7 Key takeaways from Patty McCord’s “Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility.”​

I recently completed reading Powerful Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility by Patty McCord. This book had many relevant points, which I am practising for many years as an HR professional. However, it also has interestingly raised a few very intriguing questions to my almost a decade of fundamental beliefs as an HR Professional. And I thought of sharing them, both what I believe in and what I started believing in after my read.

1. Communication goes both ways: As HR, it is our responsibility to make sure that we as a company should have the cleanest possible set of policies, procedures, rules, and approval systems because most of these TOP DOWN mandates hamper speed and agility. Ask ourselves if there any approval mechanisms that we can eliminate, test, and trial, in case it turns out that the policies and procedures were needed, then reinstates it:

It’s vital that communication goes both ways. People must be able to ask questions and offer critiques and ideas.

2. A steady stream of communication is the lifeblood of competitive advantage: Ensuring communications flows both up and down at all levels. We need to understand that communication is never done. It’s not an annual, or quarterly, or monthly, or weekly function.

A steady stream of communication is the lifeblood of competitive advantage.

3. Model honesty, and people will pick the habit up: This is a practice that has to start from the top down. And in Netflix, the executive team demonstrates it in many different ways, out of which this one particular activity is exciting: this is called ‘Start, Stop and Continue.’ This is an annual feedback day activity at Netflix, and on this day, employees are free to reach out to any one of their colleagues and share their views about one thing they should start doing one thing they should stop doing, and one thing they should continue doing. This could be an exciting way of sharing feedback and encouraging the culture of feedback at the workplace.

It is also essential to encourage the culture of sharing the truth about perceived problems, in a timely fashion and face to face, is one of the most effective way of solving any problem.

Practicing radical honesty diffuses tensions and discourage backstabbing; it builds understanding and respect.

If radical honesty leads to the sharing of opposing views, it is okay because it will lead to a vital insight. It also helps to model openly admitting and owning mistakes and not fear sharing them at the right time.

4. People should take charge of developing themselves: I was a firm believer in personal development, training, and development. I used to believe that every company should spend money and allow employees to spend time outside the company to get training and development and have a career path developed for all individual employees until I read this book. Now I think Patty McCord rightly said that it should be the employee in charge of crafting their personal development plan; if they want to have one, we should support it. But, you will also have those employees who are not interested in having one.

The idea is for people to take charge of developing themselves; this drives optimal growth for both individuals and companies.

5. Hire the people you need for the future: Netflix’s three fundamental tents to talent management philosophy:

  • The responsibility of hiring great people and determining whether someone should move on rested primarily with managers.

To stay agile and move at the speed of change, hire the people you need for the future now. Have the right person in every single position.

6. Brilliance of diversity: The approach of finding the right culture fit is always misunderstood as finding a talent which whom everyone would like to have a beer. Different personalities people can work in a team and can be an excellent fit for the work. Sometimes we need to hire someone who is different and complementing the other team members. Most of the time, we make mistakes in hiring someone who is like us. That approach might lead to having redundant thoughts and ideas in the future. Organization and team can adapt to many people’s styles; culture fit can work both ways.

Finding the right people is also not primarily about “culture fit.”

7. HR must know the business: To help the business grow, an HR professional needs to understand the company business in and out.

HR must be business people who truly understand the way business works, even if that’s quite technical. They should be creative, proactive partners in the hiring process. Investing time in explaining to them the details of the talents you need will pay remarkable dividends.

When people feel they have more power and control over their careers, they feel more confident speaking up more and taking responsibility more. Our job is to appreciate their strength, unleash it to making them free to take responsibility and own them.