Vital Signs

Vital Signs

“In business, the idea of measuring what you are doing, picking the measurements that count… you thrive on that.”Bill Gates

The past thirty years have seen the proliferation of KPI’s, OKR’s, Balanced Score Cards, and people metrics of all types. Echoing Peter Drucker’s mantra, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”, the underlying (and well supported) premise is that through better data and metrics organizations can improve their performance. In parallel, teams have risen to dominate the organizational landscape as the preferred, if not essential means, by which companies innovate and compete. Yet, despite teams playing a critical role in the future of most organizations, few leaders measure the most vital and accurate predictor of team effectiveness over time—the health of the relationships within and across teams.

Radar for Your Teams

At a startup, where team effectiveness can mean life-or-death for the company, measuring relationship strength and acting quickly to close gaps that can lead to relationships deteriorating and people disengaging is a survival tool. In the tech sector, young companies scale rapidly, and focusing on team excellence can take a backseat to activities like business development and funding. Relationship metrics give CEOs and investors a means of mitigating risk as well as a forward-looking, predictive tool to help gauge the probability of success.

At large, global organizations, relationship metrics flag people issues and help tear down silos by cultivating trust across geographies and cultures. By measuring both relationship strength and experience versus expectation gaps—and identifying who’s working on closing them—you’ll keep people aligned and foster open, candid relationship.

Relationship metrics are like radar for your team—allowing you to identify issues before they lead to deteriorating performance and disengagement – especially for the increasing number of global, virtual teams. The relationship metrics that every organization should measure:

  1. Experience-expectation gaps. A measure of the size of any differences between each team member’s expectations versus their experience with peers; with you, the team leader; and with other teams who support them in achieving their goals.
  2. Team relationship strength. An aggregate, comparable measure of relationship strength. Highly positive experiences with high expectations are the basis for healthy relationships, while negative experiences or low expectations characterize weak or impaired relationships. Strengthening relationships don’t have a substantial impact on other people’s experiences, either positive or negative.

Check Your Vital Signs

In meeting-after-meeting, people present reams of sales, expense, and operational data and performance metrics. The discussions about every detail can go on for hours. Conversely, when leaders talk about the critical role teams play in the success of their organization, they rarely, if ever, ask about the health of the relationships of the people on those teams; let alone ask the question “and how do you know?” Too often, they rely upon HR to periodically conduct engagement surveys, or in some organizations, more frequent ‘pulse’ surveys, to get a sense of the people dynamics. That’s like trying to determine someone’s heart health by asking them how many sales calls they made last week. These approaches don’t provide a measure of relationship strength, which is the critical metric for teams.

Strong, trusting relationships are the key to both team effectiveness, and people’s well-being at work, and dysfunctional relationships are the silent-killer of teams. Continuously tracking actions taken to close experience-expectation issues and improve relationship strength will dramatically increase team effectiveness and improve people’s well-being. If you want performance, then you must incorporate the vital signs of people’s relationships into your organizations KPIs, OKRs, or whatever means of measurement you use. Borrowing from Peter Drucker, if you don’t measure relationship strength, then you can’t improve team performance.

This article is based upon excerpts from my book, Team Relationship Management: The Art of Crafting Extraordinary Teams

The One Habit blog is brought to you by Xmetryx – the leader in Team Relationship Management software tools and services for team leaders.


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