128: How to Shape Culture to Drive Performance | with Lindsay McGregor



PrimedToPerformMost business leaders today realize that a strong organizational culture is critical to success. However, culture tends to feel like some magic force that few leaders know how to control. So most leaders try to shape culture based on their intuition, leave it to chance, or try carrot-and-stick approaches to drive performance.

To find a systematic, data-driven approach to shape culture, former McKinsey consultant Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi surveyed over 20,000 workers around the world, analyzed 50 major companies, and conducted scores of experiments before arriving at one major conclusion: Why people work determines how well they work.

In this episode, Lindsay and Jesse talk about:

  • Why our natural (but mistaken) inclination as leaders is to hope that indirect motivators like pay, incentives, and perks will positively shape culture,
  • How great organizations inspire the three most powerful motives for work — play (enjoying the work itself), purpose (valuing the work’s impact on others), and potential (believing it moves you toward your personal goals) — and eliminate the three most destructive — emotional pressure, economic pressure, and inertia,
  • How leaders can use a predictive new tool to measure the strength of their culture,
  • The keys that shape culture to increase total motivation, and
  • How to define and strengthen the organization’s identity, which is one of the most powerful keys to culture.

Many of these concepts aren’t new — McGregor and Doshi are very clear that they are building on over a century of academic research. Previously on Engaging Leader, such as in episodes 20 and 23, we’ve discussed ideas and keys for building or changing the culture of your organization. And we’ve discussed the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations of work in episode 10 regarding Daniel Pink’s book DRIVE. But this is the first time we’ve discussed such a systematic, data-driven approach to shaping a culture that drives performance.

Lindsay McGregor is the co-founder of Vega Factor and co-author of Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation. Previously, Lindsay led projects at McKinsey & Company, working with large Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, universities, and school systems. Primed to Perform builds on over a century of academic thinking as well as the authors’ original research. It introduces a predictive new measurement tool, the total motivation factor, which allows leaders to measure the strength of their culture and understand how it changes over time. It gives leaders the tools to transform their own workplaces.

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