7. Primed to Perform by Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor (2015)

Consider this statement: “I love the company I work for. I can get behind their mission statement, attitude, work ethic, and events. My coworkers are like family to me and the company has gone out of their way to provide for and accommodate me.”

Now ask yourself, is this how you feel about your job? If you think back into your past, did you feel this way about other jobs? And why is that?

The quote above is not made up, nor is it a stock quote. It was spoken by an actual employee of Whole Foods. And Whole Foods employees rank very high on what’s known as the “total motivation factor,” which correlates, not coincidentally, with higher customer satisfaction.

Other companies, according to authors Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor, fare just as highly. Southwest Airlines, for example. I can attest to this fact, at least in my experience, by the behavior of the flight attendants that took care of me as I flew recently to Las Vegas, a direct flight. For a few numbers, let’s say that Southwest’s “total motivation” score—or ToMo, for short—was 41. Compare that to the average of three of their competitors, which come out to 27. How we arrive at those numbers is the crux of Primed to Perform, as is how we stick to those numbers or, more importantly, increase them.

This is a book that encourages you, if not forces you, to look at what motivates you, or more precisely, to what extent six key principles motivate you. These six, as Doshi and McGregor delineate them, are in two categories: positive motivators and negative motivators. They constitute the motive spectrum.

The sources of motivation number three: the work itself, the actual job you do; your own identity, values, and beliefs; and external forces like your family and economic demands. It turns out that the closer your motivation derives from the work and your identification with it—how it aligns with your own values and beliefs—the more likely you find fulfillment. The more you are driven by external forces, the less motivation you have.

The three top motives, the “Direct Motives,” are Play, Purpose, and Potential. Play is not a matter of Google’s office having pingpong tables, but whether its employees see their work as “play,” which is to say, fun and challenging at the same time. Purpose is a matter of finding the deeper meaning in your work, what you want to contribute to the world. Potential relates to the kind of future you see in the work, where it will take you. These three motives contribute to powerful motivation.

The lower three, the “Indirect Motives,” lead to a profound lack of motivation: Emotional Pressure, Economic Pressure, and Inertia. Emotional Pressure is working to make someone else happy or, worse, to avoid disappointing someone, like your spouse, or your mother. Economic Pressure is working solely to pay the bills, pay the loans, and make the car payments. Inertia is by far the lowest motivator: “I work here because I worked here yesterday,” in effect, because you see no other avenue.

Primed to Perform provides the formula for determining your motivation score, and it is invaluable if only for that. The numeric is a measurement, of course, and should be taken not with outright skepticism, but at least a grain of salt—after all, your ToMo score can change.

High ToMo scores leads to a culture of motivation. Aside from Whole Foods and Southwest, other notables include Starbucks, Apple stores, and Nordstrom. The performance of employees reflects that; tactical performance, how well the plan and strategy is executed, and adaptive performance, how quickly an employee can diverge from the plan in relation to changes in the company and the market, are high. Maladaptive performance (and several are detailed in the book, some or all of which you may recognize) are nonexistent. But in a low ToMo culture, tactical performance may remain high, but the adaptive performance suffers—and maladaptive performance thrives. Culture is an ecosystem that unlocks the best in every employee.

Since Capture Higher Ed has adapted this book, it is a necessary read by every employee. Getting the full sense of the motivation of not only you as an individual, but other individuals and, hence, the teams, departments, and ultimately the whole company, provides a critical perspective on what happens from day to day.

Each employee needs to answer the singular question, “Why?” The culmination of those “Why’s” becomes the organization’s “Why.”

As with many books we’ve looked at here, and many we will review in the future, they all have a common attribute: professional development is really the development of the mind. Part of that mindfulness is to be aware of your own motivation, and the motivation of others around you. It leads to “mind hacking” and, certainly, in being aware of the “people styles” of those around you. And, as with those other books, Primed to Perform need not be restricted to your motivation at work. Your family life, your artistic impulses, or any other craft all have a sense of motivation. What can you learn from those aspects of your life?

A lot, it turns out. The place to begin is to understand your ToMo score. Give this book a try. Lend your shoulder to the wheel.

Thanks for reading,
Sean Hill