Patty McCord’s Advice on Culture & What Matters Most

September 18, 2017

Category: Culture, Talent

Patty McCord on Employee Culture

Patty McCord knows a thing or two about creating an unparalleled company culture. In fact, she wrote a deck on it during her fourteen years as Chief Talent Officer of Netflix. But this isn’t just any deck; it has been viewed more than fifteen million times, and Sheryl Sandberg said that it “may be the most important document ever to come out of Silicon Valley.

Needless to say, we can’t wait for Patty’s keynote discussion on the main stage of SHIFT: The Culture Conference this week. To gear up for the compelling talk on employee culture, we’re taking a look back at some of Patty’s most memorable quotes.

On creating a great workplace culture:

Great workplace is stunning colleagues. Great workplace is not espresso, lush benefits, sushi lunches, grand parties or nice offices. We do some of these things, but only if they are efficient at attracting and retaining stunning colleagues.”

“With the right people, instead of a culture of process adherence, we have a culture of creativity and self-discipline, freedom and responsibility.” [Netflix SlideShare]

“No pain, no gain. No risk, no reward. Everything I’ve ever done was embracing the idea of risk. When I coach startups now, I say, to me the ideal next culture that one of you is going to create is one where people is like, ‘oh we’re changing everything? Cool! That will be so fun! You mean we’re starting over? How great will that be?’ And then people will look to embrace change instead of hanging on to what happened before.” [Fast Company]

“Many years ago we eliminated formal reviews. We had held them for a while but came to realize they didn’t make sense—they were too ritualistic and too infrequent. So we asked managers and employees to have conversations about performance as an organic part of their work. In many functions—sales, engineering, product development—it’s fairly obvious how well people are doing.” [Harvard Business Review]

On leaving with dignity and without surprise:

“I was like, ’geez this sucks’ because I had been there a long time. But, not really, I wasn’t surprised, if I think about it. But I hang out with Reed all the time. I hang out with my ex-husband. You can break up with someone and survive if you have a deep relationship with somebody. When you agree that the number one priority is the right thing for the company and you agree that the person you report to gets to make the decision of what they want the team to look like, then you can’t ever be surprised.

“It’s the same thing if you decide to leave. It’s our own careers and our company and I’d like us, societally, to not have these emotional breakups. When you’re part of something for that long, you’re never really not part of it.” [Fast Company]

Patty McCord Quote

On maintaining perspective:

“The very nature of work has changed. We can’t predict the future. Things move fast. Our computers are in our pockets. We’re on-the-go… Job security is over. Retaining people is a measure that might not even matter. We have to learn to question all the layers of process, and approvals, and compliance.” [TED]

Companies don’t exist to make you happy. You know that, right? The business doesn’t exist to serve you. The business exists to serve your customers.” [Fast Company]

“The thing to know is this person probably isn’t very happy, and unhappy employees act like it. You can ask them what’s on your mind? What’s bugging you? And they’ll say, ‘I don’t think people realize how talented I am.’ And the answer is, well yeah, we haven’t realized it because you’re late to everything, and everything you said was going to happen didn’t.” [First Round]

“If you’re in a fast-changing business environment, you’re probably looking at a lot of mismatches. In that case, you need to have honest conversations about letting some team members find a place where their skills are a better fit. You also need to recruit people with the right skills.” [Harvard Business Review]

On what matters most:

Innovators are different. They approach work differently. They never look back; the look forward and imagine what might be. They don’t try and make anything a little bit better. They make mistakes. They move fast. They break stuff. They get rid of stuff that gets in their way.” [TED]

We don’t measure people by how many hours they work or how much they are in the office. We do care about accomplishing great work. Sustained B-level performance, despite “A for effort,” generates a generous severance package, with respect. Sustained A-level performance, despite minimal effort, is rewarded with more responsibility and great pay.

Responsible people thrive on freedom, and are worthy of freedom.

“We realized… we should focus on what people get done, not on how many days worked. Just as we don’t have a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday policy, we don’t need a vacation policy.”

The best managers figure out how to get great outcomes by setting the appropriate context, rather than by trying to control their people.” [Netflix SlideShare]

““I don’t do bonuses because they’re too hard to tag and to be realistic. If you try to do it, there’ll be that one geek on the team who makes a complicated process up to figure out why and how we give bonuses. But didn’t I say we have a high performance culture? Do we need to incent people to perform? If you’re the kind of person who wouldn’t make a bonus, then we don’t want you. The performance bonus is you’re employed or not.”

Here’s what you want in your first 100 employees: the best talent you can afford, who work hard and believe. The belief part can actually outdo the other two. It’s more than passion. Passion is such an interpretive statement. People need to believe.” [First Round]

“The best thing you can do for employees—a perk better than foosball or free sushi—is hire only ‘A’ players to work alongside them. Excellent colleagues trump everything else.”

“If we wanted only ‘A’ players on our team, we had to be willing to let go of people whose skills no longer fit, no matter how valuable their contributions had once been. Out of fairness to such people—and, frankly, to help us overcome our discomfort with discharging them—we learned to offer rich severance packages.” [Harvard Business Review]

Innovators are different. They approach work differently. They never look back; the look forward and imagine what might be. They don’t try and make anything a little bit better. They make mistakes. They move fast. They break stuff. They get rid of stuff that gets in their way.” [TED]

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A Content Marketing Manager at Zenefits, Jordan has a lot to say about the nuances of payroll, benefits, and HR (and about the way we say it). He was raised by small business owners, so it’s no surprise that Jordan loves helping entrepreneurs achieve their goals.

Category: Culture, Talent

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