Moneyball of Leadership: Predictors of High Performance Cultures

McKinsey has written studies that over 90 percent of CEOs plan to increase investment in leadership development because they see it as the single most important human-capital issue their organizations face.1

Theo Epstein, the general manager of the Cubs was recently named the “Greatest World Leader” by Fortune. Epstein believes that not only does “character matter,” but that it was their blueprint to winning the world series. Both selecting the right employees and creating an environment for them to flourish can help any organization perform better.

Yet, the leading predictors of leadership can seem vague, “soft,” and are often taught through lectures or advice. How can it be measured? At Next Jump, we have worked hard internally to answer the question of the predictors of high performance cultures. We have had the fortune of working with some of the best organizations and leaders in the world – from Military, education, entrepreneurs, to corporate leaders. We have found that the two top predictors in cultivating high performing teams are:

  1. GAS: “Give a Shit” – do team members have an owner mentality? Do they care about their fellow members? If they see a problem, do they address it or, do they say “that’s not my job?”
  2. No Lying Hiding Faking (No LHF) – in most organizations or teams, people spend a good amount of time and energy covering up their weaknesses, managing other peoples’ impressions, and not sharing what they really think or feel. It can feel like everyone is walking on eggshells. On the flip side, high performing teams share transparently information about the work, what’s on their minds, and feedback on each other.

moneyball of leadership

We then took a look at what metrics and analytics can help identify where you stand on these two predictors –  individually, as a team, and as an organization? Taken further, imagine if, just like an Experian credit report, there was data about your growth that could help you get to awareness about how you were developing, followed by recommendations for improvement.

We have created a beta version using data from our Feedback App (the app used internally to help facilitate anonymous, transparent feedback) to trigger conversations about development among our employees. Within a team or company events, employees receive feedback about their work, but also their own development (GAS, no LHF). Here is an early draft of our Feedback Diagnostics.

Feedback Diagnostics

Segments of Growth

We segmented each of our employees into 1 of 4 segments by comparing their average feedback score in the current quarter to their average from the previous quarter. The four segments were:

  1. Trending Up
  2. Trending Down
  3. Flat
  4. Hiding

We identified segments 1 and 2 (Trending Up and Trending Down) as employees working on their development. More to come on Segment 2 below. Segment 3 (Flat) included Next Jumpers who had become complacent in their growth and now need to push themselves out of their comfort zone. Segment 4 (Hiding) contained people who were not getting any feedback.

Having a downward trend means you are growing (investment in loss)

The concept of “investment in loss” has been a very helpful one in our discussions with employees internally. The idea (which came from Josh Waitzkin of “Searching for Bobby Fischer” fame and described in his book, The Art of Learning) is that we upgrade ourselves in levels, a notion that is contrary to a common belief that growth is a consistent upward trend. And, as you work to upgrade yourself and practice, the initial results may in fact be WORSE than before. As you practice more, your results start to climb to new heights. The challenge is that many people “give up” prematurely at the first sign of failure and revert back to their comfort zones. As a result, they do not grow.

Some great conversations were initiated as we used the report as a tool to dive into development areas. We will be iterating on these diagnostics in the coming weeks and will continue to share.

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