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High-performance culture

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The bar for good work at Tremendous is high — higher than environments you may have previously been in. This doc outlines:

Overview

In a high-performance culture, everyone is skilled, motivated, and culturally aligned. As a result, teams are able to generate exceptional results.

A high-performance culture is:

  • Skillful. People are good at their jobs, and sweat the details.
  • Trusting. You don’t have to worry about your teammates holding up their end of the bargain.
  • Collaborative. We prize people who work together to uplift and unblock their teammates.
  • Driven by learning and growth. We hire the self-aware and self-motivated, who are eager to learn and commit themselves to improvement.
  • Psychologically safe. People speak up when something’s off, and are willing to admit that they’re wrong.
  • Consistent with our company values. High performance relies on our core values: autonomy, intentionality, and rationality. (see:
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    Values
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But it is not:

  • Relentlessly grinding. Working at a sustainable pace results in the best long-term outcomes.
  • Knowing everything. We don’t judge when people ask basic questions. This is critical in order to develop skills and knowledge.
  • Being immediately available, always. There’s no offsite award for the fastest reply to Slack messages.
  • Never failing. We value trying new things and taking calculated risks. Not every project will work out as we hoped.
  • Never having a really bad day (or week). It happens to everyone, and your team is here to support you.

Why this matters

Superior outcomes

Small teams of exceptional performers deliver superior results — better than large teams of middle performers. The result is a better product for our clients, and a better business outcome for us.

Compounding talent density

High performers congregate — they want to work with the best people to be inspired and learn. Conversely, middling performance has a corrosive impact on the morale of high performers, and the productivity of the entire team suffers.

Workplace happiness

It’s a pleasure to work with, manage, and be managed by high-performing individuals. It also allows us to continue running Tremendous in a low-process and trusting manner.

Maintaining a high-performance culture

High recruiting bar

We’re maniacal about bringing in top talent. We’d rather sit on an open role for years than settle for someone we aren’t excited about.

In fact, part of the reason that we’re a remote company is so we can keep the talent density this high; otherwise, we’d be recruiting from too small a pool to find the caliber of people we’d want.

See: and

Feedback and coaching

After someone joins the company, our focus turns to making them successful in their role, and developing them generally. We do this in a few ways:

  • Continuous feedback from managers. Managers are expected to provide feedback on an ongoing basis without a predefined cadence or structure. It might be shared in a weekly 1:1, an ad hoc Zoom call, or even a Slack message. Continuous feedback lets people quickly address any issues, helps them maintain awareness of their performance, and reduces the stress of biannual check-ins.
  • Performance check-ins. These are structured; we do them 2x per year. See:
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    Biannual Performance Check-ins
    .
  • Skip-levels. Managers of managers will occasionally do 1:1s two levels down in order to understand how their direct reports are performing. See: .

That said, arguably the best way to develop is to work alongside other high performers and learn by osmosis.

Retention practices for high performers

We want our team to stick around, and we proactively reward strong performance with more comp and responsibility.

See

for details.

Handling mediocre performance

While we strive for excellence in recruiting, onboarding, and coaching, we’re never going to hit 100%. Our philosophy when we encounter middling performance is to provide direct feedback, and, if we’re convinced it’s not going to be adequately addressed, part ways.

Providing feedback about performance issues

  • A manager first determines that one of their direct reports is exhibiting sub-standard performance.
    • Typically, the manager notices issues themselves, and hears about it from teammates of the employee.
    • The manager will talk this over in great detail with their manager to make sure their assessment is correct.
  • The manager then delivers feedback to the employee about performance issues.
    • Managers are coached on delivering this feedback in a way that can’t be confused with the more tactical continuous feedback that we provide.
  • Once feedback has been delivered, the goal is to determine whether the employee is able to address the performance gap.
    • There’s no one-size fits all approach. There are too many variables here to follow one specific process.
    • In most cases, there’s months of coaching and observation before the manager makes a call. In others, it’s apparent quickly, and a drawn-out process is counterproductive.
  • Our ultimate criterion is the “keeper test” - if this person said they were leaving, would we fight to keep them on the team?

Handling terminations

  • When the manager becomes convinced that the performance won’t meet expectations, they make the decision to terminate. Termination has to be approved by the leadership team.
  • Once the decision has been made, we act as quickly as possible–usually within a few days.

Conducting ourselves during the process

Throughout this process, we strive to be:

  • Fair. Managers are expected to be rational by making their assessment logically and dispassionately, and by updating their assessment based on an employee’s attempts at incorporating feedback.
  • Direct. Managers are expected to communicate expectations so there’s little ambiguity in the implications of persistent performance issues.
  • Kind. We treat people respectfully during the process; being a bad fit for our work environment has no relation to someone’s personhood. We offer generous severance packages to support people while they find their next role.
  • Transparent. When we let go of a team member, we tell the company. We share information about what happened, while also respecting the specifics of the situation and maintaining reasonable privacy for the departed employee.

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Founders note Our goal with writing this doc was to be intentional by documenting what’s already in practice.

While it’s fantastic to work in a high-performing culture, we also recognize that it’s intimidating at times. If you’re feeling that way, you should chat with your manager, and our calendars are open to you as well. Our advice: remember that you’re here for a reason. Enjoy the culture we have, and help preserve it.

- Nick + Kapil