Employee Performance – 3 things I learned from my spin-cycle class

Performance and motivation

I arrived at spin-cycle class for the third time that week.

Little did I know that this would be a lesson in employee performance for me.

I had joined the gym but found that I was spending more time taking the classes; the spin-cycle class in particular.

When I arrived at the class this time though, something was different. First, it was a different instructor. Second, the room had a different layout. Instead of the usual row arrangement where we were all facing the instructor at the front of the room, we were facing each other in a circle. I really enjoyed this particular class, with the different instructor and the different room setting, but it left me searching for answers. I had performed much better in this class than I had in the others. I had pushed myself. I was feeling exhausted, accomplished and satisfied at the end of this class. So I decided to reflect on my experience, and how it relates to employee performance.

What did I learn about Employee performance?

I learned that each person is unique and complex

It pays to use their unique learning style and not your own

The spin instructor gave good clear auditory instructions at the beginning of the class. Do whatever it takes to burn 150 kcal, take a short break and then burn another 150 kcal.

Instructions in this class were auditory; he called them out. My tonal memory is good, so it was easy for me to hear and understand what the instructor said. Are you an auditory learner like me, or do you like written expectations? Maybe your auditory memory is good, but a second reminder, 10 minutes into the class would have been useful.

I also learn well by doing, sometimes referred to as a kinesthetic learner. In fact, what I did differently that helped me to be successful was that I experimented. In doing so, I realized for the first time in spin class that if my Watts/Power was high, I burned more kcal. In previous classes, I just followed the instructions at the beginning, without having the opportunity to create new learning.

When you learn something new, how do you best take in information? As leaders as you making the assumption that others take in information the same way that you do?

Do you know each of your team members learning style?

It pays to know what motivates each individual

Something was different and I had learned something new about myself. I was curious if the change in room layout had made a difference.  This was a group class, unlike a personal training session so there was not an opportunity for one-on-one feedback. I questioned the other participants to see what motivated them to keep going, in this challenging situation.

I found that the SCARF model for Motivation to be helpful in allowing for the unique complexities of individuals.

Scarf stands for: S(status), C(consistency), A(autonomy), R(relatedness), F(fairness)

I wanted to finish before the others (Status), and I was motivated by the fact that I could achieve it whatever way I liked (Autonomy) rather than being told what to do each step of the way, like a regular spin-cycle class.

I questioned a few of the other participants and was fascinated by their responses. One girl said that by facing others, rather than the instructor, she felt a sense of togetherness, that we were in it together (Relatedness). Another guy said he was motivated by the fact that he could consistently perform at the same level (Consistency). In addition, another guy said that he liked that it was reasonable and objective; we had the same bikes, time and instructor (Fair).

Do you know what motivates each of your team members, and are you using that to keep them engaged?

It pays to shine their individual strengths

I was playing to my strengths; I have power in my legs and good music rhythm. So spin cycle suits me well, and I have discovered a new untapped strength in spin classes. Likewise, according to Gallup, when your employees play to their strengths, they experience more confidence, less stress, are indeed more engaged and satisfied at work.

Do you know each of your team members strengths, and are you using them?

To increase employee performance, get curious!

1.   Find out their unique learning style

Understanding their unique learning channels helps you identify what you need to facilitate their learning and remember new information. Knowing about how they learn best, through reading, listening, diagrams or a combination of these, also enables you to give them information in particular formats that work best for them. Simply asking them will provide you with some information. Above all, avoid the error of assuming that their learning style is the same as yours.

2.   Find out what motivates them

What gets each individual in your team out of bed in the morning? What makes them hungry? What makes them take ownership of their work? There may be many factors. Daniel Pink talks about the intrinsic factors of purpose, autonomy, and mastery being more important than extrinsic factors such as bonuses and salary. I believe that D. Pink’s work is important, and yet I have found that mastery, is not universally important for everyone.

I like David Rock’s neuroscience SCARF model, based on minimizing danger (threats) and maximizing rewards. What was interesting in the spin class, was that I found out that different things motivate different people. We are indeed, complex people.

As a leader, find out what motivates each of your employees, not only so that you can motivate them, but also so that you do not demotivate them.

3.   Find out their strengths

Observe them, and ask them questions. Be curious and listen to them. Alternatively, use an assessment to help you. I have a free quiz and guide that you could use with each team member. Other great assessments are StrengthsFinder,  and VIA Character Strengths.  For managers and leaders, I find the Leadership Practises Inventory and the CPI-260 useful.

Summary: Get to know them. Be Curious!

Find out their unique learning modes, motivators, and strengths. This is additionally true if you want to attract both Millennia’s and Gen Xer’s. The benefits of being curious and finding out more about your team members can make a huge impact on performance.

Group Class Verus Personal Trainer!

Off course this was a group class. I did finish fairly quickly, but then I was left thinking, what did I learn from that? Had I been working with an individual trainer, this important learning process would have been both faster and more impactful.

Successful leaders are similar to personal trainers. They coach their employees in the feedback process. They ask them to think about what they did to be successful. They use questions such as, what resources did you use, what did you do differently, who did you collaborate with, and what strengths did use. When you help your employees to learn, you are in fact creating “ah ha” moments, that establish new neural networks in their brains. As an added bonus, performance and productivity will increase. See my article for more information on how to incorporate learning into feedback.