Coyle says that culture is a set of living relationships working toward a shared goal. It’s not something you are, it’s something you do. Coyle suggests that what you should do is build safety, share vulnerability, and establish purpose.
Clear signals of "safe connections" generate bonds of belonging or identity. "We are close, we are safe, we share a future"
Coyle quotes Alex Pentland from the MIT Human Dynamics Lab, “Modern society is an incredibly recent phenomenon. For hundred 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 attended to certain types of behaviors. As far as our brain is concerned, if our social system rejects us, we could die”
Pentland’s studies show team performance is driven by five measurable factors:
- Everyone in the groups talks and listens in roughly equal measure, keeping contribution short.
- Members maintain high levels of eye contract, and their conversations and gestures are energetic.
- Members communicate directly with one another, not just the team leader.
- Members carry on back-channel or side conversations within the team.
- Membership periodically break, go exploring outside the team, and bring information back to the team.
Other Tips Coyle provides to "Build Safety" include:
- Over communicate your listening (avoid interruptions)
- Spotlight your fallibility early on; especially if you are a leader (to create safety). Leaders need to actively invite input
- Embrace the messenger (of bad news)
- Preview future connectors
- Overdo Thank-Yous (express gratitude)
- Be painstaking in the hiring process
- Eliminate bad apples
- Create safe, collision-rich spaces
- Make sure everyone has a voice
- Pick-up trash (shows humility; shows you are serving the group)
- Capitalize on threshold moments (that signal we are together now)
- Avoid giving sandwich feedback (make it two separate processes, people either focus entirely on the positive or on the negative)
- Embrace fun
Exchanges of vulnerability, which we naturally tend to avoid, are the pathway through which trusting cooperating is built. A series of small, humble exchanges "Anybody haven ideas?" "Tell me what you want", and "I’ll help you" - can unlock a group’s ability to perform.
Braintrust meetings at Pixar and AAR (After Action Review) by Navy Seals can be uncomfortable and candor filled: Where did we fail? What did each of us do and why did we do it? What will we do differently next time? AARs can be raw, painful, and filled with pulses of emotion and uncertainty
Ideas from IDEO on what questions teams could ask themselves to help improve include:
- One thing that excited me about this particular opportunity is ….
- I confess, the one thing I’m not so excited about with this particular opportunity is …
- On this project, I’d really like to get better at …
Other tips Coyle offers to "Share Vulnerability" include:
- Make sure leader is vulnerable first and often. “I screwed up” are the most important words any leader can say. Laszlo Bock, former head of People Analytics at Google, recommends that leaders ask their people three questions:
- 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?
- Overcommunicate expectations
- Deliver the negative stuff in person
- When forming new groups, focus on two critical moments: the first vulnerability and the first disagreement
- Listen like a trampoline: not just nodding, but adding insight and creating moments of mutual discovery
- Make the other person feel safe and supported
- Take a helping, cooperative stance
- Occasionally ask questions that gently and constructively challenge old assumptions
- Make occasional suggestion to open up alternative path.
- In conversation, resistance the temptation to reflexively add value. Don’t immediately say “I have a similar idea” or “this is what worked for me”
- Use Candor-Generative practices like AARs and BrainTrusts
- What were out intended results?
- What were our actual results?
- What caused our results?
- What will we do the same the next time?
- What will we do differently?
- Aim for candor, avoid brutal honesty: By aiming for candor - feedback that is smaller, more targeted, less personal, less judgmental, and equally impactful - its easier to maintain a sense of safety and belonging to the group
- Embrace the discomfort (like in AAR)
- Align language with action (use the language that is reflective of your culture)
- Build a wall between performance review and professional development
- Use flash mentoring
- Make the leader occasionally disappear
Successful groups use their language and their stories to over communicate why they exist (the difference they make) and how individuals contribute to that difference.
One exercise that uses this principle is mental contrasting; motivation is not a possession but rather the result of a two-part process of channeling your attention.
- Step 1) Think about a realistic goal that you’d like to achieve. It could be anything: become skilled at a sport, rededicate yourself to a relationship, lose a few pounds, get a new job. Spend a few second reflecting on that goal and imagining its come true. Picture a future where you’ve achieve it.
- Step 2): Take a few seconds and picture the obstacle between you and that goal as vividly as possible. Don’t gloss over the negatives, buy 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)
So aligning motivations can change someone's performance. Similarly replacing one story for another can impact performance. In one study, when a test randomly identified a child as having "unusual potential for intellectual growth" and those "results" are shared with their teachers; the students test scores and IQ scores increased.
Real-time signals through which team members were connected (or not) with the purposes of the work consists of five basic types:
- Framing - conceptualize the team mission
- Roles - why each role was important
- Rehearsal - teams did elaborate dry runs
- Explicit encouragement to speak up
- Active reflection
Other tips Coyle provides to "Establish Purpose" include:
- Name and rank your priorities
- Be ten times as clear about your priorities as you think you should be
- Figure out where your group aims for proficiency and where it aims for creativity
- Embrace the use of catchphrases:
- “Create fun and a little weirdness” (Zappos),
- “Talk less, do more” (IDEO)
- “Work hard, be nice” (KIPP)
- “Pound the rock” (San Antonio Spurs)
- “Leave the jersey in a better place” (New Zealand All-Blacks)
- “Create raves for guests” (Danny Meyer’s restaurants)
- Measure what really matters
- Use artifacts
- Focus on bar-setting behaviors
Saying from Pixar's Ed Catmull about culture include:
- Hire people smarter than you
- Fail early, fail often
- Listen to everyone’s ideas.
- Face to everyone’s ideas.
- Face toward the problems.
- B-level work is bad for your solution
- Its more important to invest in good people than in good ideas