Two-Minute Takeaways: Powerful by Patty McCord

Some FISD members recently read Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility by Patty McCord. Prior to writing the book, McCord served as Chief Talent Officer at Netflix where she was co-creator of the famed Netflix Culture Deck. Below are some of the book’s most important takeaways, according to FISD Reads group leader Hope “Hope-rah” Wilkes.

You’ve hired excellent people, right? Treat them like they’re excellent. Well-intended adults don’t benefit from restrictive vacation and expense policies. Secrecy and lies for the sake of protecting feelings won’t make anyone any less curious or any more likely to trust you.

Forget the idea of “empowerment.” People come to work for you with their own inherent power. Do not strip them of it only dole a fraction of it back out via so-called empowerment exercises in the name of command and control. Unencumbered by rules and restrictions, employees will do their best work.

Your opinion doesn’t matter…if it’s not fact-based. Foster an environment in which employees can argue openly provided they stay professional and can back up their assertions with facts. Data is not facts. While hard data may support facts, context and qualitative insight are vital.

Your company exists to serve its customers, not its employees. It’s wonderful for employees to be happy, but companies don’t exist to make employees happy. The ideal happy employee finds fulfillment in delighting the customer, working alongside talented colleagues, and serving a great mission. A ping pong table and a craft beer bar will not make your office a great place to work.

Compensation is a poor target for cost savings. Companies with the good fortune to be able to hire top talent and pay top-of-market salaries should do so. It will pay dividends that more than make up for any savings from paying employees less. When setting compensation, consider the cost to the company were that prospective hire to work for a competitor, the accomplishments that would go unachieved without that person, the candidate’s intangibles, and how that person could carry the company into the future. Bear in mind that published salary data is old and not remotely specific enough for the job you’re seeking to fill. If you’re hiring the right person, a bonus won’t affect their work ethic or output. When setting a raise figure, don’t discount the value of specialized (and often desirable) skills gained by the employee while working for you.

Always be…evaluating. Cross-departmental feedback provides more meaningful information than manager reviews, especially if the reviews require time-consuming paperwork and/or a complex algorithm. Adopt the mindset of a sports coach. Is your team the best possible group of individuals to accomplish your current goals? What about your future goals? Edit your team as needs change.

Turnover isn’t always a bad thing. Even if the employee is a great worker, talented, and a well-liked team member, it might be time to say goodbye if the company needs people with different skills to fulfill its mission. When letting someone go, avoid the line of thinking that “Employee X is bad.” Employee X was likely just a bad fit for what you needed. Remember that you offered the job to Employee X and Employee X accepted because both of you thought the relationship would go well. Make your company a great place to have worked, and exits won’t be too painful.

HR people should be business people. HR and recruiters ultimately serve the company’s customers. Everyone involved in hiring for your company must have a deep understanding of your business. This includes maintaining a pipeline of potential candidates whose skills are aligned with the company’s vision for the future. All interviewees should leave your office wanting the job, even if you know you don’t want to hire them.


McCord, P. (2017). Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility. S. l.: Silicon Guild.

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