A good friend of mine is the CTO at Cloverpop, a Silicon Valley start-up that has developed a revolutionary online platform for measuring, accelerating, and improving decision making. Recently, Roger and his engineering leadership team were debating how to best evaluate the performance of individual developers and engineers when results were delivered by teams. Regardless of a team’s purpose, whether it’s development, marketing, or manufacturing, this is a question faced by many organizations that have come to rely upon teams to drive key parts of their business.
One of the challenges organizations face as they have come to rely more and more on teams is that most employee-related functions such as recruiting, training, evaluations, and rewards, continue to be biased towards the individual. The roots of this bias run deep. Leadership theory and practice in the second half of the 20th Century was dominated by a focus on formal leaders, and how these individuals were seemingly single-handedly transforming their organizations. Somewhat ironically, it was the restructuring, downsizing, flattening, and reinvention efforts of these leaders that laid the foundation for the rise of teams. The challenge for many organizations today is that the legacy processes and practices of that era have not evolved at the same pace as the adoption of team-based approaches to work. This is particularly true with respect to evaluating individual performance in the context of team effectiveness. That leaves the question of how to best evaluate individual performance in the context of teams.
- In a team setting, it is the individual’s level and manner of contribution to the team’s goals that matter the most in evaluating individual performance.
- Focus on understanding the expectations team members have of each other, versus their actual experience, in the context of achieving the team’s goals.
- Get that feedback often and use it to create the individual and team conversations that lead to actions that close gaps and improve individual and team performance.
Individual Performance in a World of Teams
Returning to Roger and his team at Cloverpop, they looked at each team’s goals and then asked team leaders to begin measuring and tracking team member experiences versus expectations of their teammate’s contribution to accomplishing the team’s goals. This feedback provided a simple, powerful means of understanding a critical dimension of individual performance in the context of a team and, like early-warning radar, becomes a key predictor of team effectiveness.
D’Innocenzo, L., Mathieu J. E., and Kukenberger, M.R. (2014). A Meta-Analysis of Different Forms of Shared Leadership–Team Performance Relations. Journal of Management. 42, 1964 – 1991. doi:10.1177/0149206314525205