Managing a high-performance organization in today’s environment is no easy feat, in fact we’d argue it has never been harder. But when organizations have the right people strategies in place to develop happy, engaged, tenured employees, strong customer engagement and a healthy P&L follows. So how do we do this, and how can we enable our people managers to drive strong, thriving teams?
To answer these questions, we recently had the incredible opportunity to host a webinar with Silicon Valley operating legend Lexi Reese. She sat down with our COO and Co-Founder Melissa Miller to share her practical advice for HR and People leaders, as well as CEOs and Founders operating today. As an Advisor at General Catalyst, faculty at Harvard Business School, x-COO at Gusto, x-Google and x-American Express, her insights and advice are unmatched.
Watch the video below and read on for the highlights.
Why your employees are breaking up with you…no really
To set the stage, Lexi walked through a MIT/Sloan 2021 study that considered the real reasons, across industries and leadership levels, why people really leave companies. The top reasons? Toxic culture (which is 10.4x more likely to drive someone to leave than compensation), followed by job insecurity and reorganizations, high levels of innovation, failure to recognize performance, and poor response to Covid-19/poor communication.
The good news? It’s well within your organization’s ability to change how people experience any of these things. The highest leverage point? Your front line people managers.
Lexi also walked through some of the key labor market trends that are impacting companies, how their teams perform, and why an organization’s approach to acquiring and retaining talent will significantly influence business results.
A blueprint to build a durable organization: the 5 elements of high performing teams
Against this backdrop, Lexi shared the five elements that she believes highly effective teams exhibit extraordinary well. According to Lexi, “these five-things, when well-engineered, will ensure you’re in the sustainable growth category of companies, instead of the ‘good idea but couldn’t pull it off’ category.”
These elements, in order of importance are:
#1. Psychological safety – team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable
#2. Dependability – team members get things done on time and meet high standards
#3. Structure and clarity – the team has clear roles, plans, and goals
#4. Meaning – work is personally important to team members
#5. Impact – team members think their work matters and creates change
And the best way to get these? Through the values and behaviors that you hire and train for, and manage performance against. If Lexi were to start a business, these are the values she’d put front and center:
- Stay curious
- Build trust
- Take responsibility
- Communicate with respect
So, how can you bring these values and practices to life in the real-world?
Putting it into practice: Building high-performance teams in the real world
To help organizations build high performing teams in real-life, Lexi and Mel walked through practical ways HR and People teams can enable their front line managers to put these four values into practice.
#1. Stay curious
In practice, this value looks like an organization that’s defined by a growth versus a fixed mindset. To make that mindset a reality, particularly in situations where leaders can find themselves triggered and gearing up to respond in a negative way (read, a-hole!), Lexi shared a tool that she borrowed from her kids’ mindfulness coach – STOP.
First, stop and pull yourself out of the situation (for instance, go to the bathroom), then take a moment to consider the trigger and how you’re feeling about it. Observe where the feeling is coming from – are you insecure or worried about being seen as ineffective? Also consider your alternatives for moving forward. Finally, proceed, choosing from your options wisely.
#2. Build trust
To build trust, Lexi walked through Frances Frei & Anne Morriss’ model of setting high standards and practicing deep devotion. Practically, setting high standards requires setting very clear goals for people to work towards and show up for; practicing devotion means behaving in ways so that people know you care about them.
For leaders, getting the balance right can be a constant work in progress. Practicing devotion, when not balanced with high standards, can lead to the lowering of standards for some employees. Setting high standards, when not balanced with devotion, can result in distancing ourselves emotionally. Many people spend their time going back and forth between the two.
A pro tip from Lexi and Mel on how you can show devotion in a virtual environment: Keep your hands in front of you and in view on the screen. By doing this you’re showing your employee that you’re not multitasking – they have the gift of your attention and presence.
#3. Take responsibility
“No relationship, team or organization will succeed unless it develops good accountability practices around the seeking, making and recording of commitments between its members,” says Lexi.
High performance requires clarity of goals, asks and a culture of impeccable commitments. Here’s what that looks like in practice:
- Start with a clear request – i.e. I need you to do X, by this date. Can you commit to that?
- Acceptable answers include – yes, no, and requests for clarification
- Unacceptable answers include the likes of “I’ll take a look and get back to you.”
Let’s put an end to “let’s take it offline” (because in the virtual world, where does this ‘offline’ place exist anyway?). Without clear commitments people let each other down, performance suffers, trust disappears, and anxiety reigns.
#4. Communicate with respect
For high performing teams – feedback is critical. But what does effective feedback look like in practice? Here, Lexi draws on the well known framework, Radical Candor by Kim Scott.
“When you have a feeling about someone’s performance – when it was really good, when it was bad – find a way to share it directly and tie it to the value and a specific instance,” says Lexi. Cite the action, the impact, and practical ways you’d like to see it change in future instances.
Lexi also shared the importance of giving both positive AND negative feedback, delivered consistently over time (if you wait for performance reviews, you’ve likely already lost the battle.) And finally, people generally do best with a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative, so be sure to celebrate the good!
A HUGE thank you to Lexi for sharing her wisdom with us during this webinar, we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!
To learn more about how The Mintable can give your managers the training, tools and community to succeed, talk to our team.