Book Review: “The Culture Code” by Daniel Coyle

Hayley Panagakis

26 February 2019

This month, Leadercast is focused on the significance of commitment in leadership. We’ve explored questions to help you gauge your commitment level, the importance of an organization having clearly defined core values and beliefs, steps on how to show your team you’re committed to them and advice for how to leave when you find yourself uncommitted to an organization.

So far, we’ve concentrated on how commitment relates to leaders as individuals, but what about the rest of the team? When it comes to an employee’s level of commitment within an organization, culture is key; it is a leading factor for whether or not a team member will stick around for the long haul, and it starts from the top down.

That’s why for February’s book of the month we chose The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle for a deep dive into how we, as leaders, can build a culture people truly want to be part of. Leaders have an incredible responsibility when it comes to culture-building: The actions and behaviors of the leadership team and how it treats its staff set the tone for how others will collectively treat one another and the organization.

In the book, Daniel defines culture as “a set of living relationships working toward a shared goal. It’s not something you are. It’s something you do.”

Based on this definition, culture is the result of actions taken and must be tended to consistently. It requires a conscious effort from the leader to establish and maintain the right atmosphere for the organization.

Daniel shares his observations from some of the most successful teams and companies out there—Pixar, Zappos, the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team Six, Google and others—about what made them so effective in what they do. In his years researching and analyzing these groups, Daniel discovered three key skills great leaders must add to their leadership toolbox to be able to build high-performing cultures: Leaders must build safety, share vulnerability and establish purpose. The book is broken into three parts, one on each skill, and Daniel begins each section with storytelling, sharing specific examples of the skill done well (or not) by specific groups and the leadership that guided them. He ends each section with a chapter detailing practical steps leaders can take to grow the respective skill.

There are many skills that come into play when building a culture, but Daniel puts an emphasis on these three as being the most crucial. Vulnerability and purpose are skills we discuss a lot here at Leadercast (especially with our Leadercast Live and Leadercast Women events themed as Powered by Purpose in 2017!), so I appreciated the points he made on building safety, in particular.

When I started at Leadercast in August 2017, our office looked much different than it does now. We had previously shared our office with another company, but when they moved out, we ended up with more space than we knew what to do with. Our office was full of empty cubes, and many of us were spread out into private rooms throughout the building. It was quiet and, frankly, it had a negative effect on the culture of our organization. Our team was disjointed and communication was lacking, which trickled down into a reduced amount of clarity in areas of our company—all of which is not a good foundation for a great work culture.

In the book, when Daniel discusses the skill of building safety, he notes the importance of belonging: People need to feel like they belong in order to feel secure and safe in the workplace. When the main areas of our office looked like a ghost town and people were dispersed in their private spaces most of the time, our level of belonging took a hit. Being new to the organization and coming from a culture of fear and manipulation at a previous job, I was slow to let go of the baggage I brought with me. It took awhile for me to feel that sense of safety and belonging at Leadercast, partly in fault of my own for holding on to the past, but also due to our office setup.

Now, our team is in a smaller, open-office space that’s much better suited for our needs. Being in close quarters has built a stronger sense of belonging and has also encouraged better communication among our team. Overall, it has bettered our individual commitment to each other and the company.

This is just one reflection I took from Daniel’s The Culture Code. With the perfect mix of narrative and actionable steps for building safety, sharing vulnerability and establishing purpose among a team, this book is a must-read for leaders looking to improve upon or better maintain the culture that exists within their organization.

Click here to purchase the book and here to take The Culture Code quiz to see how strong your organizational culture is now. And, make sure you check our Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn this week to learn how you can win a free copy of The Culture Code.

*How has building safety, sharing vulnerability and establishing purpose manifested in your organization? Tell us your culture-building experiences on Twitter.

Hayley Panagakis

This blog was written by Hayley Panagakis, a freelance writer, editor and content creator. Connect with her on LinkedIn and visit her website to learn more about her services.

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