By Andy Schwartz, CEO & Co-Founder of xtraCHEF

If I hired a salesperson whose numbers lagged after six months, prevailing wisdom would say to cut them loose. I run a venture-backed startup, which means growing fast is the name of the game and sagging numbers just won’t cut it, right?

But if that salesperson has a great attitude, emotional intelligence and strong communication skills, focuses on getting one percent better every day and, most importantly, is hungry to learn, I’m going to stick with them. Some people need more time and coaching to ramp up, and I don’t want to lose out on a great employee because I didn’t give them the tools and time they needed to succeed. 

Far too often, startup leaders focus on analytics and nothing more. It leads them to part ways with great people prematurely. I argue that attitude is just as important as metrics -- and leads to great numbers in the long run. 

I’ve seen this philosophy pay off with my team. Some of the people who started slowly are now top performers. Our revenue continues to grow. We’re adding amazing new clients all the time, and our employees are staying with us for the long haul -- a metric I’m proud of given today’s job-hopping economy.

I’m convinced that hiring and retaining employees for attitude -- not just metrics -- has helped us succeed.

Remember: There’s more to the story than data.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a luddite. I feel blessed to live in the era of big data and often challenge myself and my team to make data-driven decisions. In fact, the mission of my company is to bring data analytics to the notoriously underserved restaurant industry. But sometimes data doesn’t tell the whole story. 

I think about how analytics has transformed sports. Every team has an analytics department that tracks and dissects player metrics. But many top teams have realized that the numbers must be matched with an eye test. Is that player really as talented as the numbers suggest?

The same is true in business. My eye test tells me that people with strong emotional intelligence, positive attitudes and a thirst for knowledge will succeed at my company. There’s no way to measure effort, grit and determination numerically. That’s true in sports and in business: Sometimes, you have to trust your gut.

Focus on attitude, not performance metrics.

Prematurely letting good people go can be detrimental to your business. But the reverse may be even more impactful. If you let performance metrics overshadow someone’s poor attitude, expect your business to suffer.

Poor attitudes lead to poor employee engagement across the board -- something plaguing far too many companies. According to Gallup data in 2018, just 30 percent of employees are engaged in their work; 13 percent are actively disengaged. That’s a scary thought. Focusing solely on analytics can lead you to reward high performers with bad attitudes -- and create a toxic workplace in the process.

A surefire sign that someone is disengaged? They're spreading gossip and being ultra-competitive with one another rather than collaborating and trying to make the team -- and the company as a whole -- better.

Build a culture of growth.

CEO and author Tony Schwartz (no relation) argued in Harvard Business Review that cultures focused on growth are far healthier than cultures centered around performance metrics. People will spend less energy defending themselves and their work, and more time collaborating. Leaders and rank-and-file employees alike will be more willing to acknowledge their shortcomings and work to improve. 

At my company, I’m building a culture of growth, not a culture of fear. We focus on how people feel and how they make others feel. We focus on how they behave, not just their ability to hit metrics. We created a safe environment where everyone (including myself) acknowledges their vulnerabilities and genuinely works to improve rather than save face. We promote continuous learning through a culture that rewards curiosity and never, ever, looks down on anyone for asking a “stupid question.”

Of course, my employees are held to performance metrics, but if somebody with an awesome attitude needs more time to ramp up, so be it. If I need to remove high performers because their attitudes are toxic, I’ll do that, too. We know that we’ll be a stronger -- and ultimately more successful -- company as a result. 

Andy Schwartz is the CEO & co-founder of xtraCHEF, a fast-growing restaurant tech startup. Learn more at: