“The Culture Code” by Daniel Coyle | Book Review by Steve Pollack

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The Culture Code Book Review

The Culture Code Book Review

"…the number-one job is to take care of each other. I didn’t always know that, but I know it now.” - Daniel Coyle

Daniel Coyle spent four years studying the group dynamics of successful companies and teams to learn everything he could about what binds high-achieving organizations together—and what must exist in a healthy internal culture to support sustained growth and optimal success.

Coyle’s years of research led him to draft his own operational definition of culture:

"Culture is a set of living relationships working toward a shared goal. It’s not something you are, it’s something you do.”

From that central idea, Coyle's book The Culture Code lays out an easy-to-follow, detailed roadmap for readers who want to participate in redefining, recreating and supporting an organizational culture that will produce the highest levels of individual fulfillment and organizational growth and success.

According to Coyle, the three essential prerequisites for building this kind of high-functioning culture are:

  1.  Creating safety
  2.  Modeling and encouraging vulnerability
  3. Establishing a shared purpose

Offering specific examples of teams and companies that have been extremely successful at building and growing a healthy internal culture (as well as those who have failed), Coyle helps the reader discover the basic building blocks that should be in place to support real change and to develop the internal structures and "rules" that help create a safe, high-functioning, successful culture.

One of Coyle’s major focuses in The Culture Code is on the critical impact of leadership. He believes a great leader should be able to shine a spotlight on their own imperfections. He suggests that in any interaction, we humans have a natural tendency to try to hide our weaknesses and appear competent, but if you want to create safety, this is exactly the wrong move. Instead, according to Coyle's research results, you should open up, share your 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?” and “What do you think?

Coyle also advises leaders to create safety for all members of the team and to provide spaces where tough feedback is not only welcome, but rewarded. Coyle's advice is to "embrace the messenger." He suggests that one of the most vital moments for creating safety is when a group shares bad news or gives tough feedback. In these moments, it’s important not simply to tolerate the difficult news but to embrace it.

"You know the phrase “Don’t shoot the messenger’?” Coyle asks,  "In fact, it’s not enough to not shoot them. You have 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.”

Filled with helpful examples and succinct advice, The Culture Code is an expert-level must-read for anyone who wants to build a highly successful organizational culture that supports safe communication and explicitly values the contributions of all of its parts.


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