I loved sitting down with Michael Woodward recently for his JumbleThink podcast. We chatted about heretical leadership and the burdens and opportunities it brings, along with a lot more. Listen here, download the episode via iTunes, or stream via Soundcloud.

Now on to this week’s post.


When I graduated with an engineering degree, I was at a disadvantage. On top of being stronger engineers than I was, my peers also had a key edge: they actually liked it. Not me. My passions lived elsewhere, and I was worried––especially after a major chemical company hired me. It was a great job, but it was also about as technical and “engineerical” as it gets.

From the beginning, I felt defeated, and assumed others would earn promotions and leave me behind. I even considered returning to school and getting a degree that might better fit me.

But 10 years later, I was the one leaving others behind.

Like all companies, my chemical corporation rewarded high performance. I generated better results than my colleagues not through any technical or engineering prowess, but because I connected with my people in an emotional way that caused them to willingly give me their best.

Today, I coach others to do what came naturally to me: affecting individuals’ emotions in the service of the team’s and organization’s success. Everyone wins.

There are five emotional conditions that affect one’s willingness to serve and give maximum effort to a movement, mission, cause, or goal. I call them The Five Conditions of Performance™.

1. A Big Game to Play

The vision you offer your people is the big game you invite them to play. The bigger the game perceived, the more of and from your people you earn. Ask yourself:

Is the game I invite my people to play big enough to get their attention?

Is it so attractive that they are willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen?

What’s the first mission on the way to realizing that future?

How do I, my people, and my organization need to change to complete that mission?

Leaders articulate visions and pursue missions in ways that draw in their people so completely, each individual is willing to contribute and evolve in whatever ways necessary to win the game.

2. Commitment to and Confidence in Victory

You’ve achieved commitment to and confidence in victory when your people believe that you, they, and their teammates are fully committed and willing to do whatever it takes to make your big game happen.

Your people must believe that they have the ability to accomplish both the vision and the mission. They must see the big game as a goal they will achieve. Ask yourself:

How will I convince my people of my unwavering commitment?

How will I enroll the healthy skeptics and counter the historical drift that’s led us where we are today?

How can I demonstrate that our mission is doable and within our control?

3. A Sense of Belonging

Fostering a sense of belonging is one of the most important of The Five Conditions of Performance. It’s also one of the most difficult for many corporate leaders to discuss.

“Belonging” is the word I use to describe the experience of being loved by a group. People are designed to care for and take care of one another––not merely romantically, but in a humanistic, fraternal way. It’s in our DNA. All forms of belonging are rooted in a sense that “I am the right person, working with the right people, doing the right thing, in the right place, right now.”

When a person belongs, they’re part of a community committed to one another’s success and well being, and working together to realize their shared vision.

4. Positive Self-Image

No individual or team can outperform their self-image. Both leaders and team members must cultivate a positive self-image in order to achieve extraordinary results.

When I expand and improve my and my people’s perception of our collective abilities, greater performance moves within reach. A leader seeks to positively affect each team member’s view of himself or herself while simultaneously striving to develop their own healthy self-image. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, why would anyone else?

5. Opportunities for Personal Growth

If something isn’t growing, it’s dying. Leaders give their followers chances to learn, be challenged, and to develop in a variety of ways that are always in service of the overarching vision and mission. While leaders can’t force team members to grow, you can ensure that the opportunities exist.

Rules and other rote, surface level paradigms can only get you so far. Leaders influence people’s hearts and minds as much as their behavior to create peak performance, profits, and lasting fulfillment.

The Magic Formula

Time after time, I’ve observed that when leaders create and sustain The Five Conditions of Performance, any goal, no matter how grand, is possible. They’re the “the magic formula” for extraordinary performance.

As a supervisor and then manager, I looked at my people as spinning tops whose rotations were fueled by these five conditions. Every day, while my counterparts were busy engineering projects, I took every opportunity and used every interaction to create these conditions. My efforts kept them spinning in the service of the company’s business objectives.

I found when I did this well, my people willingly––and with minimal supervision––did whatever was necessary to accomplish objectives. They outperformed their engineer-led peers. For me, this strategy was also far more fun and personally fulfilling. I believe my people felt the same way.