The Culture Code – Daniel Coyle

The Culture Code – by Daniel Coyle
Date read: 3/24/19. Recommendation: 7/10.

Short read discussing the foundations of great culture. Coyle references some of the world’s most successful organizations and leaders, including Pixar, Google, New Zealand’s All Blacks, Gregg Popovich, and the Navy SEALs. Each remarkable culture shares three key elements–building safety, sharing vulnerability, and establishing purpose. It’s worth skimming through for the few important takeaways and examples he shares.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

My Notes:

Foundations of culture:
1) Build safety: creates sense of belonging + identity
2) Share vulnerability: creates cooperation and trust
3) Establish purpose: creates shared goals + values

Building safety:
Belonging cues possess three main qualities: energy (invest in the exchange), individualization (treat the person as unique, valued), future orientation (signal relationship will continue).

Performance is more dependent on behaviors that communicate sense of safety and belonging than on words. 

Google AdWords: Jeff Dean, engineer at Google, took it upon himself to fix the AdWords engine in 2002. Up until that point any targeted ads were garbage. Dean didn’t ask permission or tell anyone, he just did it. As a result, Google ousted the largest payer in the game, Overture. Not because they were smarter, but because it was safer. Less bureaucracy, more autonomy. 

Gregg Popovich, coach of San Antonio Spurs, is one of the best at this. High trust, no bullshit, tells players/coaches the truth, and loves them immensely. 

Popovich methods:
-Personal connection: he cares about you (body language, attention, behavior).

-Performance feedback: telling the difficult truth and providing constructive criticism, emphasizes the high-standards of their culture.

-Perspective: regularly engages the team with person, direct questions focused on the bigger picture (politics, history, food) to emphasize that life is bigger than basketball and everyone is connected. 

Sharing Vulnerability:
Ask more uncomfortable/tough questions that generate vulnerability (e.g. “Is there something you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?”). Reciprocity here is key, second person has to reciprocate to keep it going. 

Vulnerability precedes trust. And without trust, you can’t create cooperation.

Leader must be vulnerable first. Ask your people these questions:
-What is one thing I currently do that you’d like me to continue?
-What is one thing I don’t do frequently enough that I should do more often?
-What can I do to make you more effective?

Link discipline to reconnection:
When a player on the Chicago Cubs violates a team rule, Joe Maddon requires them to purchase a bottle of wine and uncork it with him and spend time together. 

At BrainTrusts (See Pixar) teams are only allowed to highlight problems (not suggest solutions). Facilitates candor - small, targeted, less personal but impactful.

Establishing Purpose:
Focus less on creating one big signal or speech, instead focus on communicating many small, clear signals that add clarity to a single vision.

Aim to be consistent instead of worrying about being inspiring. 

What type of performance are you after?
High-proficiency environments: defined, reliable performance.
-Create priorities, define key behaviors, lighthouse signaling purpose (e.g. New Zealand’s All Blacks).

High-creativity environments: help create something new.
-Less about guiding or steering, more about creating the right conditions/environment (See Ed Catmull at Pixar). 

High-purpose cultures (whether proficient or creative) are dynamic, allow them to evolve:

“High-purpose environments don’t descend on groups from on high; they are dug out of the ground, over and over, as a group navigates its problems together and evolves to meet the challenges of a fast-changing world.” DC