The Culture Code

Culture Code.png
“Every evolution is a lens to look for teamwork moments, and we believe that if you stitch together a lot of opportunities, you start to know who the good teammates will

— Tom Freeman (SEAL Commander)

The title of this book grabbed my attention given the fact that any person who coaches is in the business of culture. If we've played and/or coached enough teams we have all experienced both the good and bad that culture can be. Daniel Coyle went in-depth and spent many years studying the cultures, good and bad, surrounding groups in multiple industries including NAVY SEALs, the San Antonio Spurs, Google and Zappos to name a few.  

No Bullshit and a lot of love

San Antonio Spurs GM RC Buford once defined the way head coach Gregg Popovich handles his players by saying "He fills their cups". He fills their cups? It's a staple of the contrasting styles which define Popovich's coaching philosophy. If you've ever heard the man deal with the press or get in the face of a player it's evident that he is old school and leads with toughness. But that's only one side of him. He's brutally honest, no doubt and no player is safe from being told the truth be it the last player on the bench all the way up to Tim Duncan (when he played). But what seems to set Pop apart is his real love for his players. He really wants them to feel like a family, that they can come to and rely on him for anything.

He delivers two things over and over: He’ll tell you the truth, with no bullshit, and then he’ll love you to death
— Chip Engelland (Spurs Assistant)

Pop is one of these guys who may not outwardly preach his philosophy or leadership style but if you look deep enough, read the right articles and listen to his players, you come to realize that this simple form of management really works for him. Honesty and love. These are probably two words that should define many of our coaching styles.

Sweeping The Sheds

You may have heard the saying "sweeping the sheds". If not, it is something that was popularized by the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. But as Coyle points out in the book, the origins of this come from a few places, in various ways and have profound effects on teams and cultures. For example, take this quote below from former McDonald's CEO Fred Turner about owner Ray Croc,

Every night you’d see him coming down the street, walking close to the gutter, picking up every McDonald’s wrapper and cup along the way

Obviously, Croc didn't NEED to do this, but it was his way of showing that he wasn't more important than anyone and the common goal was to constantly make McDonald's better. Turner goes on to speak about how he saw Croc once spending a Saturday morning "with a toothbrush cleaning out holes in the mop wringer. No one else really paid attention to the damned mop wringer, because everyone knew it was just a mop bucket. But Kroc saw all the crud building up in the holes, and he wanted to clean them so the wringer would work better”. The larger point that Coyle makes here is that when a leader does all these menial little things it says to the group WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER, and that is a very powerful message.

Log PT 

Draper Kauffman was not a name I was familiar with before reading this book. I came to learn that he is arguably the most influential person in the history of Navy SEAL training, and the one who created "Hell Week" along with many other aspects of their training. Specifically Kauffman created Log PT. As Coyle eloquently explains, log PT is not complicated, 

Basically, it consists of six SEAL trainees performing an assortment of maneuvers that seem more appropriate to an Amish barn raising. They lift, carry, and roll the log. They move it from shoulder to shoulder and push it with their feet. They do sit-ups while cradling it, and they stand for long periods while holding it overhead with extended arms. There is no strategy, no technique, nothing that calls for higher levels of thought, skill, or reflection. What sets Log PT apart is its ability to deliver two conditions: intense vulnerability along with deep interconnectedness.

This excerpt is part of the book that focuses primarily on vulnerability, a word that is not often talked about within sports teams but is clearly important. To his example when the SEALs showed vulnerability while holding the log or seemingly may drop it, when someone was about to lose it the feeling emanated throughout the group and others were able to balance out accordingly. He goes into more detail and it's worth reading this alone if anything because it shows us that there is a process that, as Coyle puts it "travels back and forth through the fibers of the log". As stated in the book that process is as follows;

1. A teammate falters.

2. Others sense it, and respond by taking on more pain for the sake of the group.

3. Balance is regained.

It's clear that balance must always be regained.

To get to how and why cultures work or don't work is clearly an ongoing process within the psychology and business community. Coyle shows us some really interesting examples on both ends of the spectrum with real ideas that coaches can implement into their own settings. I would highly suggest reading this both for the ideas and the stories that accompany them.

Click Here to buy the book via Amazon