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I recently asked the LinkedIn community what book most closely aligns with your leadership identity, but I never disclosed my own. While those who know me are aware that I am a big fan of Brene Brown, I recently finished a book that had me cheering “Yes!” out loud periodically throughout my reading journey. Brene Brown studied the power of vulnerability and belonging; Daniel Coyle applied those concepts to understand what makes certain groups and organizations so profitable.

Profitable in what way? Coyle chose the groups by the following criteria:

  • They performed in the top 1% of their domain for at least a decade
  • They succeeded with a variety of personnel
  • Their cultures were admired by knowledgeable people across and outside of their industries

The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle taps into some of the world’s most highly successful groups and determines 3 skills that facilitate their high-performing cultures. The skills were introduced in a way that the first skill provides the foundation for the subsequent skills and the third skill cannot be successful without the first two.

Skill 1: Build Safety “Group performance depends on behavior that communicates one powerful overarching idea: We are safe and connected.” p. 15

The essence of this skill is that we are hardwired evolutionarily to first be concerned with whether we are safe. Consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs where safety creates the foundation for belonging. Until we can determine that we are physically, emotionally, and intellectually safe, our performance will be limited. Once our brains receive messages that we are accepted and valued members of a group, we will feel more motivated, better able to receive feedback, meet high standards, and think creatively.

The caveat to this skill is that, like any relationship, group safety is something that needs to be nourished on a regular basis. Because we are constantly on the lookout for threats, we need to be reminded that the group remains a safe place to flourish. Furthermore, there should be intention and authenticity behind group interactions driven by leaders. Whether in person or remotely, group members need to feel cared for and connected in a genuine way.

What are some ways leaders can practice Building Safety? So glad you asked!

  • Listen actively with open body language and minimal to no interruptions.
  • Foster psychological safety by admitting your own fallibility and encouraging truth-telling.
  • Demonstrate your dedication to the group by expressing gratitude, which affirms sense of connection and belonging, and seek ways to serve the group

Skill 2: Share Vulnerability “Vulnerability doesn’t come after trust–it precedes it. Leaping into the unknown, when done alongside others, causes the ground of trust to materialize beneath our feet.” p. 107

Coyle emphasizes the importance of vulnerability in facilitating a trusting and courageous group dynamic. By demonstrating vulnerability, group members can communicate clearly and utilize their strengths cohesively. They can engage in risk-taking confidently with a solid foundation of trust.

Groups need to feel comfortable enough to share where mistakes were made or performance can be improved. And similarly to the need for consistency in reinforcing a safe environment, vulnerability should be emphasized at all phases of a group’s functioning.

The way in which vulnerability is shared within a group should be authentic to the dynamic of that organization. Leaders need to find ways to engage groups in discovery that encourage comfort and leave them feeling energized to be a part of the group.

Here are 3 ways leaders can Share Vulnerability:

  • Model the way; ask the hard questions to elicit feedback on your own performance
  • When forming new groups, focus on two pivotal moments: the first vulnerability and the first disagreement
  • Integrate practices and checkpoints that encourage candor

Skill 3: Establish Purpose “Creating engagement around a clear, simple set of priorities can function as a lighthouse, orienting behavior and providing a path toward a goal.” p. 210

The skill of establishing purpose goes far beyond posting a set of values in visible spaces throughout an organization. Highly functioning teams spend a great deal of time revisiting their story and creating a set of simple principles that guide action and inspire continued engagement toward a shared goal. A group’s purpose should include a clear understanding of its current conditions and the ambitious future for which it is striving.

The strength of a group’s purpose is found not in monumental gestures, exceptional performance, or members who have high status, but in regular, everyday consistent actions that communicate clear alignment with the shared goal.

Here are 3 ways leaders can establish and reinforce a group’s purpose:

  • Name and rank a group’s priorities, ideally placing how members agree to treat each other at the top of the list
  • Be very clear about priorities and find ways to measure them regularly
  • Create action-oriented, simple, and direct catchphrases that reinforce the group’s purpose

Whether or not this book resonates with your leadership identity, it’s a book that makes good business sense. As you develop a business strategy that considers how you want to grow and prosper, and establishes ambitious goals, you’ll want your organization to be as healthy as possible. The Culture Code provides 3 simple cultural competencies that encourage connection, belonging, transparency, and unification, which will create an environment that will allow them to trust one another, overcome obstacles, and thrive as an organization.



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Kaitlin Wolfert

Leadership has been a consistent theme in Kaitlin’s life and career. Her fascination with leadership principles and their impact forged her path to becoming a Qualified ITC Mapping Facilitator and developing leadership frameworks to improve mental resilience, inspire creativity, affect change, and manage conflict across entire organizations.

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