How Is My Leadership Team Performing?

Written by on October 1, 2014

In my work as coach and consultant to senior leaders, I am often asked about ways to improve the performance of leadership teams. Team improvement discussions inevitably lead to the question “What does one measure when evaluating the performance of a team?”  To answer, I think it’s useful to consider two separate but linked categories of measures.

Team Outcomes

The first category measures team outcomes or results. These measures are tied to the specific business goals, objectives and targets that relate to the purpose and value-add of the team within the context of their organization and the organization’s priorities. For the executive team, measures would include the overall performance outcomes for the organization as a whole. For a sales team, performance measure might include sales growth in a particular product or geography. Performance outcomes for an Information Technology leadership team might include client satisfaction levels and response time for technology support requests among others.

Team Competencies

While teams I have worked with typically have measures in place to track team outcomes, a second category of measures, team competencies, are not as diligently monitored. The team competencies category measures the alignment of the team around its purpose and goals. It measures the disciplines, processes and expectations members have put in place for working together to get the job done. Getting team competencies right leads to a greater probability of achieving high levels of performance around team outcomes. Many of us at some point in our careers have had the opportunity to be part of a successful team operating in high gear. Thinking about the attributes of that team will no doubt surface some competencies and characteristics of a high-performance team.

There are several well-researched high-performance team models that lay out the key attributes. The one I refer to most often when evaluating leadership team competencies is the one set out by David Nadler and Janet Spencer in Executive Teams.

Team Context and Structure
  • Clarity of team purpose, goals and value-add
  • Team structure – membership and size
  • Clarity of roles
Team Processes
  • Decision-making with respect to strategy, operations and talent
  • Sharing information
  • Meeting design and timing
Team Dynamics
  • Leadership
  • Relationships
  • Alignment, commitment, accountability, trust
  • Team culture and ground rules

High-performance teams have in place processes and disciplines around all these areas and serve to raise their level of commitment to the team and its goals, increase their capacity for constructive conversations, and allow them to work together in highly effective and productive ways.

How to Measure Team Competencies

Having laid out key team performance measures, how does one go about measuring team competencies? One approach is the use of an online team survey. Team members complete the assessment tool online and, with the help of a team coach, the team reviews the results and draws conclusions on actions they’d like to take to improve. At Leadership Intelligence we often use the Team Diagnostic Survey or the Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey. [1] Another approach is for a consultant or team coach to interview team members around the team competencies and then review the results with the team. Team surveys are more efficient to run while the team interviews are best in situations where the leader is new or where there are known team dynamics and issues that need exploration.

[1] Team Diagnostic Survey from Team Coaching International; Team Emotional and Social Intelligence from TESI Associates.