Contagious growth should be the objective of every business.
In Be Chief: It’s a Choice, Not a Title, I share personal anecdotes and stories about how to create contagious growth—sustainable growth that cascades through organizations ranging from startups to multinationals. My assertion includes the belief that organizations can only achieve sustainable growth if employees can achieve it too. I introduce the term viral engagement to describe how the positive choices of any employee to engage and grow can affect the engagement and growth of everyone around them. The compelling research behind that concept was done by Sigal Barsade who proved that positive emotions are contagious at work.
In many speaking opportunities since the book was published I’ve been asked one question consistently: “Can you share more research and examples of what organizations can do specifically to increase the likelihood that employees can sustain high performance and drive contagious growth?”
Here you go:
In Primed to Perform, authors Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor offer specific scientific research on how to help individuals light the initial spark that spreads to create the highest performing cultures. Over two decades they analyzed tens of thousands of workers from a broad range of companies and industries. “We found that the magic behind great cultures is actually an elegantly simple science.”
Specifically, that simple science focuses on the sources of motivation. Three specific motivators were found to hold the key to the highest sustainable performance and growth. Fans of alliteration, they describe these motivators as play, purpose, and potential.
Play: Doshi and McGregor describe the play motive as “any activity you enjoy doing,” but they go on to assert that curiosity and experimentation are intrinsic. Translation: Allow everyone to grow by encouraging innovation and risk-taking on the job.
Purpose: One step removed from play, the purpose motive is compelling if the work or activity leads to an outcome or impact that is consistent with an employee’s values. Translation: Create and broadly communicate a thoughtful, authentic purpose that helps everyone grow by feeling engaged with something bigger, but makes sure that purpose is credible and people want to be a part of it.
Potential: The potential motive is at play when an individual can find a second-order growth outcome (as opposed to a direct outcome) that aligns with their values or beliefs. “When someone describes a job as a stepping-stone, they’re attempting to instill the potential motive.” Translation: Employees will work harder in a sub-optimal position if they can see compelling future growth as a viable outcome.
Doshi and McGregor’s book is worth your time, especially if you understand that contagious growth is a crucial objective.