While there are many definitions of great leadership, the responsibilities and requirements of a team leader are pretty straightforward—and universal. Effective team leaders must do three things exceptionally well:

  1. Set a compelling vision for the team.
  2. Help team members set their goals and hold them accountable to those outcomes.
  3. Build and maintain an “A Team” by hiring well, developing talent, and managing out underperformers or employees who are a poor organizational fit.

You may notice that the list above doesn’t include production metrics, which are mainstays for measuring an individual contributor’s performance. For leaders, individual goals or metrics should be secondary to the overarching priority of building and maintaining a team that performs at its highest possible level.

As logical as this sounds, I’ve discovered recently that many organizations’ performance management systems and processes completely miss the boat on this front.

Far too few organizations actually collect team feedback to evaluate their leaders’ management performance. Instead, many companies evaluate managers solely based on individual performance and production metrics. The result is that the manager’s performance as an individual contributor is measured more, and thus valued more, than their performance leading and developing their team.

To make this concrete, consider the example of a sales leader. Many companies primarily evaluate their sales leaders’ success by measuring if the team reaches its sales goal, which may also include a production metric for the sales leader individually. However, the most important priority for a sales leader is not to be the top seller; it’s to develop and lead a team of high-performing salespeople.

Let’s pretend the Acme Company’s sales team, led by Jane, has a quarterly sales goal of $1,000,000. Rather than declaring Jane successful if Acme reaches that sales goal, Jane’s manager should be equally concerned with how the team reaches that goal.

For example, if Jane’s team has four reps doing the selling, with equal quotas, Jane’s manager should be evaluating how effectively Jane coaches each rep to sell $250,000. If a sales rep falls drastically below that line, Jane also needs to hold them accountable.

In other words, a sales leader’s performance depends on the performance of each member of their team. If Jane has one superstar rep who overperforms, and three who underperform, those facts suggest that her leadership is lacking, even if the team is hitting its collective goal. This is especially true if Jane frequently steps in to close deals herself, rather than coaching her team to do it.

When companies evaluate their managers based on their individual or team metrics, while overlooking their leadership capabilities, they can easily miss poor management, or even toxic leadership. Companies cannot afford to overlook these dynamics, especially during a period of record turnover. It’s well known that people quit managers, not companies; companies that struggle to identify ineffective or toxic managers will lose a disproportionate amount of talent.

With that in mind, let’s return to Jane and the Acme Company. Imagine a situation again where Jane’s team hits their goal, but everyone on her team thinks Jane is a bullying micromanager who doesn’t coach or train her team and the entire team is looking for a new job as a result. Isn’t that pretty important information for Jane’s manager to have? Too often, strong performance against metrics covers up poor leadership.

In well-run organizations, every employee has a scorecard with the top three to five priorities for their role. For anyone leading a reasonably sized team, managing and leading would certainly be among those top priorities—it may even top the list. At Acceleration Partners, we call this priority LMA: lead, manage, and hold accountable. However, we realized that we too weren’t doing enough to measure it.

Today, everyone with LMA on their scorecard is evaluated on this metric in their performance reviews, supported by 360 feedback from their teams.

It’s so obvious that it should go without saying: leaders should not score well on their performance reviews if they aren’t leading well. Leaders and managers should be evaluated on whether their teams enjoy working for them, and whether they hire well, coach well and proactively address performance management issues. Great players are not always great coaches.

It’s true that employees leave managers, not organizations. But it’s the company that pays the steepest price for poor leadership in the end. Make sure your organization has a system for identifying your best leaders and ensure you have as many people as possible on their teams. Also, create a process for identifying your weakest managers, and either coach them up, move them out of management or move on from them, as they will cost your organization the most in the long run.

Quote of The Week

“What gets measured gets managed.”


–Peter Drucker