Figure – what is common among a special Operations Military Unit, a professional movie studio, a Professional Basketball Team, and of course a Gang of Jewel Thieves?
Confused how this most diverse set of groups can have anything in common – The one loud response I could gather was exemplary Team Culture. Team culture is one single most powerful force to achieve the maximum outcome in any undertaking.
In the Culture Code, Daniel Coyle, takes us deeper into the team-building aspects of some of the leading organizations in the world.
Coyle starts with a definition of culture that’s a little bit different than the norm. He says, “Culture is a set of living relationships working toward a shared goal. It’s not something you are, it’s something you do.” So, what is it that you do? What do people in organizations that create strong cultures do that their peers in other organizations don’t do?
There are three most significant skills at the heart of great teamwork as per the book.
- Build safety to make everyone feel comfortable in working together
Safety is an important enabler that allows us to do great work. For example, keeping our day job can help us practice our creativity freely in a side hustle. Similarly, a work environment in which you feel safe in acting as you naturally would and speaking your mind is very conducive to group work. It’s only natural: you don’t want to keep looking over your back all the time, because if you need to, you can never really focus on the task at hand. Anybody could predict the outcomes of negotiations within five minutes of starting a session. That’s because how close we are to our co-workers, whether we mimic their behavior, and look into their eyes, are instant tells of how safe we feel. One good way to make others feel safer is to confirm you understand what they’re telling you by occasionally interjecting affirmations like “uh-huh,” “yes,” “got it,” and so on. Just don’t interrupt them.
- Share vulnerability to show no one needs to be perfect
When we share our own flaws with others, something amazing happens. He calls it a vulnerability loop, in which other people detect when we signal vulnerability, thus signal vulnerability too, and thus both parties become closer and trust each other more. Workplaces are usually seen as competitive, especially in the Western world, we think we need to look confident and powerful all the time. But that’s not true. It’s usually the person who takes the first step in admitting they’re not perfect, who’s perceived as a leader, not the one who berates others for being weak.
Vulnerability not just increases trust, it’s also a way to show acceptance: if you admit no one’s perfect, people will feel okay even after making mistakes, which are inevitable in accomplishing a shared goal.
- Establish purpose through a common goal and a clear path to get there
Put simply, the purpose is a set of reasons for doing what you do. In the case of a group, it’s the sum of all beliefs and values among your team, as they relate to achieving your common goal. That goal might be something straightforward, like selling the most phones any company has ever sold, but ideally, it’s about something bigger, like making phone users feel special and that they have good taste. Since the goal is in the future, but your group lives in the now, your purpose should be like a bridge between the two. Thus, if you can come up with a simple narrative as to how your purpose will help you go from today to tomorrow and reach your goal, you’ll be able to activate those around you.
With safety, vulnerability, and purpose all in one place, it’ll be almost impossible to stop you and your team from accomplishing whatever you set out to do! There are several chapters about each skill. There’s a good mix of stories and studies. Coyle chooses his examples carefully and tells their stories well. He doesn’t use bullet points or frequent summaries, so sometimes you will work to tease out his meaning.
Most business authors put summaries of key points or action steps at the end of every chapter. Coyle doesn’t. Instead, he includes a chapter at the end of every section, titled “Ideas for Action.” That chapter functions as a review of the other chapters in the section. I think that’s a good device, but I’d rather he also put his key points at the end of every chapter.
I thoroughly reinstated my beliefs of building team cultures after reading this book and will recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the transformation of the team culture.
You can buy “The Culture Code” book here
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