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Book Review: Primed to Perform

In late October at the Sales Force Productivity Conference, I kept hearing whispers about a great speaker that I didn’t get a chance to hear – Lindsay McGregor. She talked about culture and what motivated employees. She also co-authored a book about high performing teams. This has always been interesting to me, so I sought out Lindsay to talk to her about her talk. I ended up running into her several times. When I told her all her books at the conference were sold out, she happily told me to send her an email, and she’d send a signed copy.

Well, I got the book in November – Primed to Perform – that she cowrote with Neel Doshi. After reading the book, it’s one of my favorites! I finished it a while ago, but I wanted the material to sit a little while longer before writing a review of it. Yes, it was that good.

McGregor and Doshi studied hundreds of companies and other studies about high-performing companies to find the key factors of what drove their successes – developing the Total Motivation Factor (“TOMO”).

Here are my major take-aways:
  • TOMO is made up for 3 direct motivators and 3 indirect. They range from the most powerful motivator to the least influential, and then least influential to the most powerful “de-motivator” – Play, Purpose, Potential, Emotional, Economic, and Inertia.
  • Direct motives – “Play” is the game and the enjoyment attained by the role/ job. “Purpose” relates to the outcome of the activity – the impact. “Potential” is how the activity enables some downstream effect aligning with some personal goals.
  • Indirect motives – “Emotional” pressure occurs through disappointments, guilts, and shame. “Economic” pressure comes from solely having some reward or even avoiding some punishment. “Inertia”, then, is the most powerful indirect motivator. Inertia is the motive where they do what they do simply because they it’s the norm – “It’s a job”.
  • TOMO can be calculated for teams by assessing scores in each of the motives – sample assessments can be found at www.primedtoperform.com. The highest performing companies tend to have TOMO scores at least 15 points higher than their industry peers.
  • Tactical and adaptive performance are critical strategies for every company. Tactical refers to the structure and processes of how a business operates. In sales, this may include following sales cadences for outreach. For marketing, this may include the editorial calendar for social media postings. It’s the plan. Adaptive performance refers to the ability to adjust to changes quickly, and perform at a high level. The military refers to adaptive capabilities as VUCA – variability, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity. VUCA enables military personnel to adapt to fast-changing scenarios where plans go awry.
  • Beware of cobra farms. When India was a British colony, there was a bounty placed on dead cobras. At the time, cobras were plentiful and roaming wild. With compensation for dead cobras, suddenly, cobra farms started manifesting. This created the wrong solution as there were many times more live cobras being bred. Beware of the incentives and rewards put in place, and how success is measured.
There are many more take-aways from the book. In fact, this is one book I will read at least a few times a year to continually remind myself as my company grows and I build my teams. The company will continue to evolve, and enabling a culture that is agile and adaptive will be key to growth and having a sustainable competitive advantage.

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