Book: The Culture Code

the_culture_code“The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups” By Daniel Coyle
  • Negative archetypes: “the Jerk (an aggressive, defiant deviant), the Slacker (a withholder of effort), and the Downer (a depressive Eeyor type).”
  • “Safety is not mere emotional weather but rather the foundation on which strong culture is built.”
  • “Belonging cues possess three basic qualities:
    1. Energy: They invest in the exchange that is occuring
    2. Individualization: They treat the person as unique and valued
    3. Future orientation: They signal the relationship will continue”
  • “It’s possible to predict performance by ignoring all the informational content in the exchange and focusing on a handful of belonging cues.”
  • “You don’t look at the informational content of the messages; you look at patterns that shows how the message is being sent. These patterns contains many signals that tell us about the relationship and what’s really going on beneath the surface.”
  • team performance factors:
    “1. Everyone in the group talks and listens in roughly equal measure, keeping contributions short.
    2. Members maintain high levels of eye contact, and their conversations and gestures are energetic.
    3. Members communicate directly with one another, not just with the team leader.
    4. Members carry on back-channel or side conversations within the team.
    5. Members periodically break, go exploring outside the team, and bringing information back to share with others.”
  • “Group performance depends on behavior that communicates one powerful overarching idea: We are safe and connected.”
  • “But the deeper thing to realize is that you can’t just give a cue once. This is all about establishing relationships, conveying the fact that I’m interested in you, and that all the work we do together is in the context of that relationship. It’s a narrative–you have to keep it going. It’s not unlike a romantic relationship. How often do you tell your partner that you love them? It maybe true, but it’s still important to let them know, over and over.”
  • “Here, then, is a model for understanding how belonging works: as a flame that needs to be continually fed by signals of safe connection.”
  • Small steps during an one-hour session that WIPRO did to reduce employee attrition:
    • “a personal question about their best times at work” (i.e. “What is unique about you that leads to your happiest time and best performance at work?”)
    • “an exercise that revealed their individual skills”
    • “a sweatshirt embroidered with their name”
    • “These signals didn’t take much time to deliver, but they made a huge difference because they created a foundation of psychological safety that built connection and identity.”
  • “Belonging cues have to do not with character or discipline but with building an environment that answers basic questions: Are we connected? Do we share a future? Are we safe?”
  • “But it’s all for the team and it’s never about the individual.”
  • “‘a lot of coaches can yell or be nice, but what Pop does is different,’ says assistant coach Chip Engelland. ‘He delivers two things over and over: He’ll tell the truth, with no bullshit, and then he’ll love you to death.'”
  • “He always asks questions, and those questions are always the same: personal, direct, focused on the big picture. What did you think of it? What would you have done in that situation?”
  • “Popovich would create similar conversations on the war in Syria, or a change of government in Argentina, gay marriage, institutional racism, terrorism–it doesn’t really matter, as long as it delivers the message he wants to deliver: There are bigger things than basketball to which we are all connected.”
  • ‘Food and wine aren’t just food and wine,’ Bufford says, ‘They’re his vehicle toi make and sustain a connection, and Pop is really intentional about making that connection happen.'”
  • “This task involves many moments of high-candor feedback, uncomfortable truth-telling, when they confront the gap between where the group is, and where it ought to be.”
  • “I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.”
    • “Actually when you look more closely at the sentence, it contains three separate cues:
      1. You are part of this group.
      2. This group is special; we have high standards here.
      3. I believe you can reach those standards.”
  • Popovich’s methods of communications:
    • “Perssonal, up-close connection (body language, attention, and behavior that translates as I care about you)
    • Performance feedback (relentless coaching and criticism that translates as We have high standards here)
    • Big-picture perspective (larger conversations about politics, history, and food that translate as Life is bigger than basketball)”
  •  “Beneath Hsieh’s unconventional approach lies a mathematical structure based on what he calls collisions. Collisions–defined as serendipitous personal encounters–are, he believes, the life blood of any organization, the key driver of creativity, community, and cohesion.”
  • “My job is to architect the greenhouse.”
  • “In fact, Hsieh is anticharismatic, he does not communicate particularly well, and his tools are grade school simple–Meet people, you’ll figure it out.”
  • “The most successful projects were those driven by sets of individuals who formed what Allen called ‘clusters of high communicators.'”
  • “What mattered most in creating a successful team had less to do with intelligence and experience and mroe to do with where the desks happened to be located.”
  • “‘Something as simple as visual contact is very, very important, more important than you might think,’ Allen says.”
  • “It turned out that vertical separation is a very serious thing. If you’re on a different floor in some organizations, you may as well be in a different company.”
  • “Certain proximities trigger huge changes in frequency of communication. Increase the distance to 50 meters, and communication ceases, as if a tap has been shut off. Decrease distance to 6 meters, and communication frequency skyrockets.”
  • “Studies show that digital communications also obey the Allen Curve; we’re far more likely to text, email, and interact virtually with people who are physically close. (One study found that workers who shared a location emailed one another four times as often as workers who did not, and as a result they completed their projects 32 percent faster.)”
  • “Closeness helps create efficiencies of connection.”
  • “Creating safety is about dialing in to small, subtle moments and delivering targeted signals at key points”
    • “Overcommunicate Your Listening”, “It’s the way we prove that we’re in sync with someone.”, “Relatedly, it’s imprtant to avoid interruptions.”
    • “Spotlight Your Fallibility Early On–Especially If You’re a Leader”, “Instead, you should open up, show you make mistakes, and invite input with simple phrases like ‘This is just my two cents.’ ‘Of course, I could be wrong here.’ ‘What am I missing?’ ‘What do you think?'”, “‘To create safety, leaders need to actively invite input,’ Edmondson says.”
    • “Embrace the Messenger”, “‘You know the phrase ‘Don’t shot the messenger’?’ Edmondson says. ‘In fact, it’s not enough to not shoot them. You ahve to hug the messenger and let them know how much you need that feedback. That way you can be sure that they feel safe enough to tell you the truth next time.'”
    • “Preview Future Connection”, “Three years ago he was sitting right in that seat where you are.” (referring to a “dominant relief pitcher for the Cardinals”)
    • “Overdo Thank-Yous”, “Thank you for allowing me to coach you.”, “In other words, a small thank-you caused people to behave far more generously to a completely different person. This is because thank-yous aren’t only expressions of gratitude; they’re crucial belonging cues that generate a contagious sense of safety, connection and motivation.”
    • “Be Painstakig in the Hiring Process”
    • “Eliminate Bad Apples”
    • “Create Safe, collision-Rich Spaces”, “Waber recommended aligning team members’ schedules so they shared the same fifteen-minute coffee break every day.”, “Merely replacing four-person tables with ten-person tables has boosted productivity by 10 percent.”
    • “Make sure Everyone Has a Voice”, “But no matter how strong the rule, the underlying key is to have leaders who seek out connection and make sure voices are heard.”, “Abrashoff asked each sailor three questions:
      1. What do you like most about the Benfold?
      2. What do you like least?
      3. What would you change if you were captain?”
    • “Pick Up Trash”, “This is what I would call a muscular humility–a mindset of seeking simple ways to serve the group. Picking up trash is one example, but the same kinds of behaviors exist around allocating parking places (egalitarian, with no special spots reserved for leaders), picking up checks at meals (the leaders do it every time), and providing for equality in salaries, particularly for start-ups. These actions are powerful not just because they are moral or generous but also because they send a larger signal: We are all in this together.”
    • “Capitalize on Threshold Moments”
    • “Avoid Giving Sandwich Feedback”, “They handled negatives through dialogue, first by asking if a person wants feedback, then having a learning focused tow-way conversation about the need growth. They handled positives through ultra clear bursts of recognition and praise.”
    • “Embrace Fun”
  • “The crew of Flight 232 succeeded not because of their individual skills but because they were able to combine those skills into a greater intelligence They demonstrated that a series of small, humble exchanges–Anybody have any ideas? Tell me what you want, and I’ll help you–an unlock a group’s ability to perform. The key, as we’re about to learn, involves the willingness to perform a certain behavior that goes against our every instinct: sharing vulnerability.”
  • “Where did we fail? What did each of us do, and why did we do it? What will we do differently next time?”
  • Vulnerability: “It’s about sending a really clear signal that you have weakness, that you could use help. And if that behavior becomes a model for others, then you can set the insecurities aside and get to work, start to trust each other and help each other. If you never have that vulnerable moment, on the other hand, then people will try to cover up their weaknesses, and every little microtask becomes a place where insecurities manifest themselves.”
  • “Increasing people’s sense of power–that is, tweaking a situation to make them feel invulnerable–dramatically diminished their willingness to cooperate.”
  • “Vulnerability doesn’t come after trust–it precedes it. Leaping into the unknown, when done alongside others, causes the solid ground of trust to materialize beneath our feet.”
  • “But science shows that when it comes to creating cooperation, vulnerability is not a risk but a psychological requirement.”
  • “The idea is that we can combine our strengths and use our skills in a complementary way. Being vulnerable gets the static out of the way and lets us do the job together, without worrying or hesitating. It lets us work as one unit.”
  • “Exchanges of vulnerability, which we naturally tend to avoid, are the pathway through which trusting cooperation is built. This idea is useful because it gives us a glimpse inside the machinery of teamwork.”
  • Cooperation: ” a circle of people engaged in the risky, occasionally painful, ultimately rewarding process of being vulnerable together.”
  • “The problem here is that, as humans, we have an authority bias that’s incredibly strong and unconscious–if a superior tells you to do somthing, by God we tend to follow it, even when it’s wrong. Having one person tell other people what to do is not a reliable way to make good decisions.”
  • “We’re trying to create leaders among leaders. And you can’t just tell people to do that. You have to create the condition where they start to do it.”
  • “Sarting that night in 2001, Cooper set out to build those conditions for his team. His approach to nurturing cooperation could be described as an insurgent campaign againt authority bias. merely creating space for cooperation, he realized, wasn’t enough; he had to generate a series of unmistakable signals that tipped his men away from their naturaltendencies and toward interdependence and cooperation.”
  • “When Cooper gave his opinion, he was creful to attach phrases that provided a platform for someone to question him, like ‘Now let’s see if someone can poke holes in this’ or ‘Tell me what’s wrong with this idea.”
  • “He steered away from giving orders and instead asked a lot of questions.”
  • “You’re looking for that moment where people can say, ‘I screwed that up.’ In fact, I’d say those might be the most important four words any leader can say: I screwed that up.'”
  • “Look, nobody can see it all or know it all,” Cooper says. “But if you keep getting together and digging out what happened, then after a while everybody can see what’s really happening, but just their small piece of it. People can share experienceds and mistakes. They can see how what they do affects others, and we can start to create a group mind where everybody can work together and perform to the team’s potential.”
  • “But they succeeded because they understood that being vulnerable together is the only way a team can become invulnerable.”
  • “When we talk about courage, we think it’s going against an enemy with a machine gun,” Cooper says. “The real courage is seeing the truth and speaking the truth to each other.”
  • “I like the word connect,” Givechi says. “For me, every conversation is the same, because it’s about helping people walk away with a greater sense of awareness, excitement, and motivation to make an impact. Because individuals are really different. So you have to find different ways to make it comfortable and engaging for people to share what they’re really thinking about. It’s not about decisiveness–it’s about discovery. For me, that has to do with asking the right questions the right way.”
  • Questions to help teams improve:
    • “The one thing that excites me about this particular opportunity is_____________”
    • “I confess, the one thing I’m not so excited about with this particular opportunity is ____________”
    • “On this project, I’d really like to get better at ____________”
  • “When you’re really listening, you lose time. There’s no sense of yourself, because it’s not about you. It’s all about this task–to connect completely to that person.”
  • “As Dave Cooper says, I screwed that up are the most important words any leader can say.”
  • “Laszlo Bock, former head of People Analytics at Google, recommended that leaders ask their people three quesitons:
    • What is one thing that I currently do that you’d like me to continue to do?
    • What is one thing that I don’t currently do frequently enought aht you think I should do more often?
    • What can I do to make you more effective?”
  • “The successful groups I visited did not presume that cooperation would happen on its own. Instead, they were explicit and persistent about sending big, clear signals that establisehd those expectations, modeled cooperation, and aligned lanaguage and roles to maximize helping behavior.”
  • “If you have negative news or feedback to give someone–even as small as rejected item on an expense report–you are obligated to deliver that news face-to-face.”
  • “traces any group’s cooperation norms to two critical moments that happen early in group’s life. They are:
    • The first vulnerability
    • The first disagreement”
  • “At those moments, people either dig in and become defenseive and start justifying, and a lot of tension gets created,” Polzer says. “Or they say something like, ‘Hay, that’s interesting. Why don’t you agree? I might be wrong, and I’m curious and want to talk about it some more.’ What happens in that moment helps set the pattern for everything that follows.”
  • The most effective listeners do four things:
    • “They interact in ways that make the other person feel safe and supported”
    • “They take a helping, cooerative stance”
    • “They occasionally ask questions that gently and constructively challenge old assumptions”
    • “They make occasional suggestions to open up alternative paths”
  • “The most important part of creating vulnerability often resides not in what you say but in what you do not say. this means having the willpower to forgo easy opportunities to offer solutions and amke suggestions. Skilled listeners do not interrupt with phrases like Hay, here’s an idea or Let me tell you what worked for me in a similar situation becuase they understand that it’s not about them. They use a repertoire of gestures and phrases that keep the other person talking. ‘One of the things I say most often is probably the siimmplest thing I say,’ says Givechi. ‘Say more about that.'”
  • “It’s not that suggestions are off limits; rather they should be made only after you establish what Givechi calls ‘a scafold of thoughtfulness.’ The scaffold underlies the conversation, supporting the risks and vulnerabilities. With the scaffold, people will be supported in taking the risks that cooperation requires. Without it, the conversation collapses.”
  • “One good AAR structure is to use five questions:
    • What were our intended results?
    • What were our actual results?
    • What caused our results?
    • What will we do the same next time?
    • What will we do differently?”
  • “Some teams also use a Before-Action Review, which is built around a similar set of questions:
    • What are our intended results?
    • What cxhallenges can we anticipate?
    • What have we or others learned from similar situations?
    • What will make us successful this time?”
  • “A key rule of BrainTrust is that the team is not allowed to suggest solutions, only to highlight problems. This rule maintains the project leaders’ ownership of the task, and helps preven them from assuming a passive, order-taking role.”
  • “AARs, Braintrusts, and Red Teams each generate the same underlying action: to build the habit of opening up vulnerabilities so that the group can better understand what works, what doesn’t work, and how to get better.”
  • “Give honest feedback is tricky, because it can easily result in people feeling hurt or demoralized. One useful distinction, made most clearly at Pixar, is to aim for candor and avoid brutal honesty. By aiming for candor–feedback that is smaller, more targeted, less personal, les judgmental, and equally impactful–it’s easier to maintain a sense of safety and belonging in the group.”
  • “One of the most difficult things about creating habits of vulnerability is that it requires a group to endure two discomforts: emotional pain and a sense if inefficiency.”
  • “But as with any workout, the key is to understand what the pain is not a problem but the path to bulding a stronger group.”
  • “While it seems natural to hold these two conversations together, in fact it’s more effective to keep performance review and perfessional deelopment separate. Performance evaluation tend to be high-risk, inevitably judgmental interaction, often with salary-related consequences. Development, on the other hand, is about identifying strengths and providing support and opportunities for growth. Linking them into one convesation muddlies the waters.”
  • “When I asked Dave Cooper to name the single trait that his best-performing SEAL teams shared, he said, ‘The best teams tend to be the ones I wasn’t that involved with, especially when it came to training. They would disappear and not rely on me at all. they were better at figuring out what they needed to do themselves than I could ever be.”
  •  “High-purpose enviroment are filled with small, vivid signals designed to create a link between the present moment and a future idal. They provide the two simple locators that evry navigation process requires: Here is where we are and Here is where we want to go.”
  • “Envision a reasonable goal, and envision the obstacles. The thing is, as Oettingen discovered, this method works, trigering significant changes in behavior and motivation. In one study, adolescents preparing for the PSAT who use this method chose to compelte 60 percent more practice questions than the control group. In another, dieters consumed signifcantly fewer calories, where more physically active, and lost more weight.”
  • “motivation is not a possession but rather the result of a two-part process of channeling your attention: Here’s where you’re at and Here is where you want to go.”
  • Real-time signals through whcih the team members were connected (or not) with purpose of the work:
    • “Framing: Successful teams conceptualized MICS as a learning experience that would benefit patients and the hospital. Unsuccessful teams conceptualized MISCS as an add-on to existing practices.”
    • “Roles: Successful teams were explicitly todl by the tema leader why their individual and collective skills were importatnt for the team’s success, and why it was important for them to perform as a team. Unsuccessful teams were not.”
    • “Rehearsal: Successful teams did elaborate dry runs of the perocedure, preparing in detail, explaining the new protocols, and talking about communication. Unsuccessful teams took minimal steps to prepare.”
    • “Explicit encouragement to speak up: Successful teams were told by the team leaers to speak up if they saw a problem; hey were actively coached through the feedback process. The leaders of unsuccessful teams did little coaching, and as a result team members were hesitant to speak up.”
    • “Active reflection: Between surgeries, successful teams went over performance, discussed furture cases, and suggested improvmeents.”
  • A conversation about values:
    • “What were they really about?”
    • “What did they stand for?”
    • “Who came first?”
  • “The results indicate that Union Square Cafe achieves its differentiation strategy of ‘enlightened hospitality’ through a synergistic set of human resource management practices involving three key practices: selection of employees based on emotional capabilities respectful treatment of employees, and managment through a simple set of rules that stimulate complex and intricate behaviors benefiting customers.”
  • “For years, researchers persumed that the behavior was a result of an ‘organizer cell’ that functioned as a kind of biological drill sergeant, tellign the others what to do and when. This organizer cell, it turned out, does not exisit. What does exist is something more powerful: a simple set of rules called heuristics that drive behavior.”
  • “You can’t prevent mistakes, but you can solve problems graciously. If it ain’t broke, fix it. Mistakes are like waves; servers are really surfers. The road to success is paved with mistakes well handled.”
  • “The fact that these projects start out as painful, frustrating disasters is not an accident but a necessity. This is because all creative projects are cognitive puzzles involving thousands of choices and thousands of potential ideas, and you almost never get the right answer right away. Building purpose in a creative group is not about generating a brilliant moemnt of breakthrough but rather about building systems that can churn through lots of ideas in order to help unearth the right choices.”
  • “Accordingly, Catmull has almost no direct involvment with creative decisions. This is because he realizes that (1) the teams are in a beter position to solve problems, and (2) a suggestion from a powerful person tends to be followed.”
  • At Pixar:
    “Hire people smarter than you.
    Fail early, fail often.
    Listen to everyone’s ideas.
    Face toward the tproblems.
    B-level work is bad for your soul.
    It’s more important to invest in good people than in good ideas.”
  • “Catmull, however, wasn’t as quick to celebrate, knowing that real changes wasn’t going to happen overnight. ‘It takes iem,’ he says. ‘You have to go through some failures and some screw-ups, and survive them, and support each other through them. And then after that happens, you really begin to trust one another.'”
  • “It’s strange to think taht a wave of creativity and innovation can be unleashed by something as mundane as changing systems and learning new ways of interacting. But it’s rue, because bulding creative purpose isn’t really about creativity. It’s about building ownership, providing support, and aligning group energy toward the arduous, error-filled, ultimately fulfilling journey of making something new.”
  • To crystallize purpose:
    • “Name and Rank Your Priorities: In order to move toward a target, you must first have a target. Listing your priorities, which means wrestling witht he choices that define your identity, is the first step. Most successful groups end up with a small hadnful of priorities (five or fewer), and many, not coincidentally, end up placing their in-group relationships–how they treat one another–at the top of the list.”
    • “Be Ten Times as Clear About Your Priorities as You Think You should be”, “Leaders are inherently biased to presume that evryone in the group sees things as they do, when in fact they don’t. This is why it’s necessary to drastically overcommunicate priorities.”
    • “Figure Out Where Your Group Aime for Proficiency and Where it Aims for Creativity”
      • “Skills of proficiency are about doing a task the same way, every single time. They are about delivering machine-like reliability, and they tend to apply in domains in which the goal behaviors are clearly defined, such as service. Building purpose to perforrm these skills is like building a vivid map: You want to spotlight the goal and provide crystal-clear direction to the checkpoints along the way.”
      • “Creative skills, on the other hand, are about empowering a group to do the hard work of building something that has never existed before. Generating purpose in these areas is like supplying an expedition: You need to provide support, fuel, and tools and to serve as a protective presence that empowers the team doing the work.”
        • “Keenly attend to team compositoin and dynamics.”
        • “Define, reinforce, and relentlessly protect the team’s creative autonomy.”
        • “Make it safe to fail and to give feedback.”
        • “Celebrate hugely when the group takes initiative.”
  • “We adopted a ‘What Worked Well/Even Better If’ format for th feedback sessions: first celebrating the story’s positives, then offering ideas for improvement.”

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