There’s a universal belief that “you’re only as good as your team”; which is why we’ll never be short of advice on how to build an effective one. One of the best books I’ve read on the topic of building teams is Daniel Coyle’s ‘The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups’.
It’s the product of the author having spent past four years studying world class teams to see what makes them great. He looked at some well-known success stories including Pixar, Google and the San Antonio Spurs basketball team to see what makes them tick, before combining his on-the-ground insight with cutting-edge science and research.
He concluded that there are three key elements that all successful groups have…
1. They build safety
When discussing what makes a great team, you wouldn’t immediately think of safety. But Coyle suggests creating a safe environment where team members can share their thoughts, ideas and concerns, without fear of being judged or criticised, is essential.
In the book, Alex Pentland at MIT argues that “belonging cues” – the little things people do when they care for and respect one another – are the number one predictor of team performance.
So, when trying to get a feel for whether you’re building a strong and tight team, observe how people interact, looking closely at their proximity, eye contact, energy, mimicry, turn taking, attention, body language, vocal pitch, and consistency of emphasis. Is it clear that people respect and appreciate one another?
2. They share their vulnerabilities
Trust is built upon people being honest with each other, which includes the sharing of concerns and vulnerabilities. Coyle notes that we “naturally tend to avoid” exchanges of vulnerability – but that “being vulnerable together is the only way a team can become invulnerable”.
Jeff Polzer at Harvard says that exchanges of vulnerability need to be two-way for trust to be cultivated. “The second person is the key,” he says. “Do they pick it up and reveal their own weaknesses, or do they cover up and pretend they don’t have any? It makes a huge difference in the outcome.”
So, do like the Navy SEALs do: create situations where the group are expected to show vulnerability by reviewing their individual decisions for good and for bad.
3. They establish purpose
All leaders understand the importance of a shared goal – but the company’s purpose and priorities need regular reinforcement, which is where some groups fall short, the book suggests.
“Successful cultures do this by relentlessly seeking ways to tell and retell their story,” says Coyle. In other words, it’s not enough to just have a ‘Vision, Mission and Values’ statement – you need to be creating a culture that is constantly aligned with those principles, so that the group can connect and identify with them.
If the shared goal is not reinforced, it will soon be forgotten.
I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of the book. Then, once you’ve read it, we can discuss and share our takeaways from it.