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.

4 Secrets of Passionate Organizations

Performance Breakthrough

How to Create Performance Breakthroughs


How can your team reach its potential?

What if you could add a dose of passion to every member of your team?

How do you improve productivity and morale?

In his new book, Performance Breakthrough: The FOUR Secrets of Passionate Organizations, Mike Goldman reveals the four secrets for creating a more passionate organization. With 25 years of experience coaching organizations of all sizes, Mike Goldman has seen what works and what doesn’t. I recently spoke with Mike about how to create performance breakthroughs.


“The first step to a performance breakthrough is to accept that we are all different.”


Effective Techniques for Understanding

To treat others the way they want to be treated, we need to understand them. What techniques do you recommend to have someone listen and really understand someone in order to make secret one work?

I would recommend using three different techniques: asking, observing and assessing.



Ask- Meet one-on-one with each team member to ask him or her about their values, motivations, and learning styles. Don’t come right out and ask, “What motivates you?” The answer you get won’t be very helpful since, chances are, your team member will just tell you what they think you’ll want to hear. You want to ask behavioral interviewing type questions like:

Think back to a time when you were incredibly motivated at work. What happened right before to make you feel that way?

Think of a time when you had to learn something new, and it just “clicked” for you. What method of learning did you use?



Observe – Watch the individuals on your team during meetings, high-stress situations, and social situations and take note of their styles and reactions. Do they take the lead in meetings, or do they follow? Are they agreeable, or do they play devil’s advocate? Do they thrive under pressure, or wilt?



Assess – Conduct behavioral and personality assessments: There are many good behavioral and personality assessments on the market, such as Innermetrix®, Profiles International®, DiSC®, etc. These assessments are typically very accurate and may give you and your employees important insight on their styles, talents, values, and motivations.


“Giving ownership enables people to reach their true potential.”



7 Disciplines of A Leader

Positive reinforcement word Discipline engrained in a rock

How to Help Your People, Team, and Organization Achieve

In the Seven Disciplines of a Leader, Jeff Wolf explores what leadership looks like when done right. Jeff has coached hundreds of leaders and offers his disciplines in order to benefit leaders at all levels of the organization.  I recently talked with Jeff about the leadership disciplines discussed in his book.


“Companies place the wrong leadership in the job 82 percent of the time.” –Forbes


How to Get Noticed

What advice do you give to someone who wants to stand out and get noticed as a leader in a large organization?

Learn what your company looks for in its leaders. See if there’s a competency model that identifies successful leaders’ strengths and characteristics. Study this model and be sure to practice the competencies. If no such model exists, seek out successful company leaders and talk with them to gain a better understanding of how they became successful.

You should also volunteer to lead small projects, which will provide useful leadership experiences and exposure. You’ll gain confidence and enhance the skill sets that are weak.

Always be curious. Seek new opportunities and experiences, and always be open to trying something out of your normal comfort zone.

I would encourage budding and aspiring leaders to create a plan, put it in writing, and then “work it.” Research proves that people who put their goals in writing are usually more successful.

Read as many books and attend as many training courses as possible, both within and outside of the company. Vary courses so you can experience a broad spectrum of leadership skills.


“A leader’s upbeat attitude is contagious and lifts morale.” -Jeff Wolf


There’s another important challenge to overcome: Learn the areas in which you must improve because we all have blind spots. We see some of our weaknesses, but it’s truly impossible to identify all of them.

It’s important for leaders to be positive and have a great attitude because they can either impart or sap energy. A leader’s upbeat attitude becomes contagious, lifting the morale of those around them. You can always teach skills, but you cannot always teach people how to be positive; they either have a great attitude or they don’t.

Be sure you are striving to work well with others and be aware how other people view you. When you stand up to speak in front of a group, do you exude confidence, present articulate, clear messages, and carry yourself well?


Coaching for Success

What is the most common reason someone calls you for coaching?

Coaching used to be thought of as a tool to help correct underperformance or, as I often call it, the “broken wing theory.” Today, coaching is used to support leaders, employees with high potential, and top producers in an effort to enhance individual capabilities.

We work in such a high-speed environment! Organizations are finally beginning to recognize the importance of helping leaders achieve critical business objectives in the shortest possible time, so they’re hiring me to speed personnel development.

I’m often brought into organizations to deal with a number of leadership issues. Providing feedback is one key area. As leaders move into greater levels of responsibility, they receive less—perhaps even no—feedback from others on their performance. The unfortunate consequence is stagnation. Critical leadership and interpersonal skills often reach certain levels, and the leader is given no opportunity to become an even better leader. Working one-on-one with an objective third-party coach offers these leaders a trusted advisor who can focus on behavioral changes that organizations are ill equipped to handle. Coaching develops extraordinary leaders. Extraordinary leaders produce extraordinary business results.


Have a Quick Impact as a New Leader

If you are a new manager, what are a few ways to have a quick impact?

Leadership is not rocket science. It comes down to living and leading by the golden rule: Do unto others as you want them to do unto you.1119003954

People make companies. As leaders, we often spend most of our time on strategy and improving bottom-line results, but what about our people? It’s our job, as leaders, to guide them, help them develop more skills, and increase productivity.

I think Walt Disney put it perfectly: “You can dream, create and design the most wonderful place in the world….but it takes people to make the dream a reality.”

For a quick impact, work to understand what your people want, not just what you want, and act accordingly. Ask your staff for their feedback with questions such as:

  • What can I do to make you happier here?
  • What do you find challenging about your work?
  • What’s energizing about your work?
  • How can I be a better leader for you to be successful?
  • What resources do you need that you currently don’t have?
  • What motivates you to work hard?
  • Do you feel appreciated and receive the praise and recognition you feel you deserve?

Often times a new leader’s first inclination is to become too friendly with people. After all, everyone wants to be liked. But by trying to become everyone’s friend, leaders run the risk of losing respect and influence. If your staff considers you to be one of the group, they may not respect your judgment on important issues.

Additionally, they may lose their motivation to achieve goals, fail to work hard, and assume deadlines are soft when they believe their “friend” will never reprimand them. That’s why leaders must avoid falling into the trap of becoming too friendly with their staff. The bottom line? You’re the boss—not a best friend! You cannot be objective and unbiased when staff members view you as a work pal.


“It takes people to make the dream a reality.” –Walt Disney


A Guide to Hiring Right

6 Leadership Lessons from a Banker, Pope and CEO

Group of cheerful business people in casual wear standing close to each other and showing their thumbs up
This is a guest post by Rowena Heal, writer at RocketMill. She spends a lot of time with her head in a book or watching too much Sci-Fi. For more information, please check out the Cryoserver blog.

Heading up a team is tough and, unfortunately, a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership doesn’t exist.

From menial tasks, like enforcing a tidy desk policy and coaching best practice for a tidy inbox, to motivating a team to double revenue year-on-year, it’s difficult picking appropriate techniques without falling into the trap of micro-management.

Thankfully, there’s a lot to be learnt from Mario Draghi, Pope Francis and Tim Cook; all of whom have appeared within the top four of Fortune’s World’s Greatest Leaders List.

Mario Draghi

As President of the European Central Bank, and second on Fortune Magazine’s list, Draghi has a tough job on his hands. Despite this, his abilities to motivate and remain calm are great examples of skills that should be emulated by managers in all fields.

1). Keep your team motivated:

We wouldn’t blame Mario for succumbing to the stress of maintaining financial unity across 18 countries, although he’s yet to do so.

Despite having one of the toughest and most significant jobs in the world, his pledge to do ‘whatever it takes’ to preserve the euro – as well as boasting the nickname Super Mario – highlights his motivational skills.

Managers should take heed of this approach, remembering staff morale often rests heavily on your own emotions; if you’re stressed, rest assure they will be too. If things are getting a little shaky within the business, keep the team motivated – chances are the positivity will help pull you all back out of a slump.

“The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.” -Lee Iacocca


2). Stay grounded:

Mario’s often praised for his down-to-earth approach to his job; something arguably unexpected when under so much pressure. Draghi’s less than lavish lifestyle outside the office – his family celebrated his son’s graduation in a pizzeria in Milan – keep him grounded in work, too.

We’re not suggesting you remove all luxuries from your life, just don’t spend hours bragging about big expenses to staff that cannot afford the same – it’ll only create barriers. Remaining down to earth is a great way to ensure team members can speak to you openly and avoids issues with secrecy or intimidation.

Pope Francis

Now a few months into his second year as leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis is responsible for economic reforms at the Vatican and has driven a spiralling discussion on divorce and homosexuality throughout the Church.

Author Jeffrey A. Krames believes there are at least 12 leadership lessons we can learn from Pope Francis, but we’ve picked two we deem important and applicable.


3). Listen to advice:

Unfortunately, a manager isn’t always right, so it’s important to accept that decision making isn’t a lone task.

Francis demonstrates enthusiasm for learning from the people around him, creating a Council of Cardinal Advisers comprised of eight members from across the world with ideologically varied views. This group advises him on all major actions and has been deemed the ‘most important decision-making force in the Vatican,’ by John L. Allen, author of The Francis Miracle: Inside the Transformation of the Pope and the Church.

When heading a team, don’t be afraid to ask for advice from staff. Weigh up opinions and come to a conclusion based on this. Even if you still opt for your original decision, it’ll feel reassuring to know others are backing your verdict.


4). Lead with humility:

Asserting authority doesn’t have to go hand in hand with bossiness, and it’s important to remember how important your staff are – you wouldn’t be able to do your job without them.

Be more approachable by immersing yourself into the business – as well as the office. Francis is a clear advocate for leading with humility, and you can imitate this quality, starting with simple steps, like abandoning your office for a desk space next to your colleagues, or spending less on lavish business lunches.

Tim Cook