Blog: How to crack the code on organisational culture

Daniel Coyle’s The Culture Code: how to crack the code on organisational culture

New York Times bestselling author Daniel Coyle has written previously on the hacks of successful individuals in The Talent Code; now he writes on knitting those individual talents together to create a high-performing group in The Culture Code. Speaking on how some of the best teams in the world managed to gel, from the likes of Google and Pixar to US Navy SEALs, Coyle guides readers through the three rules in his ‘culture code’ for group success. Here’s a quick summary:

  1. Contribute to a team culture which prioritises others’ safety and comfortability
  2. Lead by example and make your vulnerabilities known so as to foster a workplace where mistakes aren’t negative
  3. Have a collective goal and a simple plan to achieve it mapped out

Read on for some tips on how to revolutionise the culture in your own workplace!

1. Safety in numbers: making your workplace a comfortable environment for everyone

The first step towards developing a high-performing group is to ensure that all members feel secure and at ease in their working environment. Coyle refers to the recent cultural shift of ‘working from home’ as a manifestation of this desire for comfort. The shift has proved so successful because working where you feel safest is the environment in which your best results are produced. Your employees need to feel as though they can be their complete selves without judgement. If they feel that they cannot speak or act freely, time and energy will be invested in fitting the expectations of others, rather than their work.

TIP: As a leader, try holding several social work events where your employees can open up about their interests and hobbies. Remember that Coyle’s book can apply to the culture of any group, not just work teams. By creating a workplace where workers’ professional relationships are not only allowed but encouraged to have a friendly aspect to them, your team will become more comfortable with being themselves around one another.

2. Everyone makes mistakes, including the team leader

By putting your vulnerabilities on full display as the figure of authority, you can lead the way in developing an organisational culture open to trying and failing. Showing that everyone makes mistakes puts you on equal footing with your employees, ultimately creating a team who isn’t shy to work together. Trying different things will inevitably involve mistakes being made along the way. However, it is the normalisation of these mistakes that is key to your employees submitting new ideas; no matter how creative or innovative they may be. This cue will open up the floor to original and novel proposals, similar to those had by Google or Pixar. Coyle also speaks on how vulnerability is crucial in establishing trust between workers, as your vulnerable self is your most authentic self.

TIP: Call a team meeting where you speak openly about a mistake that you have made and then ask your employees to share their ideas on what you could do better. This activity will gather constructive feedback on work that could benefit from fresh perspectives, while at the same time signalling to your employees that mistakes are a completely normal part of business and can even be positive, if learned from. From then on, your workers are likely to collaborate or seek help if they need it. In this way, your team of individuals will truly become a team, where everyone’s skillsets are harnessed and shared.

3. A team needs a shared purpose to bring them together in pursuit of their goal

New goals are set and achieved all the time; the cycle continues, your business grows. But your team needs some kind of incentive that is relevant to all members in order for them to feel a sense of accountability when working towards specific goals. Purpose is the common motivator behind those goals.

Purpose is the set of values and beliefs instilled in your team at work. For example, the current goal of your company might be to focus on marketing tactics in order to add 30 new clients to your business by the end of the month. But the purpose which drives that goal is of a higher merit, such as the satisfaction that comes from helping clients feel healthier and stronger.

TIP: Make sure you unite your team behind a purpose that everyone supports, not just you. It will be difficult to rally your troops if you don’t consult with them what they feel is most motivating about working for your company. You also need a simple plan that will get you from point A (the present) to point B (the desired future) that incorporates your business’ narrative, or purpose, as a source of constant encouragement.

Coyle’s Code, in short

This leadership manifesto is an engaging read for anyone who oversees workplace culture. It blends solid scientific research, as well as real world experience and advice from high performing corporations so as to demystify the ‘secret’ behind their triumphs. Coyle says success is straightforward if you ‘crack the code’ on workplace culture; work smart not hard and in simple unity.


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