Stuck in a Stack-Ranked System? How to Encourage Collaboration Anyway
Bell curves and stack-ranked evaluation systems bring out the worst in your best. Rewarding individual performance drives individual behavior. Yet, most performance management systems do just that.
Bell curves, stack ranks, 9 box succession planning grids, all encourage selfish choices. Unless you’re running HR you can’t change the system. You can build great teams within it.
Lead past the curve to greatness.
6 Secrets to Building Great Teams in a Stack-Ranked World
Secrets from 20 years of watching, listening, leading, and being a member of great (and mediocre) teams in a stack-ranked system.
1. Inspire Vision that Motivates Sacrifice
Build excitement around an important vision. Make the mission bigger than “me” or “you.” Ensure everyone feels vital. Make the mission so attractive that everyone feels like they’ve won. When people are connected to something bigger, the frustration of the stack ranked system gets smaller.
2. Define extraordinary
Define “leading” in terms of extraordinary behaviors.
- Expose mediocrity tenaciously and compassionately. Teams rise when mediocrity is courageously rejected and excellence pursued.
- Honor self-less actions.
- Establish systems, rules, rewards, and consequences.
- Rise above results. Build integrity, loyalty, and vulnerability.
3. Reward teamwork
Reward collaborative behaviors early and often. Create infrastructure for peer recognition. Celebrate “how” over “what.” Begin meetings with informal peer recognition.
Encourage your team to share best practices and reward the sharing.
4. Create opportunities to cross-train
People will remember the years they grew professionally. The memory of a 5% higher bonus or where they sat in the stack rank will fade. Vital skills last forever. Encourage cross-training. You can’t resent a peer who made you remarkably better.
5. Involve the team in the evaluation
Have the employees rate themselves and one another on behaviors. Conduct the assessment several times a year, and use it as appraisal input. It’s tricky but worthwhile and makes the stack ranking feel more collaborative.
6. Eliminate coasters
Require teamwork as a foundational job requirement. Inspire and teach teamwork. When a member refuses, help him find a more fitting job.
If you’ve stumbled on this article about building collaboration in stack-ranked teams, you’ve found some of my very early writing. I was still working in my day job as a Verizon executive and just cutting my teeth on writing. Now I run a leadership development company and nope, no stack ranking on our team 😉
Since this stack-ranked team venting and raw solutions, I’ve written over a thousand articles, four books, and worked to train over 10,000 leaders in 14 countries. You can learn more about that journey here. I say all that to encourage you to check out some of our newer writing as well 😉