BOOK REVIEW: The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work

One of the joys of being a published author is that other authors send you review copies of their books!  For anyone who loves learning, this is like getting birthday presents when it’s not your birthday.  One such recent gift in my mailbox was the delightful book by Amabile and Kramer; The Progress Principle:  Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work.
Published by Harvard Business Review Press, it just came out in August. The authors are a prestigious power couple, married and living in Massachusetts.  Teresa Amabile is the Director of Research and a professor at Harvard Business School whose expertise is focused on creativity, motivation, and performance in the workplace.  Her Ph.D. is from Stanford University.  Steven Kramer is an independent researcher, writer, and consultant with a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from my alma mater, the University of Virginia. (Go ‘Hoos!)
Amabile and Kramer asked hundreds of managers from dozens of companies around the world what the single most important factor in employee engagement was. Shockingly, 95% of managers got it wrong.
Every manager is faced with a dizzying array of choices each day on the job.  The Progress Principle offers a unique lens on ordering priorities so that managers can get the best out of their teams.
In The Progress Principle, Amabile and Kramer draw on three decades of extensive research and nearly 12,000 diary entries from more than 200 employees to reveal the truth.  Employees’ biggest motivator is making consistent, meaningful progress, and the best managers support them in making that progress.
Amabile and Kramer explain how great inner work life – positive emotions, strong internal motivation, and favorable perceptions about colleagues and the work itself – is key to an innovative, productive, engaged, and committed workforce.  Creating favorable circumstances so that employee’s inner work lives are mostly positive is crucial to successful management.
The research, including the unique methodology with a detailed analysis of the 63,000 events mentioned in the diary entries, provides an unparalleled view into what really happens at work.
As an executive coach, I’m often dealing with leaders who question how best to motivate their employees and drive performance.  This book is packed with strategic and tactical answers to what managers most wonder about. This is the roadmap to how to create progress, even baby steps through small wins, and therefore create a culture that supports a meaningful and joyful “inner work life”, which is the secret to great leadership and harnessing the best of employee psychology.

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