Back To All Stories
GREAT IDEAS: Daniel Coyle blog

GREAT IDEAS: The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle {Interview}

Highlights from our interview with Daniel Coyle

GREAT IDEAS: Daniel Coyle blog

Daniel Coyle is an award-winning, New York Times-bestselling author of books on leadership and performance, including The Talent Code. Here, he discusses his latest book The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups.

Harvard research on strong culture vs weak culture in matched businesses showed increased revenues of 756 per cent over 11 years for the business with the strong culture.  

It’s all about sending signals of real connection and safety. They’re called belonging cues. Successful groups send out a steady stream of signals that say we’re connected, we share a future, I care.

Why can’t a team of CEOs beat a team of kindergartners in a contest to make the tallest tower out of dry spaghetti? Because kindergartners don’t spend time on status management or safety. They simply iterate.

A call-centre company improved retention by 270% simply by swapping the usual induction process with asking new trainees about themselves – “What music do you play? Tell me about yourself?”

Leaders should focus on keeping an open face. Your facial expression has two settings – open or closed. The frontalis muscle on the forehead is probably the most important muscle leaders have. When it is up and your eyes are wide open, you look caring and attentive.

A tip for bosses from a contact at Google: Send a two line email to the team. “Hey, I’m trying to get better, tell me one thing that I should keep doing and one thing I should stop doing.”

Ask face to face. Research shows asking someone to do something face to face gives you a 34 times better chance of getting a yes, than if you’d sent an email.

The four most important words a leader can say are “I screwed it up”, especially early in relationships, according to a U.S. Navy SEAL interviewed for The Culture Code.  

To increase co-operation, connection, cohesion try a vulnerability loop. It’s when one person sends a signal of vulnerability and then the other person sends a signal of vulnerability. If you do that with a group they will perform better together.

Entrepreneurs should stop the clock and reflect. Good teams create time for group reflection/review.

Have pre-flight, mid-flight and post-flight discussions on projects. Discuss how you’re going to work together. What you’re afraid of. Name the key tensions you’re trying to deal with.

Successful teams have mantras. They are cheesy but powerful. The New Zealand All Blacks use the phrases “Sweep the sheds” and “Leave the jersey in a better place.”

Three critical skills for successful teams – building safety, sharing vulnerability and establishing purpose.


  1. Recommended book: Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull

  2. If you could co-author a book with anyone, who would it be, and what’s its title?  Barack Obama, and the title How I Think.

  3. A great piece of advice you could share? Listening is the most underused, high-leverage tool anyone has. Treat listening as a sport, train yourself, get better at it, focus on it.

  4. What’s been your lowest moment, and how did you recover from it? I’d written non–fiction books and tried to write fiction and it was really difficult. In the end it was a total failure. It was published but I still don’t like it. It was really humbling. I thought I was pretty good and I was brought to my knees by that process. I recovered after a friend gave me another assignment to write a book.

  5. How do you relax? Hitting a tennis ball. Not very well. But trying to learn that sport.

  6. What’s something about you we don’t know? I spent a month in Manly in Australia when I was in 8th grade, and I walked through the mouth of the shark at the Aquarium. I love Australia.

  7. What’s the secret of success? I think it’s in relationships. It’s also in enthusiasm. I see a deep positivity in a lot of successful people that is not rational, it’s not thought through. They just freakin’ love it. It’s like a divine wind.

  8. What’s a prediction for 2025? (Baseball team) Cleveland Indians win the World Series (I do consulting with them).

 If you'd like to increase your professional and personal development why not consider becoming a Growth Faculty Pass Holder with Growth Faculty? Unlimited access to 40 live virtual masterclasses and Global Headliner virtual events - PLUS year-round leadership content at On Demand with videos, podcasts and book summaries. See who's up next.


Keep Informed
Stay Inspired


© 2023 The Growth Faculty

Where Brilliant Ideas Inspire Leadership

Privacy Policy    Terms of Service