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The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups

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What do Pixar, Google and the San Antonio Spurs basketball team have in common?

The answer is that they all owe their extraordinary success to their team-building skills. In The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle goes inside some of the most effective organisations in the world and reveals their secrets. He not only explains what makes such groups tick, but also identifies the key factors that can generate team cohesion in any walk of life. He examines the verbal and physical cues that bring people together. He determines specific strategies that encourage collaboration and build trust. And he offers cautionary tales of toxic cultures and advises how to reform them, above all demonstrating the extraordinary achievements that result when we know how to cooperate effectively.

304 pages, Paperback

First published September 5, 2017

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About the author

Daniel Coyle

46 books945 followers
Daniel Coyle is the author of the upcoming book The Culture Code (January 2018). He is the New York Times bestselling author of The Talent Code, The Little Book of Talent, The Secret Race (with Tyler Hamilton), and other books. Winner (with Hamilton) of the 2012 William Hill Sports Book of the Year Prize, he is a contributing editor for Outside magazine, and also works a special advisor to the Cleveland Indians. Coyle lives in Cleveland, Ohio during the school year and in Homer, Alaska, during the summer with his wife Jen, and their four children.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,067 reviews
Profile Image for Tharindu Dissanayake.
288 reviews558 followers
May 4, 2021
"Why do certain groups add up to be greater than the sum of their parts, while others add up to be less?"
"We presume skilled individuals will combine to produce skilled performance"

We instinctively know the importance of effective team work, and that teams with good chemistry perform better, and we are usually bombarded with many methods on successful team-building programs in our work places. None of this is new to most of us. But, The Culture Code analyses the operating mechanism behind a successful team using a unique approach that I haven't seen before: A system where the belonging cues used by team members to create a safer environment is vital, one that believes encouraging team members to being vulnerable with each other is far more important that the individual competence of team members. Though the concepts might still sound trivial, author approaches it from a novel perspective, and provides an interesting framework to maintain team chemistry.

"A sense of belonging is easy to destroy and hard to build."
"At distances of less than eight meters, communication frequency rises off the charts."

Typically, when forming teams, we look more closely at individual traits, and give minor attention to how an individual would perform within a team. True, we ask the common questions to see if members are team players, but that's pretty much everything we do. This book is not on picking the individuals for a great team, but on making a team great with whichever members we are provided with. And that is achieved mainly using a set of non-verbal cues in meeting environments, managing physical distance between team members, and some simple 'catch phrase' shared by the group. From the ways that subtle negative/ positive body language cues of a single person getting broadcasted over the entire group, to methods of carefully monitoring the environment to facilitate fluid team interactions, The Culture Code introduces a number of interesting concepts regarding effective team mechanics.

"The content of the pitch didn't matter as much as the set of cues with which the pitch was delivered and received."
"Vertical separation is a very serious thing. If you're on a different floor in some organization, you may be as well be in a different country."

I believe this book will provide a very interesting read for most professionals, especially those who are heavily involved with team activities (whether you're forming/ supervising teams, or a member of the team). Some of the contents did get repetitive, but that's something to be expected in a book like this (with the aim of better conveying the points). And some of the examples felt more like outliers to be generalized as common, but overall, I believe the author has done a solid amount of background research. However I'm not sure if this is the best title for this book, for, based on some of the reviews, I got the idea many readers hoped this would be a 'coding' book, or a 'cultural' book, and obviously had a disappointing reading experience. Rounding off what felt like 3.5-stars to 4.

"Modern society is an incredibly recent phenomenon. For hundreds of thousands of years, we needed ways to develop cohesion because we depended so much on each other. We used signals long before we used language, and our unconscious brains are incredibly attuned to certain types of behaviors."

"It's more important to invest in good people than in good ideas."
Profile Image for Kat.
114 reviews39 followers
December 12, 2018
I have to admit I'm a little surprised at the glowing reviews. It was only 300 pages but it seemed so much longer - could have easily been half the length and gotten the points across. In these 304 pages, I find it hard to believe that the author was unable to interview more than a single woman in a leadership role (oh, actually, there was a second woman mentioned for a paragraph - she was a waitress at one of Danny Meyer's restaurants in NYC). What follows is chapters and chapters of advice from men who are running successful startups, coaching sports teams and the Navy SEALS. In the author's world, there are no women anywhere that are fostering enviable office, team or group culture. I dunno, when I read business books these days I just expect a little more...variety and diversity. This padded tome was a big letdown in that regard.
Profile Image for Caro (Bookaria).
617 reviews20.5k followers
March 19, 2018
This is a nonfiction book that explores how groups succeed achieving their goals. 

It describes the characteristics of successful groups in different fields including sports teams and corporate environments. I learned new insights on what makes people genuinely engage in organizational goals. 

I recommend the book to anybody in management positions or people that have to work in groups or teams. 
Profile Image for Justin Tate.
Author 7 books962 followers
May 27, 2021
Since the workplace went all virtual, we've become focused on creating an amazing culture in an online/from home environment. A group of us chose to read this book to gather ideas. Overall, it was a success. Although all the examples are from in-person work environments, broad lessons can be learned from the many high-profile organizations Coyle found during his research. This includes military, creative, hospitality and just about everything in between.

Each chapter is a case study into how great leaders create culture that overcomes adversity, is more satisfying to work in and vastly more effective. There are also examples of what not to do, and transformational examples where leaders moved a culture from bad to great.

Coyle's brevity and simplicity are an attraction. This may look like a boring "self-help" book, but it's not overblown or unnecessarily verbose. Also, it’s quite engaging. The chapters are short, focused, and relevant. Keep a highlighter handy because nearly every sentence has some pearl of wisdom.

My only critique is that his examples trend military. Not a bad thing, but our group did find it challenging to translate something as big as capturing Osama Bin Laden to our casual day to day activities. These extreme examples are effective at showing the power of a strong culture, however, even if the stakes are much higher than anything an ordinary leader might experience. It would have just been nice to see a few more "ordinary" examples of fantastic cultures.

Given changes in the world, I have a feeling there will need to be many new books written that specifically address culture in an all-virtual work environment, but until then this is a great place to start for anyone looking to upgrade their group, whether that’s a major corporation or a simple MeetUp. Great things happen when we get together for a greater purpose, and you'll discover many stellar examples from reading The Culture Code.
Profile Image for Aimee (Book It Forward).
320 reviews15 followers
December 18, 2017
This book is phenomenal! Who knew that reading a book about groups of people would be so interesting?? From chapter one I was immediately hooked. I learned so much and found myself engrossed in the stories about how the Navy Seals became such an incredible group, how PIXAR has churned out so many of my favorite movies and about how for one Christmas during wartime both sides called a truce and stopped fighting. This is just the tip of the iceberg too. There are a ton of stories about business leaders, professional athletic coaches and more. Plus there aren’t only good examples of team work and leadership, there are examples of terrible groups with devastating outcomes. This book is full of facts yet is never boring even in the slightest. I learned how to be more effective while working with a team and how to be a leader who leads with compassion and vulnerability in order to be successful in my office place as well as in life. Great book! I highly recommend it to anyone really. Even if you don’t work in an environment where team work occurs, this book is applicable to every day life and real life situations. 5 Stars!

Thank you to Random House and Daniel Coyle for an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. You made my job very easy and enjoyable with this one!
Profile Image for Jenn "JR".
469 reviews78 followers
February 22, 2018
I was lucky enough to get a copy of this as an ARC from NetGalley - and devoured it!

I'm fascinated by the subjects of leadership and teams these days, mostly because I have experienced great team leadership in the past but too infrequently. After enjoying "Turn This Ship Around" -- this seemed like a great follow-on.

In the first chapter, the author describes an experiment in teamwork and collaboration -- conducted between two different groups: kindergarteners and college students. The goal was to build the highest tower with straws and marshmallows. The kindergarteners WON because they were entirely focused on the outcome, made changes and took feedback without being distracted by status management. That's something we all learn as we unlearn trust and vulnerability.

The book presents compelling case studies to support three sets of skills for building strong teams. First, you have to "Build Safety" -- create environments where it is ok to provide feedback regardless of status or role. Second, "Share Vulnerability" - describes how "habits of mutual risk drive trusting cooparation." Third, "Establish Purpose" -- by creating a shared culture that clearly defines the group's purpose, goals and how they do things.

Much like the mythical "work" of a romantic relationship or marriage, the author maintains that "Culture is a set of living relationships working toward a shared goal."

In building safety, there are some real physical patterns of interaction that help create a bond in a group, these include:

Close physical proximity
Profuse amounts of eye contact
Physical touch (handshakes, fist bumps, hugs)
Lots of short, energetic exhanges (no long speeches)
High levels of mixing
Few interruptions
Lots of questions
Intensive, active listening
Humor, laughter
Small, attentive courtesies

When is the last time that you were part of a group where you had that kind of experience? Would you ever want to leave that environment? He then describes "belonging cues" which are "behaviors that create safe connection in groups." This is basic NLP stuff combined with basic etiquette: taking turns, body language, vocal pitch, eye contact. These help signal energy, individualization and future orientation. These are all translated as "You are safe here" by the brain.

Just a few of these, once in a while, is not enough -- "We are built to require lots of signaling, over and over. This is why a sense of belonging is easy to destroy and hard to build."

Coyne also dives into the neuroscience that has been on my radar for much of 2018 -- and emphasizes that the amygdala is not just about perceiving threats but also plays "a vital role in building social connections." Those "belonging cues" are all transformed in your brain to help "set the stage for meaningful engagement."

The WWI "Christmas Truce" is one of the cases in this section -- and it's come up in popular media in my life several times this year alone. Basically - you throw a bunch of guys into very adverse conditions, and you find that creating environments that are rich in social belonging cues is critical to their survival and cooperation. However, as the battle dragged on -- this spilled over to "the enemy" -- and soldiers established "micro-truces" around meal times, bed time, using the latrine or picking up the dead, cumulating in a series of Christmas day truces across a pretty widespread geographic area. Respect the power of the amygdala!

By way of contract, another type of culture that is the opposite of belonging is described -- it was designed to break up cohesion and resulted in very poor work performance from otherwise very smart people in charge of massively destructive and dangerous weapons. You'd think people would pay attention to something as important as culture, right?

Coyne also addresses a popular conception that highly successful cultures are happy places: "They are energized and engaged, but at their core their members are oriented less around achieving happiness than around solving hard problems together."

This goes back to "this is a safe place (to give effort" -- creating connection, giving feedback, and communicating the big picture are important. But with the negative (say, giving feedback on poor performance) there is reward (belonging).

During the Cold War era, an MIT professor named Thomas Allen conducted research into what attributes were shared by successful projects. In addition to the projects being driven by “clusters of high communicators,” Allen found that the most successful teams sat close to each other and could establish eye contact with each other regularly.

Plotted on a graph, the increase in interaction against proximity is known as the “Allen Curve.” Physical “[c]loseness helps create efficiencies of connection” even with digital communication, studies show “we’re far more likely to text, email, and interact virtually with people who are physically close.”

Many studies since have demonstrated the importance of physical proximity – the informal interactions among colleagues are critical to building relationships that foster trust. In the past several years, it seems like this has resulted in a lot of companies tearing up their office environments to turn them into "open plan" work spaces without figuring out what works best for their teams. Not all teams are alike, and one size does not fit all when it comes to building strong teams.

To create safety, Coyne offers a few tips, including:

Overcommunicate your Listening (and avoid interruptions)
Spotlight your Fallibility Early On - Especially if you are a leader
Embrace the Messenger
Preview future connection -- connecting the dots between where we are now and where we plan to be
Overdo Thank-Yous - that includes "thanks for letting me coach you" - as a way of affirming the relationship and "igniting cooperative behavior."
Be Painstaking in the Hiring Process
Eliminate Bad Apples
Create Safe, Collision-Rich Spaces
Make Sure Everyone Has a Voice
Pick up the trash - make sure leaders are helping with tasks that are "menial" - rolling up their sleeves goes a long way to creating that safety
Capitalize on Threshold Moments
Avoid Giving Sandwich Feedback - handle negative and positive feedback as two different processes
Embrace Fun - "it's the most fundamental sign of safety and connection."

In sharing vulnerability -- teams can demonstrate their willingness to accept the help and support of others in a way that makes the entire team stronger. The case study of two pilots and a passenger who happened to be a flight instructor crash landing a plane together -- resulting in the survival of 185 of 285 on board. Simulations run after the event failed to do nearly well as those three people -- resulting in crashes 28 times. Coyne analyzes the content of their communication and finds that they shared information in a way that was humble and allowed them to perform in the face of catastrophic systems failure (it's a fantastic story!).

Coyne then goes on to analyze the importance of social exchanges in the team environment -- the kind that open up shared vulnerability in a way that creates a "shared exchange of openness" that forms "the most basic building block of cooperation and trust."

The DARPA Red Balloon Challenge is another fantastic case study about how people can cooperate when vulnerability is shared and support invited in a way that is reciprocal and offers mutual benefit. That is, he points out - the whole point of groups: "combine our strengths and skills in a complementary way."

The Navy SEALs examples are fantastic -- and you have to buy the book so you can read and understand them. I especially like the description of how the SEALs were established -- and the type of training they undergo to reinforce team behavior. They learn how to move together, trust each other and figure things out as they go because they trust each other and they understand how things have to be done. He also goes into the rules around a complicated improv exercise with a successful comedy troupe where "Every rule directs you either to tamp down selfish instincts that might make you the center of attention, or to serve your fellow actors (support, save, trust, listen)."

Coyne also talks about the importance of overcoming authority bias to create successful groups -- "having one person tell others how to do things is not a reliable way to make good decisions." This is fascinating because it goes back to the premise of "Turn This Ship Around" where the goal was to make everyone in the team a leader -- creating a team of leaders who understand the problems that need to be solved and work together without regard for role or hierarchy is important for these successful groups.

The chapter on "The Nyquist Method" is fascinating -- it's named after a particularly nurturing engineer who created a safe space for his coworkers to share ideas and sparked ideas with them that resulted in greater achievements than if they had worked on their own. He then reviews other folks who perform similar catalyst roles in other environments - people who mostly just are good active listeners, encouraging others to dig deep and shape the solutions to their challenges. Again, NLP plays a role here - or "concordances" - body language that helps increase perceived empathy and in turn creates a safe environment for stronger teams and success.

Coyne is good about reiterating and building on the tips for creating these safe environments and strong relationships throughout his book. Primarily - listening, being willing to be open and vulnerable, using objective techniques for sharing information (like "Before-Action Review" or "After Action Review").

Taking us back to the previous point about successful cultures aren't always sunshine and rainbows -- "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 of inefficiency."

Finally, the section on "Establish Purpose" is really fun to read -- as he goes to lengths to repeat, a lot of the slogans and catch phrases seem hokey or corny or obvious but the fact is that teams who create compelling, clear goals and articulate them like that are described as "high purpose environments" because they know what they are doing as a team. These catchphrases establish a link between a goal or behavior and "consistently create engagement around it."

He also talks about how positive feedback can create a "virtuous spiral" of success (and no need to mention how the opposite happens as well!).

These kind of heuristics "provide guidance by creating if/then scenarios in a vivid, meorable way" and function "as a conceptual beacon." These kinds of clearly articulated catch phrases make it easier to make decisions in support of specific team goals, such as "You can't prevent mistakes but you can solve problems graciously" or "If someone is rude make a charitable assumption."

The final tips include: Name and rank your priorities; Be 10x as clear about these priorities as you think you ought, determine where your team aims for proficiency (and for creativity), embrace the use of catchphrases, measure what really matters, use artifacts, focus on bar-setting behaviors -- and go buy this book if you want to learn more about what all those things mean!
Profile Image for Alex.
44 reviews3 followers
February 14, 2018
Little practical insight beyond what's obvious. I'm surprised by high ratings here.
Profile Image for KatieMc.
818 reviews87 followers
January 1, 2019
My boss recommend this book. I keep thinking it's called the Code Culture, but no, it's not about coding groups. Instead it outlines some key attributes that make for strong teamwork. The book is filled with examples from many types of teams (sports, military, business). For those who will never read the book, the 3 big takeaways:
1. Build a safe environment. Everyone must feel a sense of belonging and safe to participate. This gets at some basic anthropological in-group vs. out-group dynamics. There was also a bit of discussion that boiled down to the fact that people will respond better when you express empathy towards them. Also a bit of discussion about non-verbal cues, which I feel is something lost in the virtual working world.
2. Share vulnerability. I personally feel this goes hand in had with the safe environment concept. It speaks to the fact that group leaders may not always know what's best, and that's ok. Having that tacit agreement makes it possible and encourages others to contribute to solving a problem.
3. Establish a purpose. This seems like a no-brainer, but for groups that have been working together for a long time, there is a tendency to forge ahead with doing stuff and the *purpose* gets forgotten. So its always a good idea to revisit this. In my early days of working in tech, I went to a conference presentation on building effective tech teams and the one thing I remember 20 years later is that you communicate the vision of what you are trying to do to your developers.
Profile Image for Michael Burnam-Fink.
1,504 reviews228 followers
July 31, 2019
The Culture Code has a provocative premise, watered down by undue hero worship and a commitment to mediocre neoliberalism.

The basic idea is that real work, real innovative, value-added work, is done by dedicated people who are emotionally invested, who are together in this effort, who are vulnerable and unconcerned with social status games. This emotional bond is something that can be tracked in how team-members interact with one another, even in total ignorance of the content of their communication. It's something delicate, which is fostered by great leaders, and spoiled by a single bad apple. Potentially, it's even something that can be trained, though Coyle is fuzzy on those details.

The twin problems are that so many teams are far from Coyle's ideal. First, most business propositions are fundamentally irrelevant and almost pointless. It's one thing to be beholden to an ideal of perfect service, another thing entirely to go for a 3% improvement on NPS at Applebee's. Given a choice between being excellent and maximizing short-term returns, most companies will go for the short-term returns. Second, and this is the hard part: humans love social status games. We're good at playing them, we're invested in them, and I'm not sure 'good teamwork' is enough to tell the boss his ideas are bad.

And on a methodological note, Coyle uses a lot of examples of flashy, design-centric companies, but building anything even moderately complex involves a host of technical challenges and choices. It's one thing to say that empowered swarms can do it all, but I think most work is far less romantic than that ideal.
Profile Image for Nelson Zagalo.
Author 10 books332 followers
April 11, 2021
O livro "The Culture Code" (2017) de Daniel Coyle fez-me lembrar "Blink" (2005) de Gladwell, pelo modo como discute algo tão presente na nossa realidade mas que temos imensa dificuldade em especificar e enunciar. Se Gladwell tentava definir o que torna o olhar de um especialista diferente, o modo como a sua capacidade percetiva imbuída de saber e experiência vai além do que é evidente. Coyle, procura definir aquilo que emerge da cola entre humanos quando interagem e faz com que juntos sejam mais do que a mera soma dos indivíduos. Ambas à superfície parecem dotadas de alguma magia, por não serem facilmente explanáveis nem racionalizáveis. O que é também interessante é o facto de Coyle ter feito anteriormente um trabalho soberbo na análise do talento individual, em “The Talent Code” (2009), e ter-se visto aqui obrigado a concluir que o talento dos indivíduos não é a força motriz do talento dos grupos.
... continua no Virtual Illusion:
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,650 followers
March 2, 2018
Interesting stories and pretty useful advice. Some of the same successes touted by all the business books (Pixar, Google, SEALS), but some new ones too (Daniel Meyers restaurants and pilots). It's fairly obvious that we need belonging cues, but I think sometimes we forget that even in board rooms and business settings, we are still primates who would die for friends and kill enemies.
Profile Image for Brandon.
26 reviews138 followers
June 1, 2022
IMO, this is the deep dive / breakdown / guide on how to implement the findings from Google's Project Aristotle (there's a NYT article on this that came out in 2016).

Project Aristotle's findings in a sentence:
- Psychological Safety is the #1 factor in creating a high performing and effective team

The sentiment behind The Culture Code (TCC) seems the same.

When there is high psychological safety, everyone shares more, people aren't worried about ego, about position, titles, everyone is bought in to solve the problem at hand, and as a result, the team is more effective.

Some key excerpts:
- In a study, groups of kindergarteners routinely built taller structures (26 inches) than groups of business school students (10 inches) using uncooked spaghetti, tape, string, and a marshmallow.
- Will Felps ran a study where they brought in an actor to basically be a "bad apple" in 40 groups of 4 tasked with developing a marketing plan for a start up. He'd play one of 3 roles: jerk (aggressive/defiant/deviant), slacker (withholder of effort), and downer (depressive). The "bad apple" successfully reduced the group effectiveness by 30-40% with the exception of one group. The reason why the one group did well was simply because they had a person who did a really good job of being warm, friendly, optimistic, lighthearted, and inviting regardless of what the bad apple did.
- A call center changed their onboarding process to include things like 1) training on company identity 2) meeting a company "star performer" 3) giving fleece sweatshirt with company name/logo as well as their name 4) asking them reflection questions about their skills and past work experiences. The result? 250% increased likelihood of team members still at the company after 7 months.
- Team of psychologists had middle school teachers include a single line in their feedback when grading students' essays, "I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them" and it directly led to a 40% increase of revisions for white students, and 320% increase of essay revisions by black students (there were 22 white students and 22 black students in the study, all of whom had average grades of B's or C's)
- The Allen Curve -- in a work setting, when team members are more than 50 meters away from each other, frequency of communication drops off a clip (pre-pandemic of course), when team members are 6 meters or less communication frequency skyrockets.
- How Danny Meyer has opened 24 successful restaurants (e.g. 11 Madison Park, Union Square Cafe, Shake Shack) and one of the core drivers of his success is cultivating a particular culture around kindness, thoughtfulness, giving people the benefit of the doubt, generosity, reciprocity, and creating the atmosphere of home.

To me, TCC is one of those "science proves the obvious" kind of books. It's a book that lots of people in positions of power need to read AND implement, and one that, if the average employee read, they'd probably think,"Uh yeah, you needed a book to tell you that?"

Want to run a great company or organization? Don't treat people like shit. Don't be an asshole. Treat people like people. Be kind, be fair, be human, be humble, be generous, be patience, be friendly, give credit where it's do, etc. And the better job you do of doing that in pursuit of your goals and objectives, you'll probably outperform another company/org with the same objectives but treat people like shit.
Profile Image for Suzanne.
221 reviews36.1k followers
June 7, 2018
This is a really engaging, inspiring, and helpful book about the often subtle or misunderstood behaviors that make a team successful. There were so many great stories that Coyle has surfaced here! Some of my favorites:

An experiment was run where entrepreneurs presented ideas to a group of angel investors. Tracking just the social cues exchanged by presenter and audience predicted the rankings by the investors with nearly perfect accuracy. So the content of pitch didn’t matter as much as the set of cues during the presentation. However, when investors just evaluated the plans on paper, they ended up ranking them very differently. It makes you wonder what the difference would be in angel funding (especially for female entrepreneurs) if plans were only evaluated on paper? Amazon is famous for not allowing Powerpoint presentations and just having everyone in the room read a narrative doc first before discussion—this effectively minimizes the risk of people accidentally evaluating an idea based on social cues.

I loved the simplicity of the Red Balloon Challenge! A $40,000 prize was offered to the first group to accurately locate 10 balloons which would be placed across America on the same day. Competing teams built tools to try and track them, analyze photography, set up communities of searches on social media. etc. Most of the time, the groups said that they would share the money but they limited the number of people who could participate as they didn't want the money to be expanded over too many people. A team from MIT Media Lab built a website and invited people to join. “We’re giving $2,000 per balloon to the first person to send us the correct coordinates, but that’s not all—we’re also giving $1,000 to the person who invited them. Then we’re giving $500 [to] whoever invited the inviter, and $250 to whoever invited them, and so on…” Organizers believed it would take a week for a team to find all the balloons. The MIT team did it in under 9 hours. With the help of 4,665 people.

This one makes me so sad for the human potential that we must be squandering. In an experiment, at the beginning of the school year, teachers were given names of children who have “unusual potential for intellectual growth.” (Students were not told about this.) At the end of year, these high-potentials students had indeed succeeded to a remarkable degree. They were also described by teachers are being more curious, happier, better adjusted, and more likely to experience success as adults. Teachers reported they had enjoyed teaching more that year than any other year. But the reality was the students were selected at random. Because teachers believed the story about them, they taught them with more warmth, feedback, called on them more often, etc. So the students responded to this. And teachers were more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt if they did something wrong.

For Coyle, there are three things that create a strong culture:

1) Build Security. "As far as our brain is concerned, if our social system rejects us, we could die." Subconsciously, we're all assessing a multitude of signals that convey whether we belong. A strong culture sets up an environment where a team can deal with uncomfortable truth-telling and be candid with each other. This section had a lot of really interesting information about the set of small behaviors that can have a large impact on creating a strong culture.

2) Share Vulnerability. When people make themselves vulnerable by sharing information about themselves, they build connections and trigger that it's same for others to do the same. Having leaders be open that they don't know all the answers makes it possible for everyone on the team to contribute and step up.

3) Establish Purpose. A study of 200 tech start-ups in Silicon Valley in the 1990s found three basic models: star model (hire the brightest people), professional model (build the group around specific skill sets), and commitment model (developing a group with shared values and strong emotional bonds). The commitment model led to higher rates of success and achieved IPOs three times more often.

Thanks to the publishers for the ARC. Opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Tara Brabazon.
Author 24 books332 followers
May 21, 2020
Magnificent. Just magnificent.

I have worked in universities for thirty years. I have seen the antipodal point to successful, collaborative and kind groups. Jealousy, ruthlessness, nastiness and cruelty have been attendent to toxic working cultures.

This book confirms how astonishingly straight forward it is to build a successful group. Honest and authentic leadership is required, that listens and serves rather than talks and orders. But most importantly, this book shows the importance of safety. Loyalty and high quality working cultures only emerge when staff feel safe. Therefore, the bullying, the nastiness, the attacks and the humiliation achieves the exact opposite of the desire outcome.

Fabulous book. Read it. Stress Safety. Stress kindness.
Profile Image for Annette.
796 reviews382 followers
September 18, 2019
I got interested in this book as I am big on culture. I majored in Geography with focus on culture and I travel to at least one new country each year. But this book is not for those who are into ‘traditional culture’. This is for those who are into ‘business culture.’

The premise starts somehow interesting: “Culture is a set of living relationships working toward a shared goal. It’s not something you are. It’s something you do.” But very quickly it becomes a very dry read. As I said this book is intended for those who are business focused.
Profile Image for Mart.
94 reviews9 followers
September 19, 2019
There's a type of books that start with an idea and then go through many stories applying confirmation and attribution bias to explain how this simple idea was crucial to the success or failure present in these stories. Well this is one of these books.

Edit: Now that a few weeks have been gone by, I don't remember shit any more. Another common attribute of such books. Should you even enjoy a warm and fuzzy feeling when reading, it's all gone soon after.
Profile Image for Andrew.
570 reviews165 followers
September 25, 2022
"Do I belong?" "Are we safe?" "Do we have a future together?"

These aren't questions posed by early humans reaching out to build a community that will eventually trust and nurture its members. Answering "yes" to these questions indicates a high-performing team. Because teamwork is essentially about building a common micro-culture with ties that bind.

I haven't come across a business book that puts a lump in my throat. But this one did because it is full of stories that exude warmth, belonging, and care. It isn't fake or forced or even very corporate. But it highlights those essential emotional connections that we all crave as human beings. And suggests small ways that they can be cultivated.
Profile Image for Joshua Clifford.
104 reviews11 followers
January 27, 2019
This was a really great introduction to creating successful group dynamics. If you are new to the world of peer leadership and fostering inclusive working environments, or if you just need a refresher, this is the book for you. If you are looking for something a bit deeper I may skip to something else! Overall a quick read with some hi-lightable moments.
Profile Image for Krzysztof.
79 reviews5 followers
February 7, 2020
It's not easy to rate this book. On one hand, it's an entertaining read, but on the other, it completely misses its premise.

I was expecting an explanation of "culture code", something that will make nebulous culture thing more tangible and maybe even provide some practical tips. Well... there no such thing here. No broad and deep research, nothing about psychology, sociology, neuroscience, anthropology, etc. that would make arguments in the book convincing. It is written by a journalist, not a scientist.

What do you get here then? A collection of stories, anecdotes, and interviews about exceptional teams. They are all well written and entertaining, present teams facing grand challenges or approaching everyday duties in a special way. You get to know what makes them tick... but rarely it will translate to what can make your team tick.

There are many issues with this approach.
First - the selection of teams to showcase. We are told they have effective work cultures, but it remains a mystery what does it actually mean. You could explore organizations that bring exceptional results, have the most satisfied and loyal employees, or make customers, partners, and investors happy. Go through top10 in each category and try to understand what makes them different. But instead, you get cherrypicked selection of... simply good stories that fit the author's narrative.
Second - all presented teams have a very similar culture, like there is only one that works. It seems like the author had some idea of a culture he wanted to describe and found teams that fit his ideal. I believe that there are different cultures that are interesting and worth exploring. There is a lot of diversity that one needs to take into account, but instead, we get American-only examples, led almost entirely by white males (only 1 woman presented), working very close to each other (when IRL we go more into distributed and remote).
Third - the resulting conclusions are surely not bad. Also, not very surprising or original. I just have a problem with believing the author that he cracked the code and found universal truths. It might not translate to other teams as easily as the author suggests. You won't put your accounting team through Navy SEALs training and make the risk their lives every day at work to build this special bond soldiers have with each other... yes, you can do AARs, but this doesn't automatically make you as effective as Navy SEAL.

So if you want to read entertaining stories about teams that are engaged and motivated and striving for excellence, this book is for you! Although, some of them have dedicated books that explain how they work in more detail (Pixar, IDEO, Zappos). If you want to find some practical advice in leading a team of yours, this book can be a good starter but if you already explored this domain you won't find anything spectacular here. And lastly, if you are looking for the science of culture, pass on this one.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
5,252 reviews196 followers
November 21, 2017
Mr. Coyle does a great job with this book. Everyone from normal people living their daily lives like me to management and Jeff Bezos can find something useful in this book. In fact, Mr. Bezos would probably outline many of the steps and advice in this book as to how he built Amazon to the successful empire that it is today and still growing.

As I was reading this book I could see practical ways that my employer could apply these principles better; especially in meetings and coming together for a common goal. Now is the best time as there are many projects starting. The book starts out with an experiment involving business students, kindergartners, lawyers, and CEOs. Every time the kindergartners won. This is because they did no worry about who was the leader but worked energetically together with short communications to achieve the goal. This is just one of the examples of a successful group. Not to say that no leader is better but working together with clear communication is key. Also, having really good employees that can be trained is worth a lot.

Mr. Coyle showcases a different business like Pixar, Goggle, Navy Seals, and San Antonio Spurs to name a few. He shows what has made them successful and then breaks it down into easy and understandably analysis. My favorite one was reading about the San Antonio Spurs and Mr. Popovich. Mr. Popovich knew all of his players on a personal level. He bonded with them not through yelling or texts but with human interaction. He knows this is the best way to build a strong team. After reading this book, I have a respect for Mr. Popovich. The Culture Code is a wonderful book that is not to be missed.
Profile Image for Laura Skladzinski.
1,096 reviews42 followers
October 30, 2017
This was one of the best business / behavioral psychology books I've read in a long time! The examples were incredibly engaging, and drew from a variety of industries to make their points. As I read, I kept getting new ideas for things I could change on my own team to improve results. Highly recommend this book to anyone who leads a team!
Profile Image for Jay Hennessey.
88 reviews24 followers
September 28, 2017
Absolutely LOVED this book! Dan Coyle does an amazing job of showing the converging validity of behaviors of the Highest Performing organizations.

Organized broadly as psychological safety, vulnerability, and purpose (communication and alignment), it was fascinating to see how leaders and organizations made this happen, across a wide spectrum of organizations.

I was intrigued by the variety of ways that organizations and leaders create safety and trust - in general, it was by social interactions, where leaders and teammates genuinely cared for everyone on their team. They created this trust by humor, personal interactions, and the attributes most commonly associated with close family and friends.

The biggest take aways I had were in the variety of ways that leaders communicated their purpose, and the variety of examples that show how important it is for leaders to over communicate. I loved the example of leaders asked what percentage of their company will correctly answer the companies top priorities -- guesses were ~60% -- reality was 2-3%.

In summary, this is a great book for leaders at every level who aspire to contribute to their High Performing Team.
Profile Image for Jane.
Author 30 books80 followers
October 9, 2017
Why do some teams and organizations excel while others simply aren't as creative/effective/lasting? It isn't skills or intelligence, but the environment in which they work. Coyle conveys the research and shining examples of how creating a sense of true belonging, allowing for vulnerability, conveying a clear purpose, and more, creates the right space. Yes in a sense these things are old news, but Coyle gets into the specifics of what each means, with concrete actions leaders can take to recreate the conditions in their own environments. Further, the rationale is given in motivating ways. I only wish that more of the examples were fresh, rather than familiar ones like Johnson and Johnson and Navy SEALs.

Thanks, NetGalley, for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Cara Putman.
Author 64 books1,653 followers
July 14, 2018
This book is an incredibly readable and story packed key to creating cultures that work. As a professor at a business school, I already have a list of classes that I will recommend this book to for personal study. It is jammed with examples of what works (and on occasion what does not) to create a culture where people feel committed and safe contributing. Tips are woven in with the stories, but the author also has a summary chapter after each of the three key areas that he uses to give a litany of specific suggestions. These tips are applicable to companies, non profits, volunteer organization, and I'm looking forward to trying a few in our family. Highly recommend!
Profile Image for Erik Reagan.
17 reviews15 followers
August 22, 2018
There are some great nuggets in this book. Like with many books in the business genre, these nuggets of wisdom are buried within story after story that put the wisdom into practical terms. I can appreciate that as a learner, but the quantity of stories seemed a bit excessive to me. Thankfully they were all interesting. :)

My main gripe with the book overall is simply its length. I could have learned just as much with half the stories.

The final chapter really brought things home well. I’m glad I read this book. And I have some new ideas of things that may improve my business as a result.
Profile Image for RTS.
127 reviews2 followers
February 15, 2021
The worst of the self-help genre tropes - all anecdotes, not much data. A bunch of fun stories this dude finds interesting; felt like sitting around a campfire with someone's executive coach uncle. Very blah.
Profile Image for Tom Cross.
256 reviews
November 2, 2020
Books like this really annoy me. It’s naive, simplistic and overlooks so many factors.
Profile Image for Tudor Cretu.
317 reviews70 followers
October 29, 2022
"Acasa, familie, căldură” - cam asa ar trebui sa se simta intr-o organizatie, mediul unde lucrezi. Daca nu ai un asa mediu, poti incerca sa il creezi chiar tu. Iar daca chiar nu exista nicio calitate dintre cele de mai sus, poti foarte bine sa iti dai linistit demisia si sa iti gasesti echipa potrivita. Cam asa ar trebui sa fie un loc unde sa lucrezi in secolul 21. Eu inca mai sper si cred ca incerc sa imbunatatesc colaborarea din echipa mea, insa nefiind in cea mai de sus pozitie, nu am tot timpul un cuvant important de spus. Insa ma straduiesc. Sa am niste relatii sanatoase si sa raman sanatos mental si fizic dupa fiecare zi de lucru.

Cartea asta este un ghid foarte bun despre cum sa dezvolti o cultura in echipa ta, astfel incat sa simta toti sentimentul de apartenenta. Recomand cu mare caldura celor interesati, eu stiu sigur ca imi va mai folosi pe viitor.
Profile Image for Yaryna Zhukorska.
113 reviews8 followers
April 6, 2023

Коли я робила передзамовлення на цю книжку, вагалася, чи прочитаю там щось нове)
Я б її назвала майже художньою, так цікаво викладено матеріал)
Лише один раз зупинилася - стоп, я це вже десь читала))

Книжка про прості істини успішної командної роботи.
Я б її рекомендувала, як легке й цікаве чтиво, коли вроді все ок, але поїзд їде якось не так легко, як би хотілося)))

Особисто я за основу візьму «морських котиків»))

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