How to Build A Culture Primed to Perform

Primed to Perform

How do you create a culture that is primed to perform?

What does science say about changing organizational culture?

Is there any tool that can help measure and track your culture over time?


Build A Culture Designed to Perform

Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor have just written a book, Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation, that answers these questions and more. It is written as a guidebook for those who know how important a strong culture is, but they don’t know what steps to take to create one. I recently spoke with Neel and Lindsay to learn more.


“Culture is what tells your people why they should work.” -Doshi/McGregor


The Magic of a Great Culture

Often people think of culture as something that is like art, but you say that the “magic behind great culture is actually an elegantly simple science.” Tell us more about your research.

We all know that culture is important. We’ve felt it. Some cultures are filled with fear and stress, while others inspire creativity and enthusiasm. What has eluded us, however, is why. Our research provides an “elegantly simple” answer: culture is what tells your people why they should work, and why they work is what determines how well they work.

Here’s the kicker though: not all “whys” are created equal, and too often, cultures are designed to motivate using the destructive “whys.”

Our answer is not only elegantly simple, but also empirically powerful. Using our total motivation framework, we’ve measured the motives of over 20,000 people at more than 50 major institutions. We’ve observed an incredibly strong relationship between their culture and performance metrics like sales and customer experience. In one study, employees with high levels of total motivation (or ToMo for short) generated 38% more in revenues than their low ToMo counterparts.

Culture is an entirely quantifiable and engineerable asset—and the most important one. ToMo gives leaders the tools to unlock the highest levels of performance in their people and company.


“Why you work determines how well you work.” -Doshi/McGregor


Why You Work Determines How Well You Work

What is total motivation? How does this drive performance?

Total motivation is simply the notion that why you work determines how well you work. The effectiveness of the “why” depends on its distance from the work. Let’s take a mid-level management consultant for example:

Play is when you work for enjoyment of the work itself. Play is the most powerful motivator: twice as potent as purpose and almost three times more than potential. Our fearless consultant might enjoy conceptual thinking and the process of breaking down big puzzles into digestible, actionable pieces.

Purpose is when the outcome or impact of the work is why you do it: maybe she values seeing how a new strategy improves a client’s well-being and helps his customers.

Potential is when the work enables a future outcome aligned to your personal goals: she might want to manage operations at a big company or a company of her own down the line, and this job will help her achieve that.


“Culture can’t be managed by chance.” -Doshi/McGregor


How To Create An Optimistic Workplace

Optimistic Workplace

Make Work Happy

Do you want to create an optimistic workplace?

How does a strong purpose help in difficult times?

How do leaders set a positive leadership presence?


“The climate suffers when employees don’t believe their leader has their back.” –Shawn Murphy


My friend, author and speaker Shawn Murphy is the CEO & Founder of the leadership blog, Switch & Shift. His new book, The Optimistic Workplace, is a guide to creating and maintaining a powerful, positive, optimistic culture that creates results.

Previously, Shawn shared with us the powerful implications of positive, contagious emotions. I wanted to go deeper into the research for his new book, and so I asked Shawn to share more about the leadership insights he gained from decades of working with business leaders.


“Optimistic climates support employees’ exploration of purpose.” –Shawn Murphy


Find Your Purpose

I was fascinated by the research on eyeblinks. How does the eyeblink reflex relate to purpose?

Researchers used startle probes to measure the reflexive eyeblink caused by a stimulus, in the case of this research it was an image. The images ranged from positive, to neutral, to negative.

What researchers learned was the length of the eyeblink gave insight into the person’s emotional response to the pictures. The longer the eyeblink, the more unpleasant the response to the picture.

How this connects to purpose is that the researchers, Carol Ryff and team, found that those who had a clearer sense of purpose in life recovered faster from negative images. The research gets at a person’s resiliency. Purpose in life strengthens the core of our identity. The clearer our sense of purpose, the stronger our resiliency is; we can recover faster from negative stimulus in our life.

In a work context, we can summon our purpose to guide us through difficult times at work. It can also help us make better decisions, as purpose serves as a guide in decision making: Does this opportunity support my purpose?


“Resilience can be strengthened when a person has a sense of purpose.” –Shawn Murphy


Start Small to Cultivate Optimism

To cultivate optimism in the workplace, you say, “Start small,” and, “Forget about the ‘big bang.’” Most people who have a passion for culture want to jump right in with sweeping initiatives and major change. Why start small?

In my 20+ years as an organizational change management consultant and in leading change in my own company, I’ve learned that the big bang causes more confusion, comes across as rah-rah, and alienates people from what the change purpose and message is.


“Workplace optimism is the belief that good things will come from hard work.” –Shawn Murphy


So, rather go for broke, start small. Create a pocket of excellence. The change starts in a small group within the organization. The group is typically a supporter of the change. Let the small group experience success and gradually widen it to other pockets within the company.

Word of the success travels through networks of people. This approach organically builds support through achieved success and not through possible success. It’s the latter that is the focus of big bang change efforts. It’s what disillusions people about change efforts.


Research: You can transform the work experience by focusing on the best positive realities.

Key Benefits of Internal Brand Building

Internal Branding
This is a guest post by Simone Smith, a writer at Online Courses Australia. She believes that inspiring company culture and work-life balance are keys to success.

Internal Branding Matters

Internal branding refers to the process of providing employees with the training and education they need to support, understand, protect, and advocate for your brand’s mission. A critical part of expanding a successful business is internal branding.

In fact, internal branding should matter to companies of all sizes, from the solo professional to the Fortune 500 company. The reason for this is very basic: If you and your employees can’t fully get behind and believe in your brand, how can you expect complete strangers to become lifelong loyal customers?


“Strong brands are built on unshakable values and authenticity.” -Simone Smith

Here are some of the key benefits of internal branding for your company:

Develop a relationship between the brand and employees

With internal branding, you are essentially handing your employees the keys to unlocking the secret to the mystery of how they are integral to the overall company mission as well as the vision for the brand. Employees discover how the job they do affects how the brand is viewed by customers.


Develop better relations between coworkers

Shared goals between coworkers are a proven way to bring people together to create a cohesive team. The same can be said for sharing a powerful brand vision. When employees share a strong belief in what they are working toward, productivity and morale go way up. Employees also become more vocal advocates for the brand.


Improve hiring and retention

Believing in the brand’s promise and feeling passionate about being an important member of the team that helps bring that brand’s promise into reality for the customers helps employees remain loyal to the company. When a company gains a reputation for having happy, passionate employees, it is easier to keep people from leaving to explore other opportunities. Likewise, it is so much easier to attract great talent when prospective employees know they will be treated well and enjoy working in an encouraging, community-like atmosphere.


Internal branding builds character within an organization

Strong brands are built on unshakable values and authenticity. When a brand spreads its message and vision internally, employees are encouraged to adopt the same values the company has shown that they prize. This makes it less likely that employees will act in ways that are counter to the brand’s accepted culture and values. This promises a more consistent brand experience for every customer who buys from you.


“If you and your employees don’t believe in your brand, how can you expect strangers to become lifelong customers?” -Simone Smith

The Importance of Emotional IQ

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to recognize emotions both in yourself and those around you.

A great leader can interpret the emotional state of those around them, and act accordingly. This ability to effectively read others is a trait that many great leaders share, and that many companies look for when hiring new employees. This infographic from the University of Maryland highlights the importance of emotional intelligence and the role it plays in office culture.