• Lars Christensen

The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle - 5 minute read


I finished the book in January 2021. I recommend this book 10/10.


Even though I finished this book the first week of January, I'm ready to bet that it will be one of, if not the, best books I'll read this year.


This book does a fantastic job describing how successful groups work. The book provides an excellent step-by-step guide on how to build teams that are more effective and happier.


I got my copy on Amazon. Here is the link

My notes and thoughts:

  • P6-We don't normally think of safety as being important. We consider safety to be the equivalent of an emotional weather system—noticeable but hardly a difference-maker. But what we see here gives us a window into a powerful idea. Safety is not mere emotional weather but rather the foundation on which strong culture is built.

  • P-14-Overall Pentland's studies show that team performance is driven by five measurable 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 conversation 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 bring information back to share with others.

  • P24-"A small signal can have a huge effect," Walton says, "But the deeper thing to realizer is that you can't just give a cue once. This is all about establishing a relationship, 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 may be true, but it's still important to let them know, over and over." This idea—that belonging needs to be continually refreshed and reinforced—is worth dwelling on for a moment. If our brains processed safety logically, we would not need this steady reminding.

  • P26-Our social brains light up when they receive a steady accumulation of almost invisible cues: We are close, we are safe, we share a future.

  • P44-Question from below: Are we connected? Do we share a future? Are we safe?

  • P56-

  • Personal, up-close connection (body language, attention, and behavior that translate 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')

  • Popovich toggles among the three signals to connect his team the way a skilled director uses a camera; first he zooms in close, creating an individualized connection, Then he operates in the middle distance, showing players the truth about their performance. Then he pans out to show the larger context in which their interaction is taking place. Alone, each of these signals would have a limited effect, But together they create a steady stream of magical feedback. Every dinner, every elbow touch, every impromptu seminar on politics and history adds up to build a relation narrative: You are part of this group. This group is special. I believe you can reach those standards. In other words, Popovich's yelling works, in part, because it is not just yelling. It's delivered along with a suite of other cues that affirm and strengthen the fabric of the relationships.

  • P59-When things go wrong—and things will go wrong—you as the leader can not lose your temper. Instead, you need to take a deep breath and show the team member that safety still exists by looking ahead at the next target.

  • P68-One of the best question you can ask a leader or mentor: "Who do you know, I should know?"

  • P76- Don't interrupt people when they speak, and use simple phrases like "This is just my two cents." "Of course, I could be wrong here." "What am I missing?" " What do you think?"

  • P77- "Don't shoot the messenger?" "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."

  • P84- Questions for employees

  • What do you like most about the adoption team?

  • What do you like the least?

  • What would you change if you were leading the team?

  • P100- "So here's how we'll know if you had a good day," "If you ask for help ten times, then we'll know it was good. If you try to do it all alone..." the implication is clear—it will not work.

  • P139- How do you develop ways to challenge each other, ask the right questions, and never defer to authority? 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. Use comments, like, "Now let's see if someone can poke holes in this" or"Tell me what's wrong with this idea." and asking questions, "Anybody has any ideas?"

  • P141- "I screwed up" the fact that might be the most important four words any leader can say: "I screwed up."

  • P159- Three questions for your people:

  • 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 enough that you think I should do more often?

  • What can I do to make you more effective?

  • P160- Always deliver negative stuff in person.

  • P162- A manager development program found that the most effective listeners do four things:

  • They interact in ways that make the other person feel safe and supported.

  • They take a helping, cooperative stance.

  • They occasionally ask questions that gently and constructively challenge old assumptions.

  • They make occasional suggestions to open up alternative paths.

  • P163- "I've found that whenever you ask a question, the first response you get is usually not the answer—it's just ways to slowly surface things, to bring out what ought to be shared so that people can build from it. You have to find a lot of ways to ask the same question and approach the same questions from a lot of different angles; Then you have to build questions from that response, to explore more."

  • P163- 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 make suggestions; Skilled listeners do not interrupt with phrases like "Hey, here's an idea or let me tell you what worked for me in a similar situation" because 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 simplest thing I say—"Say more about that."

  • P164- One good tip is to use debriefs:

  • 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?

  • P181- The most basic psychological experiment of all time, In fact, you can do it right now. It goes like this:

  • Step 1: Think about a realistic goal that you'd like to achieve; it could be anything: Become skilled at sport, rededicate yourself to a relationship, lose a few pounds, get a new job. Spend a few seconds reflecting on that foal and imagining that it's come true, Picture a future where you've achieved it. Got it?

  • Step 2: Take a few seconds and picture the obstacle between you and that foal as vividly as possible. Don't gloss over the negativism but try to see them as they truly are, For example, if you were trying to lose weight, you might picture those moments of weakness when you smell warm cookies, and you decide to eat one (or three). That's it. It's called mental contrasting, and it seems less science than the kind of advice you might come across on a late-night informercial: Envision a reachable goal, and envision the obstacles, The thing is, as Oettingen discovered, this method works, triggering significant changes in behavior and motivation.

  • I need to copy the culture code in a way that I can use it as a guide in my daily work.

  • P195- The answer, Edmondson discovered, lay in the patterns of real-time signals through which the team members were connected (or not) with the purpose of the work, These signals consisted of five basic types:

  • Framing: Successful teams conceptualized MICS as a learning experience that would benefit patients and the hospital. Unsuccessful teams conceptualized MICS as an add-on to existing practices.

  • Roles: Successful teams were explicitly told by the team leader why their individual and collective skills were important for the teams'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 procedure 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 team leaders to speak up if they saw a problem; they 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 future cases, and suggested improvements. For example, the team leader wore a camera during surgery to help facilitate discussion and feedback. Unsuccessful teams tended not to do this.

  • P204- I ask Meyer what a bad interaction looks like. "It's one of two things," he says. "Either they're disinterested—I'm just doing my job, kind of thing. Or they're angry at the other person or the situation. And if I were to see that, I would know that there's a deeper. Problem here, because the number-one job is to take care of each other. I didn't always know that, but I know it now."

  • P207- At a retreat, Meyer and the staff ranked their priorities:

  • Colleagues

  • Guests

  • Community

  • Suppliers

  • Investors

  • For Meyers, this was a breakthrough. " Naming these things felt incredibly good," he says. "Getting all this out in the open. The manager who'd caused the salmon problem ended up leaving, and that's when things started to take off, and I realized that how we treat each other is everything. If we do that well, everything else will fall into place."

  • Also very important to come up with phrases:

  • Read the guest

  • Athletic hospitality

  • Writing a great final chapter.

  • Turning up the Home Dial

  • Loving problems

  • Finding the yes

  • Collection the dots and connection the dots

  • Creating raves for the guests

  • One size fits one

  • Skunking

  • Making the charitable assumption

  • Planting like seeds in like gardens

  • Put us out of business with your generosity

  • Be aware of your emotional wake

  • To get a hug, you have to give a hug

  • The excellence reflex

  • Are you an agent or a gatekeeper?

  • P209- He pushed his leaders to seek to treat his role as that of a culture broadcaster. And its rants improved markedly. Meyer kept it up, steadily expanding and refining the language. "You have priorities, grow, you' better name them, and you' better name the behaviors that support those priorities."

  • P222- This is because he realizes that (1) the teams are in a better position to solve problems, and (2) a suggestion from a powerful person tends to be followed, one of his frequently used phrases is "Now it's up to you." This is also why he tends to let a troubled project roll on "a bit too long," as he puts it, before pulling the plug and/or restarting it with a different team. "If you do a restart before everyone is completely ready, you risk upsetting things," he says. "You have to wait until it's clear to everyone that it needs to be restarted."

  • P222- More phrases:

  • Hire people smarter than you

  • Fail early, fail often

  • Listen to everyone's ideas

  • Face toward the problems

  • B-level work is bad for your soul

  • It's more important to invest in good people than in good ideas

  • P223- If Danny Meyer is a lighthouse, beaming signals of purpose, then Catmull is more like the engineer of a ship. Catmull doesn't steer the ship—he roves around belowdecks, checking the hull for leaks, changing out a piston, adding a little oil here and there. "For me, managing is a creative act," he says. "It's problem-solving, and I love doing that."

  • P229- Name and rank your priorities: In order to move toward a target, you must first have a target. Listing your priorities, which means wrestling with the choices that define your identity, is the first step. Most successful groups end up with a small handful 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. This reflects the truth that many successful groups realize: Their greatest project is building and sustaining the group itself. If they get their own relationship right, everything else will follow.

  • P229- Be ten times as clear about your priorities as you think you should be: A while back, Inc. Magazine asked executives at six hundred companies to estimate the percentage of their workforce who could name the company's top three priorities. The executives predicted that 64 percent would be able to name then. When Inc. Magazine then asked the employees to name the priorities, only 2 percent could do so. Be sure that people know: What are we about? and Where are we headed?

  • P230- Figure out where your group aims for proficiency and where it aims for creativity: Every group skill can be sorted into one of two basic types: skills of proficiency and skills of creativity. Skill 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. Creative skills, on the other hand, are about empowering a group to do the hard work of building something that has never existed before.

  • P232- Measure what really matters: The main challenge to building a clear sense of purpose is that the world is cluttered with noise, distractions, and endless alternative purposes. One solution is to create a simple universal measures that place focus on what matters. It is normally not the first or second measure that comes to mind that is the right one.

  • P233- Focus on bar-setting behaviors: One challenge of building purpose is to translate abstract ideas (values, mission) into concrete terms; one way successful groups do this is by spotlighting a single task and using it to define their identity and set the bar for their expectations.

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