Serving Your Performance

Team: Optimising Team Performance With "My User's Guide"

Last year Spoon was working with a group of managers of a leading international High Street retailer. The company had been going through a period of declining growth and a downturn in sales. The managers agreed that it was essential to find new ways to raise the morale and performance of their team during this difficult phase. We asked the managers how well they really knew their team members. Most managers admitted they were unaware of the both the deep and day-to-day motivations of the individuals they worked with. We posed a series of questions:

  • What inspires Karen to perform effortlessly to the best of her abilities?
  • What inspires Julian to go the extra mile for customers?
  • Under what conditions does Paul flourish?
  • What charges Michelle’s batteries, giving her the energy and commitment to dedicate herself to her work?

On the other hand, we continued:

  • What makes George pull his hair out in frustration?
  • What drains Jill’s energy and makes her complacent?
  • What urges Michael to give up trying to improve his performance?
  • What makes Lisa want to find another job?

Finally, Spoon asked the managers what they thought would happen if they and their team members could not only share their answers to these and other key questions, but also act on the basis of this information. We agreed to set up an experiment.

Spoon has created a tool designed to optimise team performance. We call it ‘My User’s Guide,’ and several weeks later, in a fun interactive seminar, introduced it to one retail team. This process enabled individuals to discover and note not only each other’s deeper motivations and inspirations, but also their ‘hot buttons,’ their pet peeves, and other behaviours that led to disengagement and frustration. One immediate outcome of the seminar was increased empathy, rapport and a better understanding of interpersonal awareness. People in the seminar (including some who had worked intimately together for several years) expressed surprise at the things they learned. ‘I never knew,’ one said, ‘that what I was doing had the effect it did on certain people.’ Another enjoyed the increased intimacy her and her team members, saying, ‘My team members know things about me I haven’t even told my husband.’

The true test would be the implementation of My User’s Guide when the team went back to work. The effect was immediate. Team members reported enjoying better morale and a less stressful work environment. Managers and team members noted feeling more mutually supported. Interpersonal conflicts became fewer and far between, and were seen as opportunities to clarify and update individual Users’ Guides. Over time managers noted additional benefits, such as:

  • Better individual and team performance
  • Less absenteeism
  • A decrease in staff turnover

At a User’s Guide review day, one manager noted, ‘in the past I always tried to treat every member of my team exactly the same. Now that people have spelled out their personal sensitivities and motivations, I tailor the way I behave to meet individual needs. It’s so easy, because it’s all spelled out in their Users Guides. I feel like I’ve got a manual to follow to support and develop each member of my staff.’