who gets the credit; it’s about getting things done to advance the mission. They don’t look to place blame; they try to affect change. It’s amazing how much can get done when no one cares who gets the credit.
  2. When you have a strong sense of mission and focus on other people, you position yourself and your organization to function in a highly integrated fashion—fingers interwoven, arms interlocked, tearing down silos and moving forward together in pursuit of your shared mission. The question is simple: what is your purpose?
  3. Slay the dragon or rescue the princess: I believe the best teams need a dragon to slay or a princess to rescue. They can be galvanized against a common enemy (the dragon) or united toward a common goal (the princess to rescue). The former is more of a negative purpose in response to a threat, while the latter is a positive purpose in pursuit of an aspirational aim. Both can be effective in giving clear purpose and keeping teams out of the distracting messiness—but a word of warning about the dragon:

A team functioning in constant threat mode, motivated by fear of the next fire-breathing monster, can be damaged over the long-term.

Occasionally, organizations do face a real crisis that demands the slaying of a dragon. However, for long-term success, it’s far better for an organization to cast a compelling purpose—freeing the princess—and then pursue it with a shared sense of passion.

You must be realistic, of course, but always tie motivation to a positive purpose whenever possible in your leadership to bring out the most inspired performance.

Embrace the Adventure

Life is an adventure to be lived, not a crisis to be survived. Running toward something is always more empowering than just running away from something else. And that’s the beautiful thing about mission-minded leading.

When you know your mission and realize at a core level how important it is, you don’t get caught up in all the distractions, you can’t afford to take your marbles and go home when things don’t go your way, but most importantly you have in view something bigger than short-term obstacles.

Messy-minded leadership might work in a pinch—at the cost of team trust and long-term stability.

Mission-minded leadership, fueled by purpose and passion, will take you all the way.

The Real Reason Why Your Team Is Falling Short

How Much Leadership Currency Do You Have?

Trust is the currency of leadership.

It starts when your team can trust you and you can trust your team. It expands when other departments in the organization trust you as a leader and trust your team to execute on its promises and responsibilities.

It expands even further when your external customers trust you as an organization to deliver a solution to their needs and to do so in a valuable and timely manner.

Integration without trust is like a boat without a keel.

The keel is the strong backbone of a ship, made out of wood, metal, or other sturdy material. It juts down into the water beneath the boat like an upside-down shark fin and can weigh tons.

In fact, a keel can make up almost half of the overall weight of a typical sailboat. It needs to be sufficiently heavy to stabilize, while being light enough for agility and adaptation at speed.

You might think that something so heavy would immediately sink the ship. Instead, the weight works as ballast, keeping everything balanced in rough waters.

Trust works in the same way. When you have a team you can trust, through good days and bad, that you may wobble, but you won’t keel over.

Do You Have the Trust You Need?

There are two types of trust—relational and transactional.

When most people think of trust, they think of relational trust, because trust begins and ends on the strength of relationships. Every team has some sort of relationship history and these interconnected relationships either build up or erode trust.

Trust isn’t created in a vacuum. It’s built over hundreds of little moments of interaction between real, complex people with emotions, feelings, and fears. Thus, a powerful component of relational trust is positive intent—choosing to believe the best of team members first, and then doing the necessary research into a problem.

When any team struggles to believe the best of one another, communication breaks down, and growth grinds to a halt. The absence of relational trust makes everything exponentially more difficult to do.

But there’s another sort of trust that is equally necessary.

Transactional trust means you believe that a person or team can execute on your expectations, follow through, and get things done. It differs from relational trust in that you may trust someone to be a good person with the best of intentions, but whether or not they can be trusted to get the job done is another matter entirely.

Do you trust each other to deliver results? If someone promises to get something done, can you believe them?

If you can’t trust people or teams to deliver the results they promise, you’ve both got a big problem.

You may have people on your team whose integrity and ethics are top-notch, but who, unfortunately, lack the skill and competence to complete the task. That’s a breakdown in transactional trust that must be remedied.

In a business, transactional trust makes up a large part of the ballast that keeps the ship upright. If you have a person on your team that isn’t getting it done transactionally, that’s a place where you aren’t integrated and something needs to change.

Do you Choose Excuses or Results?

I always say that your team can choose excuses or results. Of course, it’s tempting to keep giving the benefit of the doubt and avoid confrontation, but that doesn’t do anybody any good. To build trust, you’ve got to address the problem and provide the training or guidance necessary to improve the situation.

Mistrust creates isolation and isolation in a team environment always leads to disaster. So, ask yourself:

  • Does my team trust me?
  • Do I trust my team?
  • Do external customers trust us?
  • Do other departments within the organization trust us?
  • Do I know what my team can and can’t do—and how to grow where we are lacking?

The best teams have this awareness in common. They know they can rely on each other to do the job well—and if there are problems, team members will speak up.

So which one will you choose for your team? Excuses or results? Isolation or trustworthy community?

If you’re just starting this leadership journey today, have grace with yourself and your team. Trust is built over time with integrity and honesty. Start by being trustworthy yourself. Next, look for ways to give other people a chance to be trustworthy with you.

Where do you see the need for more trust—relational or transactional—in your team? What conversations/steps will you take this week to begin moving back towards effective, efficient, and trusting performance?

Relational Team Health

Fewer things can break the will of a team to run more than relational dysfunction. Small problems that should be easily overcome or dismissed become impassible barriers and thin, fractured ice threatening the team’s survival with every step.

Forget the competition – We’re too busy fighting each other!

As the leader of the team, it is our responsibility to monitor their Relational Health, just as much as their physical health or operational results. Why? Because if it has not impacted operational results, it soon will. As leaders, we are in the people business and people can be messy. That’s not meant to come across in a derogatory way – it just is. People have bad days or even bad weeks. If we are honest, WE have bad days/weeks. We won’t hire or keep people that are overtly dysfunctional, but that’s not always clear on the front end. When dysfunction manifests, it’s our responsibility to address it for the sake of mental / emotional / psychological health of the entire team AND the sake of the mission.

Relational health can be broken down to the individual and the team as a unit. At times, we will need keen observation skills to detect any issues and at other times you wouldn’t be able to miss them if you tried.

The team’s relational health is reflected in their ability to (pick your favorite buzz word): Communicate, cooperate, collaborate, synergize, etc. It affects every aspect of the team, in that it is made up of the team’s will to work with each other.

The term I use for Relational Health (or Relational Intelligence) is EQ. EQ is one of several terms that are used to describe this area of personal and vocational effectiveness. Just as IQ stands for Intellectual Quotient, EQ stand for Emotional Quotient.

EQ can be broken down into four areas: Self Awareness, Self Leadership, Social Awareness, and Relational Leadership.

In any relationship, our question sequence should be about self first, then the relationship. Am I AWARE of what’s going on with me (what I’m thinking or feeling) that may be adversely affecting the situation? Can I, then, lead myself or ‘manage’ myself to a better place of connectivity? From personal leadership, then we should develop the skill to be able to recognize what is going on with our coworkers, beyond just the surface issues, and finally, lead the relationship in the best direction.

Easily said – not always easily done!

The roots of most relational dysfunction can be traced down to a number of issues: perspectives (Sunglasses), communication, trust and offenses. Somebody says or does something that is a trigger for someone else and the entire team can break away and run down false trails in an instant!

As we start in this area, begin to watch for body language and team dynamics. When you are conducting a meeting or just watching casual interaction within the team – be aware of peoples’ body language. If someone starts to close off because of an offense – stop the process and start asking about their view of what just happened. Set the rules and start talking up the fact that you (as a team) need incredible Relational Health – if you are going to pull off your audacious goal – your “Burled Arch”.

Just start bringing things to their attention and talking about relational harmony, ask their views and take their feedback into consideration.

Functional relationships in business are no different than functional personal relationships. You don’t get to pick your birth family and, within some latitude, your people may not feel like they have a tremendous amount of control when it comes to their work cohorts, either. Working on this area and talking about it – can influence their feelings of power AND their commitment to the team as a unit!


I am in California this week, having spent time with my son who is in SOI at Camp Pendleton. We are working on some business opportunities here and then flying for a 2 week stay in Indonesia for Leadership sessions with companies there. Please keep us in your thoughts as we travel and we’ll twitter, FB, and Blog about our Leadership adventures. Stay tuned!

Team Health is rarely on accident

The formula for a great team is easy – be a great leader – have great people, a great plan, and great execution – sounds easy, right? Not so much….

We all make hiring mis-steps, we add team members that have great potential but they just don’t pan out, team members will (from time to time) have personal or interpersonal issues, and sometimes the reasons are difficult to diagnose. Leading to the realization that Team health, like personal health is rarely on accident. It is a matter and a make of up many choices along the way that add up to the sum of the whole. Team Health and productivity is from purposeful, consistent, and intentional diligence.

Continuing from earlier this week…. We have a team that doesn’t perform to expected levels, I have looked at my leadership areas and worked to correct any short falls there, and my team is still not producing expected results – where do I go from here?

From here, means that we look at the two parts of the team – the team as an entity, and the individuals that make up the team.

One of my consistent ‘ISMs’ is,

“To lead a team, you lead them one by one – beginning with you”

Earlier in the week we have dealt with the back part of that statement – ‘beginning with you’ – now we transition to the middle – we lead our team – ONE person at a time.

It’s difficult to say which we look at first – because it’s more of a both/and scenario – we look at our team and the dynamics of how they interact and operate AS A TEAM – but that is almost impossible to separate from looking at the individual players on the team and how they fit into the mix. Are they adding the right value? Running in their position right? Pulling their weight? Contributing to team synergy or detracting from it?

For the existing talent my questions are more along the line of: “Skill and Will”. Does this player have the skills need for the position or role that I need them to play? Do they have the WILL to succeed in their role and with the team? (The right attitude)

The skill part is capacity – can they do what needs to be done in order to perform at the needed level. Will comes into commitment – “Will they do what needs to be done?”

Start with evaluating individual performance – in other words, “Let’s look at what we can measure and put our hands on, first.”

Dialing down on individual performance means metrics and measurements. Here are the actions that we are going to measure your performance on – and here is how we are going to measure those. Throw in timing (for good measure) and they have the clarity on when, what, and the how. Short of that and they may not have the needed tools or clarity from you.

For today, invest a little time on clarity of desired performance and if you don’t have any, yet, developing an appropriate set of performance metrics. Boil this down to the clarity of, “What do I want you to do daily?” Let the person know you’ll be monitoring performance (daily for a while). Follow through! How can we expect our people to be – what we are not.