Book summary: The Progress Principle

Companies from all over the world would copy Google's workplace culture back when it was still a startup. They noticed the obvious benefits, such as free meals, ping pong tables, and internet shuttles, and implemented them at their own firms. However, they failed to "look behind the hood," where the true culture resides.

All of this may render a workplace more enjoyable. But, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin famously stated, "Our main benefit is a workplace with important projects, where employees can contribute and grow."

Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, authors of The Progress Principle, say that the key to successful culture and performance is to offer employees excellent inner work life opportunities. To promote good feelings, internal motivation, and positive views of coworkers and the job itself.

They discovered that giving talented individuals the freedom to achieve meaningful work is the key to outstanding performance.

There seem to be three sorts of events that must occur for this performance to take place:

  1. Progress (progress-indicating events);
  2. Catalysts (events that support the work); and
  3. Nourishers (events that support the person).

We'll go through each of these in order, but the most important event is progress, which is why the book's title is Progress.

Let us begin.

The Dynamics of Inner Work Life

A female feeling happy while bringing her dog on a walk. Emotions is only 1/3 of the dynamics of inner work life.

We'll try looking at what inner work life is before diving into the three events.

Emotions, perceptions, and motivation, according to psychology studies, are the three primary processes that influence performance.


Emotions can range from strong, instant emotions such as joy and rage to more broad sensations like good and bad moods.

Emotional intelligence has attracted a lot of attention in the past few years, and how to leverage it to get the best out of your employees.

However, as the writers point out, addressing your team's sentiments and emotions might make you feel you've won the entire inner work war.

On the other hand, emotions are only one part of the puzzle; without perception and motivation, you won't obtain the outcomes you want.


We are hardwired to find significance in our lives as humans. And how we react to daily occurrences is heavily influenced by our impressions about our organization, our team, and even the task we do.

The fascinating part is that this typically takes place without our knowledge. Your brain sees an event, then asks a series of questions about it before coming to a conclusion about what the experience implies.

For example, you're ready to leave the office for a crucial meeting with your boss. Then, you receive a message from their assistant informing you that the appointment has been canceled. They did not provide an explanation or a new meeting schedule.

Simultaneously, the firm is undergoing a significant restructuring, and you are concerned about your future.

You can probably guess what kinds of questions will pop into your head. Am I going to get fired? Why would they call and cancel without giving any reason? Are they unconcerned with my well-being? Are they now interviewing someone else for my position? And so on.

Someone who isn't concerned about their future and has worked with that supervisor before may not have the same queries or concerns.

The idea is that every one of us perceives what happens at work based on our own personal histories inside our organizations.


It is indeed a person's choice to perform a task, put out effort in accomplishing it, and have the motivation to keep going until the work is completed.

The three most important forms of motivation in the workplace are:

  1. Extrinsic motivation: a type of motivation that comes from outside of oneself. Extrinsic motivation is the desire to accomplish something in exchange for something else. The most obvious example of extrinsic motivation is the money and perks you receive for doing your work.
  2. Intrinsic motivation: a type of motivation that comes from inside. Intrinsic motivation is defined as a passion for one's task. You choose to perform the job because it is fascinating, rewarding, and personally challenging. This is intriguing since it may motivate people to put out a surprising amount of work that goes unnoticed. People frequently volunteer to spend nights and weekends on a project for which they receive no additional extrinsic benefit but which they feel fulfilling.
  3. Motivation that is based on relationships (or altruism). Our need to connect with and aid others is the source of relational motivation. We are driven to work harder when we believe our job has genuine worth in the world and accomplish it with a group of individuals we love being around.

It's worth noting that you can have all of these motivators simultaneously for the same task. For example, at, we work on book summaries since it is our line of work, and we get compensated for it.

However, we like the job for its own reason since we are working towards a goal, and we know that one of the concepts in this summary will influence someone (maybe you?). As a result, all three types of motives are evident in our work at

Does Inner Work Life Drive Performance?

A brain in a lightbulb doing different creative aspects from writing, painting, music - which is a part of a great performance.

The authors argue that individuals do better work in the long run when they are happy, have favorable attitudes toward their company and its employees, and are driven primarily by the work itself.

On a related note, you can persuade individuals to function at high levels under tremendous stress for short periods, but only in particular situations and not for extended periods.

According to the authors, great performance in most companies includes four dimensions:

  1. Creativity
  2. Productivity
  3. Commitment
  4. Collegiality

They also discovered that each varies directly in proportion to the person's inner work life (emotions, perceptions, and motivation).

They observed that people are more inclined to focus on the work itself, get genuinely interested in their group's project, and adhere to the objective of producing a wonderful job when their inner work life is excellent.

They also discovered that when people's inner work lives are terrible, the reverse occurs. Employees are more prone to become distracted from their job, disconnect from their team's initiatives, and abandon the objectives set for them.

The Progress Principle - The Power of Meaningful Accomplishment

A gardener making progress with planting his seeds as it is halfway there. Progress is the most essential out of all the drives.

Since we've established that inner work life influences performance, it's time to focus on the factors that influence remarkable inner work life: progress, catalysts, and nourishers.

Progress is the most essential of these three drives, as we've already stated.

Self-efficacy is among the most fundamental human needs. Self-efficacy is the idea that you can plan and carry out the tasks necessary to attain your objectives.

You are more inclined to perceive challenging difficulties as good opportunities and obstacles to conquer when you feel capable.

Not unexpectedly, the authors discovered that workers' inner work lives were significantly better on days when they made progress on work that mattered to the employee.

They discovered that progress didn't have to be significant; it only had to be there, no matter how minor.

The work does not have to have a societal-changing influence to be significant. What matters is whether you believe your effort contributes anything worthwhile to someone (or something). It may be creating a useful product for your consumers, helping your coworkers, or giving back to your community.

To summarize, the more you perceive yourself progressing in meaningful work, the more you believe you can accomplish your objectives. And the more pleasant your experience will be, and the higher your performance will be as a consequence.

In fact, the authors go as far as suggesting that a manager's job description should include making sure employees understand how they are making progress daily.

Of course, there are two sides to this coin...

Just as a manager or team leader can help an employee see meaningful progress, there are four situations in which an employee will see significant improvement disappear:

  1. When members of the team reject their effort or suggestions;
  2. When they don't feel that their work is their own;
  3. When they are unsure if the work they are producing will be publicized; and
  4. When they believe they are overqualified for the duties that they've been assigned.

Make sure you assist your team in finding meaningful progress while simultaneously ensuring that the negative effects of any one of those blunders are not eliminated.

The Catalyst Factor - The Power of Project Support

A team brainstorming and putting the puzzles together, assisting one another with the job.

Let's look at how we can encourage that process. Now we know how to establish an atmosphere where real progress may be accomplished.

Throughout their research, the writers of this book discovered seven key catalysts that influenced workers' inner work lives, all of which had an impact on the job itself.

  1. Establishing clear objectives. People want to know where they're going, both in the short and long run.
  2. Allowing autonomy is number two. It's essential to provide people the space they need to realize their goals and direct their actions. We all know that micromanaging does not foster an environment conducive to outstanding work.
  3. Making resources available. To perform what you've asked them to do, they'll need the right tools.
  4. Allowing sufficient time, but not too excessive. This is where you must strike a balance between boredom and extreme tension. Aim for a spot in the middle.
  5. Assist with the job. People should be able to communicate with others in the company who can assist them in achieving their goals.
  6. Gaining knowledge from both failures and triumphs. It is essential to create an atmosphere in which individuals feel comfortable sharing their achievements and mistakes for analysis.
  7. Allowing thoughts to flow is number seven. Inner work life is in good shape when ideas may flow freely throughout the company.

If you can get these seven factors right, you'll be well on your way to assisting your team in making significant progress.

The Nourishment Factor - The Power of Interpersonal Support

A male teammate motivating his colleague and encouraging her to reach the top.

Human connection is something we're all wired for. The more we get it at work, the better our inner work lives become, and we perform better.

However, you can't just set up an internal social network and forget about it.

To establish that link, four primary nourishers must be attended to:

  1. Respect. Respect can be expressed in a variety of ways. You may acknowledge their work since everyone feels valued when their efforts are recognized. You should seriously consider their suggestions. They will believe that their opinions are respected. You can interact with others honestly and civilly. You win people's trust and commitment when you respect them enough to accomplish these things.
  2. Encouragement. When was the last time you grumbled about someone encouraging you too much? Almost certainly never. This may be accomplished in several ways. Your passion for your own job will boost your team's motivation. You may also support people in their efforts by letting them know that you believe in them.
  3. Support on an emotional level. When people's emotions are recognized at work, they feel more connected to others. As a result, exercise as much empathy as you can. Knowing your team's positive and negative emotions might help you increase engagement.
  4. Affiliation. Employees must form personal relationships. Finding opportunities for people to interact and have fun together daily isn't only a good thing to do. It promotes the free flow of ideas, improves cooperation, and reduces the negative effects of interpersonal conflict. This is especially essential in an age when more of us work from home.


Suppose your employees struggle to achieve regular progress in meaningful work. In that case, they won't have healthy inner work lives, which means you won't obtain the outcomes you want.

There's a lot to take in with this recap but start by implementing two or three suggestions here this week. With a few simple changes to your everyday routine, you'll be surprised what you can accomplish.

Claim your welcome gifts

- 100+ Social Media Content Ideas
- 2022 Social Media Content Calendar
- Ultimate Facebook ads checklist
- 7-step Kingsmaker Growth Blueprint
and more...
No spam, only valuable content. Guaranteed!

If you don't like it, unsubscribe at any time. Seriously, no hard feelings.