Daniel Coyle is the New York Times bestselling author of The Culture Code, which was named Best Business Book of the Year by Bloomberg, BookPal, and Business Insider. Coyle has served as an advisor to many high-performing organizations, including the Navy SEALs, Microsoft, Google, and the Cleveland Guardians. His other books include The Talent Code, The Secret Race, The Little Book of Talent, and Hardball: A Season in the Projects, which was made into a movie starring Keanu Reeves. Coyle was raised in Anchorage, Alaska, and now lives in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, during the school year and in Homer, Alaska, during the summer with his wife Jenny, and their four children.

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  • Purpose isn’t about tapping into some mystical internal drive but rather about creating simple beacons that focus attention and engagement on the shared goal. Successful cultures do this by relentlessly seeking ways to tell and retell their story. To do this, they build what you call “high-purpose environments.” High-purpose environments are filled with small, vivid signals designed to create a link between the present moment and a future ideal. They provide 2 simple locators that every navigation process requires: Here is where we are and Here is where we want to go.
  • The world we live in is a learning contest.”
  • What Dan learned from Ed Catmull at Pixar:
    • A great culture does not always mean it’s a happy place. Ed was great about “deep fun.”
      • Deep fun = Solving hard problems with people you admire.
    • He was open about mistakes he had made.
    • He was very patient. He watched his teams and waited… He’d then spotlight a focus area.
    • Then he would say… “Now, it’s up to you.” He empowered his teams.
    • He was very humble.
  • I asked Dan how he got access to so many amazing leaders and he said, “They are all so curious. They had an urge to learn.”
  • Safety is about voice, it’s making sure everyone has a voice.
    • Make a team charter.
  • IDEO – Every project team is a journey. They have pre, during, and post-flight meetings.
    • Ask the question, “What are we like at our best?”
  • Danny Meyer – “Business, like life, is all about how you make someone feel. It’s that simple… And that hard.”
    • Danny loved to have a mantra map. He had a lot of corny sayings. Dan found that to be a commonality among great cultures.
    • Their north star was “creating raves.”
  • Culture: From The Latin cultus, which means CARE
  • Schedule regular team “tune-ups” to place an explicit spotlight on the team’s inner workings and create conversations that surface and improve team dynamics
  • Foster strong culture in remote working scenarios. It doesn’t take much physical togetherness to build strong teams. Encourage remote teams meet up in person twice a year
  • Create belonging: every group knows diversity, equity, and inclusion matter, but what separates strong cultures is they aim to create belonging across racial lines. Ex: normalize uncomfortable conversations; read, watch, reflect together; gather data and share it • Build Trust. Ask the magic-wand question to each member of your team: if you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the way we work, what would it be?
  • Connect. Hold an anxiety party to serve as a pressure-relief valve, as well as a platform for people to connect and solve problems together.
  • Change perspective. Have a once-a-week catch-up session with someone outside of your group.
  • Make it safe to talk about mistakes: Strong cultures seek to highlight and remember their mistakes and learn from them • Listen. Listening to others’ problems is one of the most powerful culture-building skills on the planet. It’s also difficult. Restrain yourself from jumping in, listen, then say: Tell me more.
  • Embrace the After-Action Review (or as the military calls it, the AAR): Talking together about the strengths and weaknesses of your performance will make your group better.
  • The Billion Dollar Day When Nothing Happened – “These Ads Suck.” That was the note that Larry Page wrote and hung up about Google Ad Words. What did Jeff Dean, a quiet, skinny engineer from Minnesota, do to make the ads not suck? He had no immediate need to fix the problem. He worked in Search (a different area of the company. And how did Jeff Dean respond when he was asked about it years later (he said he didn’t even really remember it. It was just normal to do stuff like that)…
  • There is a misconception that great cultures are places that are always happy. Doing great work is hard. The way we build great cultures is by doing hard things together focused on connection and safety.
  • Life/Career advice: Think of your life in experiments and the learning loop. It is Experience + Reflection. Experience + Reflection. WRITE DOWN WHAT you’ve learned from your experiences. Writing creates clarity of thought.
  • Amy Edmondson researched Chelsea and Mountain Medical – What made them a success? The answer lay in patterns of real-time signals through which the team members were connected. There were 5 things:
    • Framing – They conceptualized MICS as a learning experience that would benefit patients and the hospital. Unsuccessful teams viewed it as an add-on to existing practices.
    • Roles – Role clarity. Being told explicitly by the team leader why their individual and collective skills were important for the team’s success
    • Rehearsal – Practice a lot
    • Explicit encouragement to speak up
    • Active reflection – Between surgeries, successful teams went over their performance
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