Coach your team with Success Metrics

One-on-ones: it’s a term with many different connotations. Anything ranging from a highly effective way to improve individual performance to a colossal waste of time may come to mind. These meetings are a rare opportunity to spend some face time focusing on individual skills and measurables. Many articles highlight the benefits these meetings between leaders and team members, but what can we do today to ensure our one-on-ones are actually improving individual performance?

What a one-on-one isn’t (or shouldn’t be)

Before we dive into some best practices, let’s quickly clear up a few not-so great ones. One-on-one’s shouldn’t be just another opportunity for a manager to tell an employee what to do. They also shouldn’t be a place to focus on interpersonal issues between team members or disciplinary action (schedule separate meetings for those.) Similar to the interview process we go through when hiring these people in the first place, the manager shouldn’t be driving the majority of the time. If so, take a step back and review the overall meeting structure.

So…what is a one-on-one?

One-on-ones are, simply put, coaching sessions. These are regularly recurring meetings where the employee has the opportunity to receive dedicated feedback, as well as a chance for the manager to help an employee improve their individual performance. There’s ample evidence to show that a coaching culture can drive the health, happiness, and performance of a team. It’s important to remember that the underlying goal is to help the individual improve themselves rather than teaching or telling them how to be better. Although we may need to show or demonstrate a specific task or skill from time to time, the focus should be on supporting the employee’s efforts to improve and excel with appropriate resources. Contrary to other more management oriented responsibilities, coaching requires ceding control in favor of a creating mutual partnership.

Who controls the one-on-one?

Another huge mistake managers make is not letting the employees take the reins from the get go. Have each team member proactively schedule the time for a weekly (or bi-weekly) recurring meeting, confirm the meeting time each week (or reschedule if need be) and send out the agenda ahead of each meeting. This empowers each team member to drive the conversation and encourages them to consider where they are, where they want to go, and what help they need along the way.

As managers, we can then insert additional items into the agenda as needed. This sets the tone that the time is dedicated to the individual. To continue that trend, I find it helpful to let the employee kickoff the meeting and save the manager’s items for the latter portion. At the conclusion of the meeting, determine agreed upon action items and next steps, then have them send out an email recap. This provides the initial agenda for the next coaching session.

Focus on the metrics that matter most.

Within a given role, there will be longer term deliverables like completing a project and higher volume activity metrics that indicate success. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, all of these team success metrics have been clearly defined and we already have a great reporting process (or even a really fancy spreadsheet) in place. It’s not only easy to access for the entire team, they also check it on a daily basis, collaborate on the data by commenting in the app, and share key metrics in relevant conversations in Slack.

Discover how Notion can gets your team tracking, sharing, and collaborating on the metrics that matter most to their performance.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve ran into at this juncture is information overload. Even with a great dashboard in place, each person had 4 or 5 different activities metrics tracking to monthly and quarterly numbers, benchmarking of some sort and a couple SLA reports with items linked to other business units. Knowing that it’s not realistic to just say “make all the numbers better,” what now? How do you focus each member of your team on the metrics that matter most to their performance?

Define your success metrics

The lion’s share of coaching time should be spent focusing on the role’s top 2–3 “success metrics.” In other words, if someone is doing great job around those specific numbers, they should be on track to hit their goals. If I’m a Product Manager, my top metrics would be something like the rate of conversion to customer, the rate of adoption for a particular feature, and the number of monthly active users in your product.

Most cross-functional business and coaching conversations should be tightly entwined with these numbers. That’s not to say we can’t (or shouldn’t) look at complementary or contextual numbers as well — and we definitely want to be wary of vanity metrics — but someone can only focus on pulling so many levers at a time. This is why we talk a lot about the One Metric that Matters, which argues that each company, each department, and each individual should have one primary focus at a time. You might track a few data points to tell you how you’re progressing with that one metric, but your focus should be narrowed to just one goal.

A word of caution from experience, don’t be hasty to change these measurements. It takes a while to steer the ship and flip-flopping to different measurements is confusing for your team to say the least. If you’re not positive that you’re focusing on the right success metrics to get you toward your goal, feel free to track a few what ifs in the background just in case, but maintain your primary focus on the task (and goal!) at hand.

If you’re still trying to clearly define all your metrics, don’t worry! The initial metrics we come up with are really just a starting point. Over time, some of these measurements will inevitably be found ineffective or inappropriate for the business. This is an iterative process in which we should constantly be testing, verifying and refining what we’re measuring. Make sure that whatever KPI tracking tool you’re using let’s you evolve your data approach as you evolve your strategy!

Looking for help defining your team success metrics? Download Notion’s Guide to Getting Started with Team Metrics.

It explains everything step-by-step and in 3 short meetings with your team, you’ll have team goals and metrics defined and ready to track! Download the guide!

  • Colin McGrew, Contributor

This post originally appeared on the Notion blog.