Build a Powerful Culture of Freedom and Responsibility



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?



Many people think that compensation rules the day, but you have a different philosophy. What’s the “greatest motivation”?

I truly believe the greatest motivation is to be part of an amazingly talented team that gets real work done that matters to our companies and our customers.



Hold Rigorous Debates

Rigorous debates. Tell us about the on-stage debates and how this can positively impact organizational culture.

The on-stage debate is a bit of a gimmick, but it is a way for others to see vigorous, respectful debate happen in real time, especially if the purpose of the debate is clear – to seek the best solution to a problem – not to win the debate.

Patty McCord

It’s difficult for many to “relentlessly focus on the future” when they are struggling with today, but you argue it’s imperative. How do leaders get the balance of today versus tomorrow right?

Sometimes it’s not even a future focus, but an acknowledgement of what is really happening in the present. For example, last week an HR professional asked me what I thought of allowing employees to work from home. This company is a very old established bank that requires employees to be at work in the building from 9-5. I asked her if they collected everyone’s phones at the end of the day—because answering email or texting or calling about work-related issues IS already working from home.



Talk about “radical honesty” and why it resonates.

It’s so refreshing these days to just hear the plainspoken truth rather than corporate business jargon.



Hire for the Future NOW

Hiring the people now that you’ll need for the future is an important component of success. What do you say to the organization struggling financially that finds this a challenge?

If a company is struggling financially, then it is even more imperative to make sure the teams are made up of the people who can get the real work done to succeed. Spending more on key talent may be a wise decision financially rather that keeping the people who are good at yesterday’s important work that may or may not matter for future success.



Proactively say goodbye. Talk about the “art of a good goodbye.”

It’s being honest with people about how business, customer or technology changes might affect their roles and jobs before the change occurs, not as it’s happening.


The Netflix Culture deck has been viewed millions and millions of times. Did you ever think it would have this type of worldwide impact?

Heaven’s no! We wrote it as an onboarding document originally. It was never meant to be a blueprint for every other company.



For more information, see POWERFUL: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility



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