The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups
by Daniel Coyle
Review by Michelle Telling
Every couple of months or so I venture south on the train from Bedford into London and meet up with an inspiring group of Kiwi women enjoying coffee, brunch (@ Ozone Coffee Roasters), and a lively chat about a book. The book we read, The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle, was really well received and everyone was clearly engaged by it with loads of positive discussion.
For me, the book can be summed up with these five words and some quotes taken direct from the book:
- Safety – ‘safety is not mere emotional weather but rather the foundation on which strong culture is built’.
- Belonging – ‘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?
- Listening – ‘the most effective listeners behave like trampolines, they aren’t passive sponges but active responders’.
- Thank-you – ‘thank-yous aren’t only expressions of gratitude; they’re crucial belonging cues that generate a contagious sense of safety, connection, and motivation’.
- Vulnerability – ‘vulnerability is less about the sender than the receiver…a shared exchange of openness, it’s the most basic building block of cooperation and trust…the vulnerability loop is contagious’.
As well as being inspiring and thought-provoking (am I a trampoline or more of a solid wooden box when I’m listening to a colleague?); the book also offers some very practical guidance based on current day successful teams such as the All Blacks – my favourite quote “No Dickheads”. How simple is that…and how many teams have you been part of where that rule would come in handy? The All Blacks name the behaviour they want to eliminate and create a rule that actively seeks to keep that behaviour in check.
Our discussion was wide ranging and many in the group were able to discuss real-life scenarios where things could have been so different if the advice from this book had been applied.
We talked around the challenges of recruitment, do you recruit for the current culture (cookie-cutter style), or for the culture you want to create? However, to do this, you need to know what the organisational values are & the culture you are looking to create. As someone asked, “isn’t culture just a word for ‘relationships between people’?”. From the other side of the fence, we also discussed being an interviewee and our impressions of an organisation’s culture through the interview process – we need to be able to question whether this is a culture we want to belong to and pick up on the cues given through the process…are we made to feel safe, is there a sense of belonging, listening, gratitude?
Another theme of the discussion was ‘proximity’ and its importance in building safety and belonging – something which is more challenging as more of us work remotely and can miss those ‘eye contact’ moments. Some have tried to overcome this by using video technology or by arranging some contact time together. Having lunch together, away from the desk environment gives a chance to demonstrate some trampoline listening, vulnerability (being honest with each other) and build belonging. Simple things to do but in practice we are often rather rubbish at them! I know I am guilty of being so focused on the ‘task’, I easily miss the ‘people’.
In the current economic climate/Brexit, many organisations seem to be focussed on cost cutting so the ‘rock-climbing-team-building’ exercises are rarely seen as important enough to retain. We need to be looking for simple ways to bring people together – it may be a shared lunch, or drinks after work but creating a space where we can come together and build relationships (aka culture) is what is needed if we are to build a highly successful group.
To that end, if you have not been along to one our book club brunches, I do encourage you to come out – we are a friendly group, with great food & drink, the delightful twang of the kiwi accent…and no “dickheads” J Look out for the next group meeting & come join us.