Book report: Primed to Perform – The Fire Starters


Reading notes by Yan Tougas

Fire Starters are leaders who ignite total motivation in their teams and across entire organization.  The necessary leadership skills can be taught and learned.  Systems can be put in place to build leaders at every level.

There are 4 leadership styles:

Quid pro quo.  Leaders use indirect motivators only.  Good behavior is rewarded and bad behavior is punished.  This creates high levels of emotional and economic pressure.

Hands-off.  Leaders do not use any motivators.  They get involved only when there is a problem, not realizing that teams perform best when leaders build play, purpose, and potential in the work.

Enthusiasts.  Leaders use all motivators, including indirect motivators, which decrease performance.  These leaders score at about the same level as the hands-off leaders.

Fire starters.  Leaders encourage direct motives and discourage indirect motives.  They balance tactical and adaptive performance.  They maximize total motivation, primarily through 14 behaviors:

Play.  Inspires curiosity and encourages experimentation:

1.  Provides you with time, space, and encouragement to experiment and learn.

2.  Makes it clear what it means to be performing well.

3.  Challenges you to solve problems yourself.

Purpose.  Removes the blame bias by focussing on the purpose of the work:

4.  Helps you see that your work is important and meaningful.

5.  Role models and and expects you to live by positive, consistent values and a common sense of purpose.

6.  Puts the customer’s interests first.

Potential.  Shows you that investment in your work is an investment in yourself:

7.  Actively links the work with your personal goals

8.  Helps you to develop and focus your time on your strengths rather than your weaknesses.

9.  Provides you with more responsibility as your skills grow.

Emotional pressure.  Removes fear, shame, guilt, or peer pressure:

10.  Ensures targets and goals are fair and reasonable.

11.  Is fair, honest, and transparent.

12.  Enables friendships at work.

Economic pressure.  Avoids rewards or punishments:

13.  Ensures you are evaluated holistically.

Inertia.  Removes obstacles and makes sure the work has an impact:

14.  Makes it easy to get things done and ensures you don’t waste effort.

To become a fire starter, one should embed these behaviors and ToMo into every aspect of the rhythm of performance management.  Avoid “effort goals” and “tactical goals”, and replace them with adaptive goals  Tactical performance goals focus people on just the appearance of competence.  Adaptive goals focus people on becoming competent.

Once a week, (1) review tactical goals and think about how they can be translated into adaptive goals; (2) have a team huddle to discuss what was learned during the week, how we progressed against our goals, and what we need to learn next week.  For the team huddles, have a leader and a scribe, and rotate the roles every week.  The topics covered in team huddles allows you to cover all 14 behaviors.

Great organizations are deliberate about building leaders.  They have systems with two primary components:

Training.  Provide ToMo and leadership training to your employees.

Feedback.  Very few people are good leaders, in part because they don’t get feedback about how bad they are.  Conducting 360 reviews is critical.

Building a world-class culture starts with you.  Practice.  Then find a friend to join you.  Huddle with your team.  Develop training and feedback.  Get more people to join you on your journey.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s