The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life

The Three Laws of PerformanceIf there is anything that small business owners can agree on, it’s that leadership isn’t what it used to be.

Whenever I get together with any group of business people, it seems that the consensus is that we seem to be running a little short on inspiring leaders in all facets of life.

I refuse to participate in that conversation. It’s easy to criticize and complain about the state of business or leadership. What’s more difficult is actually knowing and using leadership behaviors and making a difference.

This is where my latest read comes in.

The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life” is a book that will show you how ordinary business leaders were placed in unbelievably difficult conditions and made changes and improvements that were not only performance changing for the organization, but LIFE CHANGING for everyone involved in the process.

Who This Book Is For – and Not For

I won’t lie to you. This is a sort of heady book.

If you’re a self-improvement junkie, and love reading anything having to do with how you think and how your brain works, you will love this book.

If you are a more traditional thinker, you’ll enjoy this book differently. You will find some of the language philosophical and perhaps annoying, but you will find the actual application of the principles valuable. I have to admit that I had to read and re-read some of the descriptions a couple times to “get it.”

What You Need to Know About the Authors

This book is written by Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan. They call Zaffron the “Zen master in a business suit” and Logan has earned the nickname “Dr. Phil to the Fortune 500.” So, you already know that these guys have a different approach to handling corporate conundrums.

Zaffron and Logan’s approach to leadership is to turn conversations upside down and dig beyond the words that are said to get to what’s really going on. What these guys do is go into organizations and help people to see the elephant that’s in the room and then describe the elephant, what it means to everyone and what they can do to deal with the elephant — ultimately making it disappear and creating a new bigger, better, brighter and more inspiring future than any of the participants could have imagined.

What at the “Three Laws of Performance?”

I know you can’t wait to get to the heart of the book so I won’t keep you waiting. The Three Laws of Performance are:

  1. How people perform correlates to how situations occur to them. Another way to say it is “There’s what happens and what you make it mean.” It’s never what happens that upsets us – it’s how we perceive what happens and how we judge what happens. It’s the conversations we have with ourselves about what that means. For example, let’s say that you’re sitting in a room and someone gets up, leaves the room and slams the door. You might think that they were angry. What happened? They left the room. The door slammed. What you made it mean? They were angry. but see, you could be wrong. And that’s where communication and perception breakdowns create a mess that no amount of skilled leadership could solve, unless you know how to manage that.
  2. How a situation occurs, arises in language. The best way to understand this concept is with the example from the book of Helen Keller. Helen describes how she thought with her body, how she cried without understanding the emotions behind the tears. Then once she learned to communicate, a whole new world was open to her. The world literally occured differently for her because she could now name and communicate emotions around it.
  3. Future-based language transforms how situations occur to people. This principle creates the distinction between describing what’s there and what that means and creating and generative language. This is language that generates something new – a new future – a different experience. I’ve had a real experience with this kind of process. I remember doing strategic planning from an approach of identifying problems and then seeking solutions and then participating in a process called “Future Search” where we created a new future and then generated activities and strategies to create the future. The theory was that when you create a new future, things that might be a problem NOW, may not be a problem in a future scenario, so you shouldn’t spend time solving that.

See what I mean? It’s heady stuff. What makes the book ultimately useful and readable is the fact that there are so many true stories where Zaffron and Logan applied these principles and changed lives and futures.

The Three Laws of Performance is a must read if you are a CEO or managing teams of people in this economy. I’d recommend not only reading this book, but sharing it with your management team and having conversations around some of the stories and case studies and see what transformations you create in your future.

* * * * *

Ivana Taylor About the Author: Ivana Taylor is CEO of Third Force, a strategic firm that helps small businesses get and keep their ideal customer.  She’s the co-author of the book “Excel for Marketing Managers” and proprietor of DIYMarketers, a site for in-house marketers.  Her blog is Strategy Stew.


Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."

15 Reactions
  1. Good book review, Ivana.

    So, as I understand it, one of the points of this book is that we should think about how we want the future to be in our businesses. Then create strategies and tactics to achieve that future.

    If we do that, then we may not be hemmed in by our perceptions about an existing situation and how we think we should fix it. Is that right?

    — Anita

  2. Martin Lindeskog


    I have to “chew” this post a bit and come back later. Do you know if the the authors are into cognitive therapy?

    Talking about books, I received the following books in the mail on Friday:

    Groundswell, Riches in Niches, The Secret Code of Success, and Facebook Era. Do you see a pattern here?! 😉 Thanks for all your great book reviews! By the way: Did you see my comment on your post on Open Forum?

  3. Hi Anita – Yes – the idea is to “live into the future you want.” What I love about that is that you put your focus on creating what you want instead of solving problems that have held you back in the past.

    I’m glad you liked the review. I found the book insightful, challenging and inspiring.

  4. Hi Martin – I had to chew on the book for a while. I’m still referring to it rather often. This is a book so full of transformational insight that I’ve found that I see something new in the pages every time.

  5. RedHotFranchises

    Sounds like a profound, groundbreaking book & tightly reasoned. Great book review!

  6. Hi Ivana, seems to be a great book. Anyway, I agree with you, we don’t have to dwell on our pasts and solving those. But are you also suggesting we just leave them unsolved?

  7. [My comment is awaiting moderation, so I post one without the links to Industry Week and the book blog.]


    Coming from the manufacturing industry (purchaser of the raw materials for the production of welding electrodes in Sweden and cost analyst at welding company in USA) I read an interesting book review (The Three Laws of Performance in Manufacturing) in Industry Week.

    When I searched on the book, I found that they have a blog accompanied with the book.

    I will get this book after I have finished the other books that you have reviewed!

  8. Jeff Machado | Internet Marketing For Coaches

    As a self-improvement junkie, this is definitely something that would be on my night table in an instant.

    It basically goes back to the distinction being proactive and reactive. The more a company can take on the proactive mindset, the more successful they’re going to be. But you only get there when you have a larger goal in mind.

    That’s why it’s important to get employees involved in the future of the company. A lot of people leave their jobs every day feeling like they’re going nowhere and not contributing anything. But a future looking organization can actually inspire their employees and help them feel like their day to day tasks actually mean something.

  9. Mary Grace Ignacio

    No.1 law of performance is really true for me. But I just always keep in mind this – 9010 principle! And it works! 😉

  10. The 3 Laws of Performance sounds very intriguing. Great review Ivana.

  11. Nice book review. Quite intrigued by the ‘Laws of Performance’, will definitely read the book.

  12. Alabama Judicial System

    Very nice article you’ve got there. We have something in common because we both blog about laws & legal systems

  13. For a business to be really successful, managers must have the Big Picture, and a larger goal in mind, then get that message to the employees.

    Only then will you see employees get truly engaged, with resulting higher levels of productivity and loyalty.

    This book can help management understand the steps required, and the importance of a comprehensive Employee Recognition Program.