“I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know you can reach them.” This line comes from The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle, book recommended to me by an entrepreneur friend.
This book describes Coyle’s management theory that groups perform well when they have a group culture that fosters high performance. What type of culture does that? One that makes people feel safe and socially connected, and that focuses their energies on a shared purpose rather than on getting and maintaining their desired social position. Now, I do not think of myself as someone who expends much time on social climbing, but Coyle makes a convincing case that because humans are inherently social and attuned to danger, we unconsciously align much of our behavior to stay connected with the social order. He makes a case that this constant struggle for social alignment distracts from and even outright sabotages collaborative work.
Most of the book is taken up by ideas and examples of how a leader can create a high-performing culture. Further, Coyle suggests two different versions of his management theory, one for groups that need to achieve high proficiency in more-or-less repetitive tasks, the other for groups that need to achieve high creativity. Both versions of his theory could be applied in leading a legal team.
Rather than summarize Coyle’s advice, I recommend that you find this book through your local library, independent bookshop, or favorite ebook retailer. Coyle’s theory provides a lot of food for thought.
It was interesting to discover this book was published as recently as 2017, because some of Coyle’s examples of high-performing teams (with what we might think of as “good” group culture) include Pixar and Google, companies that are now known to be places where people have experienced harassment and have felt distinctly unsafe on the basis of their gender or race. This lacuna on high-performing teams that harass “outsiders” within their own ranks does not undermine Coyle’s overall management theory, in my opinion, but rather it begs the question of how to integrate anti-harassment values within the group culture. An important question for another day.
Book review previously published in the November 2020 issue of the Los Angeles Paralegal Reporter, vol 48, issue 11.
Re-published on leesalazar.com in 2021 and backdated accordingly.