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The ultimate guide to team performance management for leaders and people managers
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The ultimate guide to team performance management for leaders and people managers

Discover the benefits of managing performance at the team level—and learn 10 steps to manage and improve your performance as a team.

Table of Contents

In 1953, scientists Watson and Crick discovered the double helix structure of human DNA, a breakthrough in modern genetics. However, their success owed as much to their collaboration with other scientists as it did to their own work.* 

Whether you’re pursuing a Nobel prize or just trying to get your project delivered on time, you need your people to work well together to move things forward. 

You see, teams are more than the sum of their parts, and managing team performance is more than just managing a group of individuals simultaneously. That’s why leaders of highly collaborative teams need to approach performance management at the team, not individual, level and get everyone working together to achieve collective success. 

In this article, you'll learn why team performance management is important, as well as steps to better manage your teams and improve output. We'll also show you how a visual collaboration platform like Switchboard lets you manage your teams and get them working better together.  

Want to make teamwork the best part of work? 
Switchboard brings your projects, people, and tools together in one place—so it's easy to manage performance. 
Learn more

Managing teams, not just individuals

Let's take a look at why managing teams, not individuals, benefits your company and people—and how collaboration improves performance

Benefits of focusing on team performance rather than individuals

Teams can tackle complex problems more effectively. Just look at how, by pooling their expertise and research and brainstorming solutions with others, Watson and Crick made history. 

The collective intelligence of a team also often leads to innovative, well-rounded solutions, which makes you more adaptable to changing markets. In fact, 55% of workers at collaborative organizations report revenue growth over the past three years, which is almost double that of less collaborative companies.

Moreover, Wharton research shows that well-managed teams are more productive, especially when it comes to complex tasks and projects, than individuals working in isolation. So, by focusing on the team's performance—and knowing how to inspire teamwork—you can gain significant benefits in terms of innovation, efficiency, and overall success. 

Challenges of focusing on team performance rather than individuals 

When responsibility is distributed among team members, it’s harder to attribute successes or areas for improvement to specific individuals. This can result in a lack of individual accountability and make it more difficult to assess individual team members' performance and what they need support with. 

Team decision-making can also take longer and be more complex than individual decision-making. Reaching a consensus might require more time and effort, potentially delaying projects and timelines. 

That's why strong leaders know which projects and tasks need an entire team, and which are better suited for an individual, to make the best use of everyone's time. 

Below, we dive into how you can manage and improve team performance, so you can guide your people to their Eureka moment. 

How to manage and improve team performance

Knowing how to manage your people and play to individual strengths helps unlock their potential and improve team performance. For example, Watson was more focused on experimental biology, while Crick was known for his theoretical and analytical abilities. By using the strengths and unique skill sets of each one, they were able to approach problems from multiple angles, enriching their understanding of the structure of DNA. 

Here's how you can run a thriving team and do your best work together. 

1. Set measurable goals and expectations 

Strong teams share the same purpose and work toward the same goals. This helps to guide everyone's efforts and keeps people focused on doing their best work for the benefit of the team and company. In fact, 87% of workers at companies with clear, connected goals say their business is well-prepared to meet customer expectations—more than double companies without.

When teams perform well and delight their customers, this can also empower them to keep up the good work. This is especially true considering employees who set goals are 14.2 times more likely to be inspired at work and 3.6 times more likely to be committed to their company than those who don’t. 

Here's how you can set measurable goals for your team: 

  • Clearly identify what you want to achieve. Your objectives should be specific and well-defined and serve as the foundation for your measurable goals. Team goals should also tie into organizational goals so everyone is working toward overall company success. 
Screenshot of company OKRs on ClickUp
You can use project management tools like ClickUp or Asana to help track company objectives and key results.  Source: Flying Cat Marketing

  • Ensure your goals are SMART—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. The "Measurable" aspect is particularly important for tracking progress. 
  • Determine specific metrics or indicators. These will help you measure progress toward your goal. These metrics should be quantifiable and objectively trackable.
  • Establish desired outcomes for each metric. Targets should be realistic and attainable while challenging enough to drive people to strive to do better all the time.
  • Develop a system for tracking progress regularly. This could involve tools like spreadsheets, project management software, or dedicated monitoring systems.

2. Establish a supportive team culture 

The best teams are the ones that grow together and support each other. This means you need to establish a company culture where people feel supported and psychologically safe so they can contribute ideas, take calculated risks, and grow, which creates stronger, more resilient teams. Creating this company culture means establishing an environment where people feel comfortable sharing opinions and being vulnerable without any fear of retribution or ridicule. 

You can do this by leading by example and managing change with compassion. For example, let's say your company has recently experienced a round of layoffs. As a leader, you need to know how to guide your team through times of low employee morale and uncertainty, which means you’ll need empathy and great communication skills. 

Whatever you’re experiencing, speak openly with your employees, actively listen to their concerns or doubts, and allow them to contribute ideas on how to boost team satisfaction. This way, you can better anticipate future challenges and get everyone on board with changes. 

In fact, 79% of workers at collaborative organizations feel well-prepared to adapt to business challenges, which is four times higher than at less collaborative companies.

3. Provide the tools they need to do their job  

According to Asana's Anatomy of Work report, employees use 10 apps per day on average, and 62% of the workday is lost to repetitive, mundane tasks. 

While your team might look like they’re getting a lot done, they're actually losing productivity to the toggle tax: Some four hours a day are lost switching between apps. To avoid this, you need team collaboration tools that save time by bringing information and communication together in one place. Some tools to consider include: 

  • Asana or ClickUp for project management
  • Slack for instant messaging and team huddles
  • Notion for document management
  • Google Drive for file management 
  • Switchboard for a shared online workspace and working together in context
Pro tip: Switchboard lets you create dedicated rooms organized by project, so you never waste time looking for the right person, project, or file. For example, you can create a room for your client-facing meetings and upload your Airtable project timelines or team allocation, project calendar, and meeting agenda. 
This way, it's easy for everyone involved to stay on the same page. The best part is that you can access all the browser-based apps, files, and documents from your project room before, during, and after the meeting's over. This lets you work on things side-by-side in real time or async—and never waste time sharing or searching for information.
Switchboard room with named cursors and multiple documents and apps
Switchboard lets your teams work together on any type of project and build strong relationships with clients. Source: Switchboard

4. Invest in employee training and development 

Career advancement and employee training and development are important not only for performance but also for employee satisfaction. Today, people are more likely to look for job opportunities that give them the resources and training they need to grow. Out of the 51% of currently employed workers looking for new jobs, one of their top three reasons for wanting to leave is due to a lack of growth and development opportunities. 

This means, that to retain the best people, you need to use a team performance assessment to identify how you can help them grow and improve. Then, create a training plan and organize training, workshops, webinars, or online courses based around it. Tailor training programs to address specific roles, departments, or skill gaps. This customization ensures that training is relevant and directly applicable to everyone's work or development paths. 

Pro tip: Use Switchboard for knowledge-sharing sessions with your team to improve teamwork and promote companionship. 
Create a dedicated training room, upload your online course or training directly into your Switchboard room, and complete exercises or discuss coursework side by side with your team. Switchboard lets you grow alongside your team members while sharing insights and learning from each other's skills.

5. Develop efficient workflows and processes

Part of managing successful teams is creating workflows and processes that actually make sense for them. This means being flexible enough to implement feedback from your team and refine processes based on its direct input. 

For example, let's say your team of product designers decides to add a step to its 3D modeling process to ensure a more accurate prototype. After listening to team members’ feedback and assessing results, you’ll understand why they want to add this step to their existing workflow. 

When you listen to your team, you can build trust and enable everyone to take ownership of the project or task—including knowing the why behind what they’re doing and how they do it. This can help lighten the collective load while advancing your project. 

6. Incentivize collaboration, not competition 

You need to get your team to see itself as a unit, pulling together in the same direction. Yes, there can be healthy competition but it should be directed at your competitors, not teammates. Teams that support each other can also make work more enjoyable and productive by forming rewarding ties and sharing in successes. Highly collaborative teams also find more value in their work than those at less collaborative companies, which can increase morale and satisfaction at work. 

Here's how you can incentivize collaboration on your team: 

  • Involve team members in decision-making processes. Encourage brainstorming sessions, gather input, and make decisions collectively to ensure everyone's voice is heard.
  • Encourage senior team members to mentor junior colleagues. This creates a culture of learning and collaboration while providing opportunities for skill development.
  • Form cross-functional teams. These bring together individuals with diverse skills and perspectives. Encourage team members to learn from each other and leverage their strengths to achieve shared goals and grow. 
  • Organize team-building activities. Lighthearted games like icebreaker questions or “two truths and one lie” help encourage cooperation and communication by breaking down barriers between people. These activities can build trust and strengthen relationships among team members, which makes it easier to work together.
Screenshot of Switchboard icebreaker question generator feature
Switchboard lets you create dedicated team-building rooms and play interactive games side-by-side with your people. Source: Switchboard

7. Provide support to struggling team members 

Know the saying that a team is only as strong as its weakest link? Assuming that’s true, it means you need to know how to support struggling team members to get the best out of your team as a whole. 

Executive coach Tarah Keech, Founder of Tarah Keech Coaching, suggests you think of challenges with managing individual team members as an opportunity to be curious about different personality types rather than making assumptions. She recommends putting the work into "understanding how that team member might be motivated differently, whether they feel inhibited, or how they might respond to encouragement." 

Understanding the nuances of your team’s DNA—including individual personalities—and assuming everyone has the best intentions can help you offer support to your people and get everyone performing at their best. 

As part of this, be sure to turn the lens on yourself and understand what might hold you back as a leader. For example, leaders who have come up in the ranks as specialists in their area might not have experience managing different personality types, so they need to develop soft skills like empathy. 

8. Conduct periodic project health checks

Project health checks let you ensure projects are on track and allow you to identify potential issues and make necessary adjustments to meet your goals. They also let you get crucial input from team members and clients that is gold to improve project results, processes, and employee and client satisfaction.  

According to Tarah, no matter what your KPIs are, there's a need for follow-up and consistency. This means, "making project health checks a weekly meeting for your team and stakeholders—and sticking to it." Staying consistent will also help you regularly assess performance against your KPIs and monitor outcomes more closely, which can help motivate and engage your team.

Screenshot of company project health check on ClickUp
Project health checks can be as simple as regularly collecting project feedback from your team on a shared platform. Source: Flying Cat Marketing 

9. Check in with your team regularly 

You need to know how individual members are doing to assess the health of the whole team. You can do this by setting a regular schedule for 1:1 check-in meetings, or include it as part of your weekly team meeting. If you're using Switchboard’s host-free rooms, everyone who needs to be there always has access, so you don't need to send meeting links or worry about granting access. You can also create dedicated 1:1 rooms that save your notes and summarize them using AI—so you can easily recap and access them anytime. 

During your check-ins, make sure to give each team member an opportunity to provide updates and share their insights, as well as discuss any challenges or roadblocks they might be facing.

Pro tip: Use Switchboard to poll your team during daily check-ins, team stand ups, or project review meetings and see how they're feeling about their tasks or workload on the fly. This can help you understand how to support your team, including whether they have project bandwidth or are feeling overstretched.
Screenshot of Switchboard room with poll feature
Switchboard lets you check in with your people the way you want to with customizable polls you can add to your meetings. Source: Switchboard

10. Hold regular performance reviews 

Holding regular performance reviews helps you understand individual performance and how it contributes to team-based success. This lets you form a deeper understanding of how your team operates, including how you can support or challenge different people so you can all make it to your next milestone. 

During performance reviews, make sure to let employees assess themselves first to practice self-awareness. Then, ask for feedback on their role, the team, and the company. After this, you can begin discussing the goals set during the previous review. Assess whether they were achieved and discuss any challenges faced. 

Depending on the review, you might offer constructive feedback on improvements, or highlight the employee's accomplishments. 

Team performance management: The key to achieving great things together  

Though scientists Watson and Crick harnessed their individual strengths to unlock the secrets of life's building blocks, they couldn't have done it without the combined knowledge and help of their peers. In the same way, successful team leaders empower their people to leverage and combine their unique skills in pursuit of shared goals.

Effective teams are more than just the sum of their individual contributions and managing team performance involves more than just managing a group of individuals. That's why you need to approach performance management at the team, not individual, level. This involves getting everyone working together to achieve collective success by establishing a positive, supportive team culture, developing efficient workflows and processes, checking in with your team regularly, and giving them the tools and training they need to do their jobs. 

When you use Switchboard as your visual collaboration platform, you get features like persistent rooms organized by project that allow you to work side-by-side on any browser-based app, file, or document. Features like sticky notes, polls, and chat also let you communicate in context so you can move projects forward faster. 

Want to make teamwork the best part of work? 
Switchboard brings your projects, people, and tools together in one place—so it's easy to manage performance. 
Learn more

Frequently asked questions about team performance management

What is team performance management?

Team performance management is overseeing the collective effectiveness of a group of people working together, and understanding how to enhance employee performance and competency within that team. This includes knowing how to manage individual employees, as well as having team management practices and initiatives to motivate and inspire them to work together. 

What is the difference between team performance management and individual performance management?

The difference between team performance management and individual performance management is that the goal of team performance management is to emphasize the collective efforts and interactions of a group of individuals working together towards shared goals. This involves having team processes and incentives in place to improve profitability, productivity, and collaboration.  

Individual performance management, on the other hand, centers on the effective performance and contributions of each employee within the organization.

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Want to make teamwork the best part of work?

Switchboard brings your projects, people, and tools together in one place—so it's easy to manage performance.