Book Review: The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

I have started new job in September 2020 – after 6 months in a “working-from-home” mode. Some of the questions I was asking myself after signing new contract were:

“Will I be able to connect with my new peers, my manager and feel myself part of the team?”

“How can I connect with company’s culture without meeting people physically?”

These questions are extremely relevant in the modern society. We are becoming more and more lonely, while becoming more and more digitally connected. Paradox. Check out this 30 year vision from SoftBank for more insights on that. It was created in 2010 and their predictions are pretty accurate so far.

Another angle of the same topic is how group or company culture impacts productivity and performance. I think we all know – there is a direct connection between people ability to deliver high results and working environment. Some of us may even had personal experience how “toxic” culture erodes motivation, morale and leads, eventually, to failure.

We can also quickly spot if culture is not right or something is wrong with morale. But at the same time, it is not easy to formulate how “successful” or “high performing” culture should look like. Even more difficult to articulate exact steps or methods how to build it. No surprise that consulting companies like McKinsey charging millions and write long “journey maps” to help their customers in culture transformation.

The book defines 3 key “skill sets” that companies and individuals should have in order to create and maintain “high performing” culture.

Build Safety

This goes beyond creating safe environment for experiments and embracing the messenger of bad news. We all want to belong, be accepted and be able to share our voice. The book explains on examples, how to create such atmosphere. And it is not a single step process – vice versa it is repetition of a message “It is safe hear” over and over.

Share Vulnerability

The book describes idea that can be controversial for some folks in management positions – demonstrate to your peers and reports your vulnerability. There is no need to be omniscient and omnipotent boss to create high performing team.

Also, the book gives practical ideas how to build process of honest feedback loop. Yes, it maybe uncomfortable, but it is pain of growth.

I highlighted following in one of the book’s chapter about vulnerability:

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?

Coyle, Daniel. The Culture Code (p. 121). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Excellent questions.

Establish Purpose

People need to know why they are investing time into something. Monthly paycheck is important, but it is not everything. Purpose is matter. Clean, easy to digest vision is matter.

“Work Hard. Have Fun. Make History”. Isn’t it inspiring?

Many companies have written and published manifest, statements and etc. But not many live by them. The book explains why it is important to embrace company’s manifest on all organizational levels. It will not work, if only C-level executives know it.

Leaders are inherently biased to presume that everyone in the group sees things as they do, when in fact they don’t. This is why it’s necessary to drastically overcommunicate priorities.

Coyle, Daniel. The Culture Code (p. 170). Random House. Kindle Edition.


The Culture Code is excellent book where I found both excellent narrative and practical examples how to improve “culture” in organization.

Some of the book ideas echo with another interesting book that I recently reviewed.

Overall – 5 out of 5. I highly recommend this book to people managers, technical leads or anybody else who involved in creating and maintaining work environment.

What is your experience with organizational culture? Drop a line in comments section.

If you are into reading, check out my 2021 Reading List or other Book Reviews.

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