To build a high performing culture, you must first understand what drives peak performance in individuals. The answer sounds simple: why you work affects how well you work.
In their book Primed to Perform; How to Build The Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation, the authors Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor take a look at research and case studies of successful companies and successful leadership that have created motivational environments for their employees. They call it TOMO (Total Motivation) You can find the book here https://www.amazon.com/Primed-Perform-Performing-Cultures-Motivation/dp/0062373986/
Here are the questions leadership should be asking about building a high performance culture:
- What leadership style should you use?
- How do you design motivating jobs and career paths?
- What is the best way to establish core value and build a strong sense of community around them?
- How should you manage the performance of your people?
- What is the fairest and most effective compensation philosophy?
- What is the best processes for managing culture?
And, how do you change a culture that is already in trouble?
- All companies need a purpose a reason the company exists.
There is a spectrum of reasons, or motives, for why people perform an activity. The first three, which we will call the direct motives, are directly linked to the activity and drive performance. The next three, the indirect motives, are further removed from the work itself and frequently harm performance.
PLAY: You’re most likely to lose weight, or succeed in any other endeavor when your motive is play. Play occurs when you’re engaging in an activity simply because you enjoy doing it. The work itself is its own reward. Scientists describe this motive as intrinsic.
- Curiosity and experimentation are at the heart of play. People intrinsically enjoy learning and adapting. We instinctively seek out opportunities to play.
- Because the play motive is created by the work itself, play is the most direct and most powerful driver of high performance.
Purpose: A step away from the work itself motive, is the purpose motive. The purpose motive occurs when you do an activity because you value the outcome of the activity. (versus the activity itself). You may or may not enjoy the work you do, but you value its impact.
- The purpose motive is one step removed from the work, because the motive isn’t the work itself, but its outcome. While the purpose motive is powerful driver for performance, the fact that its a step removed from the work, typically makes it a less powerful motive than play.
Potential: The third motive is potential. The potential motive occurs when you find a second order outcome (versus a direct outcome) of the work that aligns with your values and beliefs. You do the work because it will eventually lead to something you believe is important, such as your personal goals.
- Ex: you may work as a paralegal to eventually get into law school. Dieters are motivated by potential eating healthfully to achieve others things they care about, such as to run faster to keep wth their kids. Another example: Stepping stone jobs.
- The potential motive is not as powerful as play or purpose, since it relates to a second order outcome of the work, which is two (or more) steps removed from the work itself.
We call play, purpose, and potential the direct motives because they’re most directly connected to the work itself. As a result, they typically result in the highest levels of performance. Remember this from Primed to Perform, a culture that inspires people to their jobs for play, purpose, and potential creates the highest and most sustainable performance.
Emotional Pressure: When emotions such as disappointment, guilt or shame compel you to perform an activity, this emotional pressure. These emotions are related to your beliefs, (self perception) and external forces (the judgements of other people). The work itself is no longer the reason you’re working.
- When your motive to work on anything; work, dieting, etc. because of emotional pressure, your performance tends to suffer.
Economic pressure: Economic pressure is when you do an activity solely to win a reward or avoid punishment. The motive is separate from the work and separate from your values and own identity. Money alone isn’t the only cause of economic motive.
- From the research we expected to find that people with the least income experienced the highest economic pressure. Instead they learned that income and the economic motive were statistically unrelated. People at any income level can feel economic pressure at work.
Inertia: The most indirect motive of all is inertia. With inertia, your motive is so distant from the work itself that you can no longer say where it comes from, you do what you do simply because you did it yesterday. This leads to worst performance of all.
- Ex: A college student may continue to attend school purely because of inertia, they are on the path, so they just continue slogging. An executive continues on their job not because they are engaged in it, but because he can’t think of a good reason to leave.
Why we work:
- Direct motives typically increase performance and indirect motives typically decrease it.
- The more directly connected the motive is to the activity itself, the better performance becomes. Play is the motive that is closest to the work itself, so its the most powerful. Purpose is on step removed, so it is the second strongest. Potential is two or more steps removed from the activity, so it is the third strongest.
These two insights define total motivation. (TOMO for short) High levels of total motivation occur when a person feels more of the direct motives and less of the indirect motives. Total motivation is the foundation of any high performing culture.
Direct motives typically enhance performance while indirect motives decrease it. Second, the closest the motive is to the work itself, the better the performance. Play is the strongest motive. Then purpose. Then potential. Inertia is the most destructive, them economic pressure, then emotional pressure.
- How well a person executes a plan. Every job requires specific actions to be done in specific ways. EX: a certain number of calls, or emails for a sales person. Tactical performance is productivity, efficiency, and control.
- Someone having the freedom and ability to make adjustments to their job while they are doing to account for things that change and processes to be changed.
The military uses the phrase VUCA to describe limitations of tactical performance and why adaptive performance is so crucial. The letters in VUCA stand for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Tactical performance is not enough to address VUCA. People and organizations need to adapt.
If a job only has tactical performance behaviors, then you can create performance through indirect motivators. When a job has the need for more adaptive performance, like problem solving, indirect motivators can make performance worse.
- As total motivation decreases, adaptive performance decreases with it, and maladaptive performance takes its place.
- As total motivation increases, so does adaptive performance. Adaptive performance is the secret sauce behind innovation, creativity, great customer experience, distinctive salesmanship, and may other outcomes that have remained a mystery for so long.
Culture: Is our shared set of values and behaviors within an organization.
- A high performing culture is a system that maximizes adaptive performance through total motivation.
It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest thats survives, but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.–Leon Megginson
Managing culture is like managing your finances, it is a never ending process.
Four Types of leaders:
Quid Pro Quo leaders: Definition of quid pro quo is latin for something for something. This is how these leaders lead. They believe in giving rewards for good behavior and punishments or threat to control bad behavior. They produce high levels of emotional pressure, Inertia, and economic pressures.
Hands off Leaders: They use neither direct or indirect motivators. They tend to get involved only when there is a problem. Like most people, many hands off leaders have good intentions. They believe their teams want lots of space. The problem is they’re wrong. Teams perform best when the leader is involved.
Enthusiast: There isn’t a motivator an enthusiast won’t try, direct or indirect. Problem with this is the indirect will cancel out the direct.
Fire Starter: They use direct motivators and do what ever they can to eliminate the indirect motivators.
Fire Starters: Play
- Provide you with time, space, and encouragement to experiment and learn.
- Makes it clear on what it looks like to performing well.
- Challenges you to solve problems for yourself.
Fire Starters: Purpose: The blame bias makes us believe that everyone works for solely money. Fire starters hep you see and believe in your works purpose:
- Helps you see the work is important and meaningful.
- Role models and expects you to live by positive, comsisitnet, values in a common sense of a purpose.
- Puts the customers interest first.
Fire Starters: Potential: Help you connect your work to your personal goals and needs. They show your investment in your work is also an invest meant in yourself.
- Actively links the work with your personal goals.
- Helps you to develop and focus your time on your strengths rather than to your weaknesses.
- Provides you with more responsibility as your skills grow.
Fire Starters: Emotional Pressure: Reduces the potential for feel of fear, shame, guilt, or peer pressure.
- Ensures targets and goals are reasonable.
- They are fair and transparent.
- Enables friendships at work.
Fire Starters: Economic Pressure: Avoid using rewards or punishments to coerce people to work. Ensure you are evaluated holistically.
Fire Starters: Inertia: Remove obstacles from your path and make sure your work will have impact. Makes it easy to get things done and you don’t waste time doing it.
If you hire people who are smaller than you are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. If you hire people who are bigger than you are, we shall become a company of giants.
From the testing, we learn that flexibility in how people work, rather than where or when they work is key. People who had freedom in how they worked were more motivated.
What the research found:
- A job designed to enable experimentation increase motivation by 68 points.
- A job designed to enable learning through a variety of increase motivation by about 68 points.
- A job designed to make you feel a sense of purpose increases motivation by about 64 points.
- A job designed so that you do not work alone increases motivation by about 36 points.
- While money is poor motivator, it can be an effective activator, overcoming ones inertia.
To be perfect is to change often-Winston Churchill.
As you an see by the book summary here the main points of the book are the motives of why people are motivated on the job. Play, Purpose, and Potential being the main reasons for motivation at work. These motives allow for flexibility and adaptive performances where the employee can be creative and do what they feel like is necessary to get the job done within the parameters of the company. And the person who is responsible for setting up this Total Motivation environment is the leader. In this case they call a good leader a Fire Starter. Meaning a good leader gets the team (fire) started and the allows the team (fire) to take off any do what they need to do.
I hope you enjoyed this book summary. For more book summaries and notes from other books I have read and really enjoyed, checkout http://www.thebrianwillett.com/literature/book-summaries/