Understanding when we are at our best

By Elisabeth Goodman, 26th June 2016

Why seek to understand when we are at our best?

Two of the most popular topics in the 3-day Introduction to Management course that I run with RiverRhee Consulting are motivation, and Belbin team roles.  The way we explore them is by examining what motivates the delegates on the course, and what their most natural and preferred ways of behaving are.

Delegates at the June 2016 RiverRhee Introduction to Management course
Delegates at the June 2016 RiverRhee Introduction to Management course

It’s through this understanding that we appreciate how different we each are from one another, and what this therefore means about the people that we work with, and those that report to us.

For instance some of us will enjoy our work most if we have lots of opportunities to learn and develop, or if we can help others in their work, or if we feel that what we are doing will make a difference to people’s lives.  Or we may feel happiest in our work if we have the ability to shape strategy, make decisions, or work independently of others.

Given the diversity of our motivators, and preferred ways of working, we need different conditions, types and levels of support to help ourselves and others perform at their best.

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And yet, we don’t always know what motivates each of our colleagues or direct reports, what their natural or preferred ways of working are, or how we can help them to be at their best.

So how to find out what will help us and others be at their best?

Direct questions such as “what motivates you?” don’t necessarily work. Other open questions might though, such as:

  • What do I / you enjoy most about my / your work?
  • What do I / you like least about my / your work?
  • What would cause me / you to be more / less satisfied about work?

Observation might help too. When we are at our best we are “in the flow”, time just seems to fly by. The chances are that we are totally focused and content, and our body language should demonstrate that. There will also be types of work or tasks that we and others volunteer for or take on gladly, and others that we or they are less enthusiastic about.

Psychometric questionnaires will of course help to identify Belbin team roles and other personality types such as MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator).

I’ve been playing with another aid to understanding in recent workshops and training courses, which is based on my NLP training. I ask people to remember a situation at work when they have been at their best, or the conditions that have enabled them to do so.

I ask them to picture the situation, or the conditions, or to recreate the sounds that they heard, what they felt, or how they would describe it.

They then, if they can or want to, choose a postcard that illustrates the situation, would help them to talk about or describe it, or just feels right.

A selection of postcards courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
A selection of postcards courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

This personal reflection, and subsequent conversation with colleagues, can be a powerful way of helping people to appreciate the different opportunities and conditions that will enable themselves and their colleagues be at their best.

When are you at your best? How will you promote and support the right conditions for the people that you work with?

Do you know?  How will you find out?


Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus, a quality assured training provider with Cogent Skills and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.

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