The Culture Code

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Ideas about developing teams that work together better. Underwhelming — took just a few base concepts and then stretched them very thin by applying to them a dozen different (not always compelling) stories.


Psychological safety. Effective teams are ones whose members feel safe. Safe to express fully what they think and feel, without fear of punishment or loss of status. (See also: Smarter Faster Better)

Belonging cues. Psychological safety is developed by emanating a steady stream of cues that you belong to the group, that you’re one of us. Those are: people are physically close in proximity, they lean in to each other, look each other in the eyes, speak in roughly equal proportion, speak in short bursts, and listen intently.

Status management. Grownups are far worse than kindergarteners at the marshemellow challange (look it up), because they worry about status. Who’s in charge, who does what, and they waste time communicating and negotiating it. Fuck that. Don’t worry about status, about roles, about bosses. Don’t ask for permission. Just do what needs to be done. And that’s it!

Show vulnerability. Especially as a leader, you must show that you’re just a human, that you’re fallible. Vulnerability is a sign of strength, not weakness. (Think about it: someone low of status would not show their vulnerability because it would be too risky for them.) Vulnerability comes BEFORE trust. You have to be vulnerable first before people start trusting you.

Break out of your circle. Do you want to get more good ideas to improve your work? Talk to people who do different things from what you do. From the other side: Ask questions. Challange their thinking. Don’t give suggestions too early. Establish connection, dig deeper, spark thoughtfulness in the other person. Your role is to guide them to discover ideas on their own. (See: Creativity Inc. — Braintrust consists of experienced leaders who cannot give suggestions, only point out what’s wrong)

Overcommunicate purpose. Managers think that the organization’s goals and values are obvious to everybody, but they’re not. You have to relentlessly repeat the message, especially if you’re doing things differently, because old habits die hard.

Giving feedback. Here’s a good phrase to use when you don’t have an established strong relationship with someone: “I’m giving you this feedback because I have very high expectations of you, and I believe you can reach them”.

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