Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook called the Netflix “freedom and responsibility” deck “the most important document ever to come out of the Valley.”
The document is 124 pages and it outlines the principles behind the unique corporate culture at Netflix. It has had reverberations far outside of Silicon Valley and way beyond Netflix itself. The principles have been debated and adopted by organizations throughout the world. It has been viewed over fifteen million times.
Patty McCord helped write the document. She worked at Netflix for 14 years as the company’s Chief Talent Officer. In her book, POWERFUL: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility, Patty shares what she has learned about building a high-performance culture. I recently asked her to share more about her experience.
Challenge the Rules
You challenge many of the existing HR rules with new ways of thinking. What advice do you have for leaders that will help them embrace these changes?
It begins with questioning, literally, everything we do in HR: policies, procedures, guidelines, practices, permissions. What is the purpose of each of these activities? Do they achieve the desired result? If you started from scratch, would you embrace these methods?
“People can handle being told the truth, about both the business and their performance. The truth is not only what they need but also what they intensely want.” -Patty McCord
Many people are only now beginning to see AI in the form of Alexa or Google Home. What do you expect over the next few years in terms of growth and how it will be prevalent in our lives?
While it is hard to forecast these things, I suspect AI will be largely invisible to most consumers. Businesses will use it to plan inventory and make logistics more efficient. That may show up in high quality products for a lower price, but it is unlikely anyone will say ‘ah ha! AI.’ In other words, I don’t expect to see Jetsons-like robots walking around any time soon.
Misconceptions about AI
What are some of the most common misconceptions about the technology?
The big misconception is that technologists are often too optimistic about progress in the near term and too blinded by the speed of progress later on. We are still in the near term on AI, so there is lots of optimism. But there is much to be worked out in terms of how to make the technology work for us. Once we do that, the optimism will be justified. It is just likely to be a few years later than people expect.
What is prediction? And, as its cost drops, what should we expect?
Put simply, prediction is when you take the data you have to generate information you do not have — e.g., past weather observations tell you about the weather tomorrow. When the cost of prediction drops, that means (a) our data is more valuable as it can create more useful information and (b) that we have more useful information and so can make better decisions.
“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” -Stephen Hawking
High-performing leaders don’t always lead by the book. They may not be full of praise. They may not celebrate small wins and give positive feedback. But somehow, some way they manage to deliver growth year after year. They can even set the bar for the entire industry. This leadership philosophy is different than what many of us follow today. Since I enjoy studying these various models, I wanted to share it with you.
Stanislav Shekshnia, Veronika Zagieva, and Alexey Ulanovsky have studied them for ten years. And they write about their findings in Athletic CEOs: Leadership in Turbulent Times. I recently asked Stanislav to talk about their research.
“Don’t let anybody work harder than you do.” -Serena Williams
What is Athletic Leadership and what are Athletic Leaders’ unique attributes?
Athletic Leadership is a model, a construct, which describes effective leadership in the specific context, defined by rapid obsolescence, high turbulence, heavy government involvement, high-power distance leadership tradition, and a medium level of development of human capital.
Athletic is a metaphor which we used to emphasize a very important characteristic of the effective CEOs we have studied – mental toughness. Just like top athletes these leaders are super-ambitious, passionate, focused, cool-headed and merciless to the competitors, followers and themselves. This evokes images familiar to all of us: Usain Bolt, Wane Gretzky, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams.
At the same time, business leadership is more complex than sports. Athletic CEOs combine toughness with mental adaptability. They are proactively curious; they constantly reinvigorate knowledge, and they change their mental models. This almost improbable combination makes them effective.
“I love competition, so when you talk and tell me what you’re gonna do, all it makes me wanna do is work harder.” -Usain Bolt
The agendas of athletic leaders – their ambitions and major themes – are complex and multidimensional, with many different overarching themes, time horizons and specific projects. However, there are two central leitmotifs in all this diversity: winning and transforming.
Athletic leaders strive to beat specific competitors – companies and leaders they recognize as such. They work hard to beat their own records, e.g. they want their companies to constantly outperform themselves. They would like to set world records. Their playing field is the world, and their benchmarks are the global leaders. And athletic CEOs want their companies to win championships as well as single matches; they make the long-term success of their organizations a very important element of their leadership agendas.
Leadership is always about transformation, and this priority sits high on the agendas of athletic leaders. Transformation, or positive change for its own sake, has a profound meaning for them. And, as with ‘winning,’ athletic leaders pursue different kinds of transformation at different levels. They change people who work for them, the companies they manage, the industries they compete in, the communities their businesses operate in and the countries in which they live and work.
Athletic leaders also use some distinct iterative behavior strategies for leading people and organizations which I call meta-practices. These practices produce superior financial performance (outputs of athletic leadership) and long-lasting transformational legacy (outcomes of athletic leadership).
“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and, most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” -Pele
What do these leaders do that is not necessarily “by the book”?
The model of athletic leadership describes what effective leadership actually looks like in the specific context. This model seems contradictory: it reflects both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sides of leadership. Some specific elements of athletic leadership go against well-established and widely-accepted leadership models. Let me give you some examples.
Athletic leaders do not fit into the well-known ‘Level Five Leadership’ model depicted in Jim Collins’s bestselling book From Good to Great. They are not humble, but openly ambitious. They say ‘I’ much more often than ‘we.’ They do not follow ‘the Window and the Mirror’ pattern that Collins describes; rather, they habitually take the credit for success and may blame subordinates for underperformance. They usually decide on a course of action and only then think about the people who will carry it out (contravening the ‘First Who … Then What’ principle of ‘Level Five’ leaders). They do not shy away from the limelight, but constantly seek it. CEO Vitaly Saveliev appears in every issue of the Aeroflot inflight magazine; Herman Gref has given more than a hundred press interviews since becoming Sberbank CEO.
“I hated standing on that third-place podium. Hated it, hated it.” -Michael Phelps
Athletic leaders do not always demonstrate another recognized attribute of effective leadership: emotional intelligence – at least not in the way described by Peter Salovey, John Mayer, David Caruso, or Daniel Goleman, who write about understanding and regulating personal emotions, understanding the emotions of other people, and interacting with them on the basis of that awareness. Athletic leaders are relaxed about managing their own emotions and give themselves the freedom to raise their voices or threaten followers. They criticize more often than they praise. Providing positive, constructive feedback is not their strongest competency. One of them said to us, ‘My deputies are mature, well-paid professionals – if they don’t understand what they do well, they should not be where they are. They don’t need feedback.’ Athletic leaders do not often reflect on what effect their actions and words have on other people and rarely take any steps to correct negative outcomes. They are so passionate about what they do that they assume others share the same passion, demonstrate the same level of commitment, and therefore do not require any kid-glove treatment. Like top athletes, athletic leaders are so concentrated on winning that they tend to forget about the people who help them to win.
“I don’t fold under pressure, great athletes perform better under pressure, so put pressure on me.” -Floyd Mayweather
Donna Steffey, MBA, CPLP, president of Vital Signs Consulting, is an international trainer, author, facilitator of the ATD Master Trainer™ Program, and adjunct faculty member at Lake Forest Graduate School of Management.
“Cultural Intelligence develops intentionally with your commitment to increasing your global mindset.” -Donna Steffey
How are the major trends in technology and globalization impacting the field of training?
The traditional face-to-face classroom training is now less than half of all training done. According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD) 2017 State of the Industry report, that means that 51% of training is delivered via webinars, mobile, self-paced online, or other methods like DVDs or Podcasts. This represents a 10% change in the last 5 years away from traditional classroom training. With over 300 multi-national organizations employing over 35 million people around the globe, online technologies really do become the best method for reaching remote employees.
We see a trend toward mobile learning with 67% of people saying they now use mobile devices to access learning. What is interesting is that only 20% of organizations have formal mobile learning programs.
A trend known as micro-learning is becoming popular to shorten the path from learning to succeeding. Micro-learning is a bite-sized chunk of learning lasting 3-10 minutes and only covering 1-2 crucial points. It often includes interactivity and testing. According to the Dresden University of Technology in Germany, micro-learning improves retention by 20%.
67 percent of people use mobile devices to access learning.
A few summers ago, I watched a father coaxing his daughter to jump into the pool. It brought back memories of me doing the same thing with my daughter years before.
She was adamantly refusing to leap. He was frustrated. And then something happened. He sweetened the offer with a promise of a grape popsicle.
She was in the water before I even knew what happened.
That little incentive was a nudge. Motivation at its best.
I first became aware of nudge theory from the book, Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. The authors highlighted how we think and make choices. Others had written about it previously, most notably James Wilk before 1995.
Since then, I am more conscious looking for how others are trying to influence my behavior. I also use nudges to help me meet my own goals. Putting healthy food within reach and making it harder to reach unhealthy snacks falls in this category.