In this TED feature of The Way We Work, Patty McCord shares her HR wisdom through quick, direct lessons to build a company people enjoy working for.
McCord is the former chief talent officer of Netflix, an American technology and media services provider. Under her leadership, Netflix adopted a dynamic culture and philosophy based on freedom and responsibility. This organizational culture was routinely assessed and updated and it allowed the organization to thrive.
These eight lessons are intended for managers and HR leaders to adopt in order for their organizations to quickly adapt to the evolving environment.
- Your employees are adults. Leaders should remember that employees are people who have goals to make a difference in the world. McCord reminds leaders to keep this fact in mind when they form highly structured systems that attempt to track and manage every aspect of work. She says, “If you start with the assumption that everyone comes to work to do an amazing job, you’ll be surprised what you get.”
- The job of management is not to control people; it’s to build great teams. “The evidence of great teams,” McCord shares, is that they “accomplish incredible things…[and] customers are really happy.” She thinks those are some of the most important data points and metrics to track.
- People want to do work that means something. After they do it, they should be free to move on. McCord explains that, for many, “Careers are journeys. Not many people want to do the same thing for 60 years.” She asserts that “keeping people for the sake of keeping people often hurts both employee and company.” Instead, she imagines a world where leaders created companies that are great places ‘to be from.’ This could create a broader work environment where “everyone who leaves [your company] becomes an ambassador for who you are and how you operate.”
- Everyone in your company should understand the business. “The most important thing we can teach our employees is how our business works,” she says. Innovative and agile organizations are able to rapidly adapt only because they’re collaborative. As colleagues and managers teach each other what they do, they should explain what matters to them, what they measure, and what success in their area of the company looks like.
- Everyone in your company should be able to handle the truth. McCord states that most people are not great at giving or receiving feedback. Simply put, she says, one annual review is not frequent enough to be good at giving feedback. She challenges HR leaders and other employees to, “rethink the word ‘feedback’” and instead think of it as “telling people the honest truth of what they’re doing right or wrong in the moment that they’re doing it.” People will respond and repeat actions when they are given ‘real-time’ positive feedback. Likewise, the reverse is true that people are more likely to stop negative behavior after receiving direct and immediate feedback rather than one time per year during their annual review.
- Your company needs to live out its values. People model themselves after how they see their leadership team act. “People can’t be what they can’t see,” says McCord. She uses the example of the company value of equality to display this point. She says, “If you say you’re ‘for’ equality and celebrate 30% representation of women on an executive team… Well, that’s not equal. That’s 30%.” The company should change their values or their practices so that they are aligned.
- All start-up ideas are unreasonable. McCord largely works with start-up companies and she says, “If [start-up ideas] were reasonable, someone else would already be doing them.” She supports those with bold, innovative ideas to try them out.
- Every company needs to be excited for change. She warns leaders that if they find themselves saying, “Remember the way it used to be,” they need to shift their thinking to be, “Think about the way it’s going to be.” Leaders are future-oriented, not fixated on the past.
In a dynamic world, companies must embrace change. Companies that are excited about change and willing to adapt will be the ones to thrive.
About DeBoer Fellowship
The DeBoer Fellowship develops change leaders across all sectors of Myanmar society. Through a multi-year training class and additional public programs, the DeBoer Fellowship serves Myanmar by helping to grow competent, compassionate, and ethical leaders. For more information about DeBoer Fellowship or to apply for the Fellowship, please visit: www.deboerfellowship.org.