This post is a summary of my thoughts from The Culture Code.

The book investigates the dynamics of groups and explains the factors that result in teams achieving success or failing. It shows examples of people with mediocre credentials outperforming teams where every person is the best in their field. The difference stems from how these people work together within their teams.

From extensive research, these patterns were visible from leaders of successful teams:

  1. Building a safe environment of belonging
  2. Sharing vulnerability
  3. Establishing a purpose

A few years ago I learned about the concept of psychological safety through an article about an internal study at Google. That article will give a taste of what the book covers. I expected considerable overlap and thought this book did a nice job digging deeper. It gave a nice framework and actionable tips.

Since reading the book, I’ve tried to make more of an effort at listening to others. Not listening while thinking about what I want to say next - truly listening. It’s not easy, but that was my biggest takeaway. It’s the simplest way that I can help others on my team feel more involved and lead to better outcomes.

Also interesting to think about is how vulnerability is a needed ingredient for building a safe environment. From Radical Candor, I’ve thought about vulnerability as “bringing your whole self to work”. I still agree with those ideas, but I like this book’s callout of making it as simple openly saying “I screwed that up”.

Here are a few excerpts I highlighted:

“Jonathan’s group succeeds not because its members are smarter but because they are safer.”

“Cohesion happens not when members of a group are smarter but when they are lit up by clear, steady signals of safe connection.”

“Belonging cues have to do not with character or discipline but with building an environment that answers basic questions: Are we connected? Do we share a future? Are we safe?”

“One misconception about highly successful cultures is that they are happy, lighthearted places. This is mostly not the case … members are oriented less around achieving happiness than around solving hard problems together.”

“I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.”

“Creating safety is about dialing in to small, subtle moments and delivering targeted signals at key points … Overcommunicate Your Listening.”

“Vulnerability doesn’t come after trust - it precedes it. Leaping into the unknown, when done alongside others, causes the solid ground of trust to materialize beneath our feet.”

“those might be the most important four words any leader can say: ‘I screwed that up.’”

“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.”

“Stories are not just stories; they are the best invention ever created for delivering mental models that drive behavior.”

“Building purpose in a creative group is not about generating a brilliant moment of breakthrough but rather about building systems that can churn through lots of ideas in order to help unearth the right choices.”