The Incredible Patty McCord, former Chief Talent Officer of Netflix, coauthor of the viral Netflix Culture Deck, and author of the book, Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility joins us on Humans+Tech to share her lessons from working at Netflix and in Silicon Valley.
The Incredible Patty McCord, former Chief Talent Officer of Netflix, coauthor of the viral Netflix Culture Deck, and author of the book, Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility joins us on Humans+Tech to share her lessons from working at Netflix and in Silicon Valley.
Welcome to the Humans+Tech podcast. I'm Amy Phillips and this is Aaron Randall.
Today were incredibly excited to be talking to Patty McCord, co author of the viral Netflix Culture Deck and author of the book Powerful, in which Patty shares her lessons that she's learned from working at Netflix and in Silicon Valley. Patty welcome.
Oh, thanks. I'm excited to be here.
So we came across you when we first read your book, which a few years ago now, and we've basically just been re reading it ever since. There's just so much great stuff in that. But for anybody who hasn't read it. Could you give us a brief overview of what it's about?
Sometimes I refer to my book as the, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Netflix Culture Deck. People always wanted to know. Okay, that's really interesting. The things that you aspire to be. So how do we actually do it? So that's why it's very practical and pragmatic.
Okay, I love that.
So you've helped create the Netflix culture deck, which has been shared over 20 million times online. Can you tell us a little bit about what it is on? Why you think it went viral.
Well, we didn't write it for anyone other than the employees at Netflix. It was actually a document that we created for onboarding and and we wrote it, and I didn't write it and Reed didn't write it. I mean, we both had lots of influence on it, but what we would do was we would take a section and we'd put it in a Powerpoint presentation and we would talk about it with all the other leaders of the company and with every other employee. And literally anybody could edit it or make comments on it or disagree with it or agree with it. So it took about 10 years to write, and every chapter is built on the chapter before. So, for example, we really couldn't implement the ideas of freedom and responsibility until we had a you know, a group of really high performing people who are really interested in the work we were doing and really cared about the jobs that they were doing as well, right? So it's kind of you have to, every piece is kind of a building block to the next piece. So the true story of the virality of the culture deck is that, like I said, we use it as normal onboarding document. Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, and I would get together with about every 10 new employees and sit in the room. Honestly, just talk through it, right? So we're driving to work one day because we carpooled. And he said, I met this woman last night, who's running this company, who started this company called, um, share, Slideshare, and she's sharing Powerpoint presentations online. And I said, god, that's a great idea I wish I had thought of that wonder what people are gonna put out there and he said, I put the deck out this morning. So that that is the absolute true story we did not like say, Hey, world, you should operate your company like we operate ours because we got the best idea. It was literally he thought it was a cool idea to put the presentation online. We had no idea at all that anybody besides, you know, an applicant to the company would care. So I said to him, I'm like, Oh God, why did you do that? That's the worst idea you ever had. I mean, it's the ugliest document known to humankind, right? I mean, graphically its just really ugly. And and he said, You know, you never told me that, like I didn't want to embarrass you, but in secondly you're going to scare off all our candidates. And he said only the ones we don't want. But what what it did was it changed the way we interviewed, like the next day, because now we weren't talking about did you have all the right acronyms on your resume? Now we're talking about how do you really like to work? And what when are you successful? And what are you passionate about? And, you know, are you able to be honest with people? And it was just It was great. It was super helpful. So it was never intended to be the global viral deck.
That's awesome. I mean, one of things you mentioned there is that this thing took 10 years to write in it. I'm guessing it's kind of like a living document over that time, that just got bigger as you went? And also that it wasn't just you and Reed making this thing. It was others.
How did you get other people involved in your company building this thing.
You know, Reed and I had done another company together before Netflix and we were very, very deliberate about creating culture because the company worked at before, we grew through merger and acquisition, and the culture just sort of morphed right. And at the end, you know it was fine, But you just couldn't really define it, and we wanted to be deliberate about it. So, for example, still at Netflix, this still happens because I talked to them. I just saw Reed last week, but probably twice, sometimes three times a year at our executive, or our management offsites We would spend a day or 1/2 a day or two days talking about the culture, right, And we would start with whatever chapter we had sort of collaboratively written at the executive staff. So whenever we'd come up with something, it was typically we would come up with something, he and I would talk about it. We take it to our executive staff. We'd argue it back and forth because a lot of times other members of the executive team were like, That's the craziest idea I've ever heard. You guys are nuts. I don't think this will work. And then we would take it to the rest of the team. You know, oftentimes groups of 50 100 people and then say what do you think about this? Would you modify it? How would you say this differently? Do we believe that to be true? And a lot of times we go back to the very beginning, which is the descriptors of the behaviors that we like, write that we expect from each other. And we would say, for example, go around the table and name one person in your organization that's demonstrated that last week, right? Or has not and what had happened. And we found that if we couldn't come up with an example like really quick, it either was aspirational and wasn't really true or we had to root out some bad behaviors in the organization. So that very first chapter, which is the behaviors that we we rewrote that six times. So, yes, it was very much a living document, a collaborative document, and part of the the impact of that was that everybody in the company believed that they had a part in it because they did right So that's, you know, if you look at the latest iteration, which Reed updated, I think a couple of years ago, there's a lot of talk in there about global diversity and inclusion because you know the company's international now, and it's a different. There's a lot of different challenges, and the company includes a lot of creatives that are, you know, making filmed entertainment, which is really different when I was there and it was a tech company. So you know, it is constant and and I think that's a message for your listeners. You know, a lot of times, CEOs are people early in, companies say we love our culture. It's perfect. How do we keep it? And the answer is, You don't You can't possibly do that right. Your culture is going to change. If it stays the same, you're not going anywhere right? The reason why culture changes is that you're successful, and so when you're successful and you're a different size organization or a different level of complexity then you're gonna operate differently with each other, that's that's healthy and good. So it's more about just that constant paying attention, attention. So the living thing that is your organizational culture?
And there's a lot of pieces, which I think. I mean, it's interesting you talk about the culture evolving because I think there are a lot of places you talk about in the book about which, outside of Netflix we think of as the Netflix culture. So lots of kind of in the transparency and kind of those sorts of behaviors. Do you think those are the sort of things like that style of culture can only work in certain companies? Or are there things that could be applied to every company?
I think it can be applied to every company. It's takes practice, right? So that idea of openness and challenging each other and healthy debate. That's something that doesn't come natural to most humans. Because we're sort of taught to be polite and to debate in writing, right. It's like I it's interesting. I I talked to a lot of companies and they're like, Well, you know, we're really uncomfortable with this debate and then I read their Slack you know, incredibly like rough ride. So it's that you don't really practice doing it in person and doing it with respect, and so some of it is skills based. So it's much more difficult when I when I come into consult to a very large company and a very old company, because their ways of doing things are so baked, um, and that they can't It's much, much harder to undo it then to start doing it. So even then, when I come to a large company and they say, well, we want to change our entire culture because we need to be faster and more innovative and you know I'm like and you we don't know how to do it because we're stuck in our ways and I'm like, Okay, you know, if you're 100 years old, trust me, you know you're not riding horses anymore, either. You can learn new skills, but it's gonna take some time, so I think everybody can do it. I think it's just a matter of again paying attention to it and making it a priority. And here's I mean, it's like here's a very practical tip. Ah, you know, you're in a meeting and, um, there are people that are in that meeting every week, and they never say anything in the meeting, but they have lots to say after and before, right? You know those people? We all have them in all of our companies, right? And so, of a really practical tip is too in the meeting. Say, Hey, Aaron, we haven't heard from you. And we all know you have an opinion about this. How about if you let us know what's on your mind? Right? And so and I'm not calling you out to embarrass you. I'm calling you out because I need to know what's on your mind. It's not very helpful for you to tell me when the meeting's over, when we're here to discuss something that you clearly care about. And if you don't want to participate, then maybe you shouldn't come. Right?
That point you made about speaking up in a meeting, it really reminds me of another sort of theme in your book about people coming to you and giving you feedback about someone else. They're a complete pain. They're not doing this and that. And you say to them "What did they say when you told them?"
They say, Well I haven't told them. Well I just love that.
The follow up is really important, which is well, I don't know how to tell them, and I say, but you just told me. I can't say that I'm like, No, I think you just said that. However, there may be a better way to tell her that. Then how you just told me. But what you just told me is really important. And people can't act on it if they don't know. You know, there's another part of my I don't know if I wrote this in my book, but I I tell people, you know, when they get promoted, I'm like, congratulations. You have two things that you never had before. One. You have a business card with a new title printed on it. And to now you're psychic because you know how people are like well, he ought to know he's my manager, you didn't know 5 minutes before. But now all of a sudden you're supposed to know. Right.
Amazing. I think back to that. What did they say when you spoke to them? And speaking up in meetings, I feel like there's, and one of my favorite bits of the book, is this running theme around building a culture of fully formed adults? Can you tell us what you mean by that?
I mean, work is something we only get to do really when we're grown up right and it's not school and it's not family. It's about creating something with other people. It's a really unique thing that we get to do when we grow up. And so I think if we just start with the premise that we're adults coming together to create something valuable, I mean, I know it sounds so simple, but you cannot believe how many people I talked to who can wax eloquently about, you know, participation and belonging. And I'm like, yeah, but you know, it's work. So, well like that. I want all of those things to matter, too. But it's the only thing you get to do with other grown ups where you can accomplish something. And it's just been my observation of people at work over all these many years is that literally everyone wants to go home at night proud of what they did right, and it's almost never that you can do it alone, right? It's almost always with other people, and so that ability to operate, you know, as an adult, it's the it's the only thing you have to be right, and so we have created these systems in our organizations that treat people like children. You know, you have to ask permission and you have to follow the policy and you have to get, you know, your manager's approval and all that kind of stuff. And then we complain that they act like children, right? It's like people respond to how you treat them. I mean I often say, You know, if you expect mediocrity, that's exactly what you'll get. And if you expect excellence, you'll be surprised what you get even from mediocre people, because everybody everybody wants you know that next rung. Everybody wants to go home and go and and here's another one. So when I left Netflix, it was out here in Silicon Valley. It was the time of the bartenders on duty and, you know, swings and hammocks. And it was beyond the pale of all the perks in every single company. And I remember talking to a group of HR people at one particular company, and this one person's job title was literally, you know, employee happiness specialist or something like that. I was like, Seriously, that is not a job, you know. And so I said, to her. Here's it. Here's your assignment. Go find five people in the organization that are incredibly successful. Regardless of title, everybody knows who it is that gets lots of stuff done right and who everybody kind of admires and asked them to tell you the story of the day they did something that mattered right, something that they were proud of. And I said, every single story I promise you will be about something hard. All right. It'll be it'll be when you're like God we didn't think we could do it on time, but we did. I mean, we all pulled together and we did it or like, thank god We had, you know, Susan on our team because she's so smart and none of the rest of us understood. You know, we couldn't see this thing underneath. And and people get all passionate and excited about those things, describing those really difficult things. It's very, very infrequent that someone goes, yeah, there were macadamia nuts in the cookies. That was a great day. We had extra beer. It was fun we got you know, I mean, that's what work is about. So it's a really wonderful opportunity that we have as adults.
So that sounds like quite a difficult culture shift. So how do you actually go about like, at Netflix, what did you what did you do to actually wean people off all of the perks and actually get them focused back on on the work and the things that really will give them that satisfaction?
Well, actually, at Netflix, we were pretty lucky at the beginning because we were poor. Um, so because our early business in the US was DVDs by mail, it was very, very capital intensive, so we couldn't do all of those perks because we had to buy DVDs and stamps and envelopes. I mean, I remember one of these things we said, you know, at our office in San Francisco, we all had Aeron chairs, and I'm like, yeah, those suckers cost $800. Do you know how many DVDs we could buy? I everything because it was the cost of the DVD at the time. So that really honestly was the big factor in our success with the culture was that we didn't have a lot of excess money to throw around, right? This is in the days before unicorns, and you've got, you know, $1,000,000,000 investments and stuff like that. So there was that. And the second thing was, you know, like I told you, we paid attention to it and we really took an oath as a leadership team. To, walk the talk, right. And we were very and we practice early on that honesty with each other where I could say, you know, to the CFO, you know, I don't think you really told the whole truth and nothing but the truth in that meeting you had with your stuff, right? Didn't you leave out the part about right? So it was a matter of people can't be what they can't see. So if you're part of the leadership team in the company and it makes you happy to write down a bunch of stuff, but it makes you uncomfortable to actually do it, then don't bother writing it. You know, the cynicism in organization is much more pronounced when the leaders take all this time to write some beautiful treatise and document or whatever it is, and then they don't do it. They don't act that way because people can see that. So that's that the most important thing you can do is pick a couple of things that you promise you're gonna be and be them.
So does that mean that in order to create the sort of these amazing cultures, do you have to be the sort of C-Level like. Does it have to come from the top first or are there things that everyone can do
No, no, but but the top has to be listening, right? So if if you don't ever listen, in fcat here's a great story. Um, this is way back when we were shipping DVDs, right? And we were having a celebration in our parking lot. We were that small and we were celebrating. I don't know that we had shipped a 1,000,000 DVDs out of our warehouse. You know, everybodies. Yeah, clapping it was big, big deal. And somebody in the audience said, Look, don't get me wrong. That was an incredible accomplishment. Yea, for everybody in operations for doing that. But the truth is, it doesn't really matter how many left our warehouse. It matters how many people received in their mailboxes. It was so that incredible intense focus on our customer meant that, and I don't remember who this person was, it certainly wasn't a C-Level executive. But it was like we all went, Oh my God, you're so right. We're measuring the wrong thing right. We have to start with the customer and work backwards to what we're doing, not pat ourselves on the back for how good we're doing inside of the organization. And so that obsessive customer focus is everybody's business, right? So that doesn't have to come, you know, cultural stuff. What I'm saying is, if you say something and you don't do it, that creates cynicism, and you should be responsible for that. But great executives, half of their job is to listen. Right to have their ear to the ground, to hear the great ideas that come up. And that's the other part about when somebody has a great idea and everybody runs with it because it's obviously a great idea. Now you're demonstrating participation in the culture, right, because you want people that play right. You don't want anybody in the room that just works and doesn't pay attention. That's the the idea of innovation. People think it's creating, ah, you know, self driving vehicle that don't get me wrong, that's wonderful, but you can innovate in finance, right? That's what my whole book is about innovation in my field, which is a field that's worked kind of this, you know, management leadership. We've come and done it the same way since the sixties, so I'm ready to, like, throw that out. You know what? What? What's say every 50 60 years We shake it up a little bit. What do you think?
You mentioned there the idea of anyone could help, I guess, influence this culture and the importance is that execs and C level are listening to what people say on, I guess from the other side for the execs and the C levels. How can people know when they, when they're disempowering people or the teams?
Oh, it is. Some of it is just basic active listening, you know, instead of responding with an answer, repeating back what the person had to say, right. Here's another phrase that I'll give you, you're welcome to use, which is when so a) assume everybody you work with is smart and adult. I know that's a hard concept for some people, but let's just put that on the table. And when a smart adult says something that you either think is crazy or you don't agree with right, instead of immediately jumping to debating whether or not they're right, just try asking them. What leads you to believe that's true, right? Help me understand where you're coming from, and you may find out information that you didn't even know. Because if the person appears to be clueless assume that they just might be. They don't know, right? So I've often found that when I said that, you know, help me understand where you're coming from. I realize oh, my God. There's a whole volume of information you don't know, right? And so then you start when you demonstrate that then you know that people are gonna know that you're gonna ask them that, right? So you well, I heard that everybody in marketing is doing this thing that I think is incredibly dumb. And I can say, Oh, well, what leads you to believe that's true? Well, I don't know. I just heard right. Well, that's that's not very factual. So I can say, here's a couple of people in marketing I'd like you to talk to about what led them to that decision and send them off to figure it out. Right? So it's just this constant, um, pushing people to get more information that they have to be curious about. What other people are doing to understand the organization as a whole and not just what they're doing with it, what their particular team's doing with their particular departments doing, but realize that nobody does it alone and everybody matters.
Huh. Uh, that's so great, isn't it? It's like I think it's it sounds so obvious, but I don't know why, but you just don't think to just especially in Tech. We're really bad at doing it.
I did this talk with a group of, um, Young CEOs Tech CEOs and one of the guys it was in Miami. It was like a dinner. So I was very intimate, like 12 of us. And one of them said to me, Well, you know, I hear you say that you we should have an A-Player in every position, But you don't really mean that, do you? And I said, What. I mean, I usually don't say things I don't mean so, like, yes, I do mean that. And he said, Yeah, like you know you don't mean like every position. And I said name a position in your organization that you don't think you need an A-Player in. And he said, Oh, you know, like payroll. And I said, really, you don't thing being in charge of paying the other smart people to be smart enough to do it right. And he goes, Well, that's not what I said. I said yes, it is and oh, by the way, just so you know, your finance are going to open, they hate you. And he said, You don't know anybody in my finance organization. I said, You just told me a perfect stranger, that you're okay with certain people in certain jobs being stupid. You think they don't know you think Oh, of course they know. By the way, you know, Then at a certain point, they're just gonna prove you right? But so I mean it at the respecting everybody on the team and every single job. And if you've got a job that you really don't respect that you don't, maybe shouldn't even have it.
Yeah, yeah. You have a lot in the book around hiring teams and building teams or certainly I I've read that section probably the most number of times. One thing I'm really, really fascinated by is, you're talking a lot about building the team you need for the future. So actually taking the time to think about six months or further down the line, what skills and sort of experiences you'll need. You had some really great examples of hiring people who come from really different backgrounds or who maybe initially didn't you know, wow, you in the interview. But then you thought, Yes, What I'm really curious about is the, so hiring these days tends to have a lot of hiring panels, lots of different people involved, which could be ready good. But I think it can also make it really hard to try and hire someone that isn't just the normal culture fit. How do you overcome that sort of, almost the bias for the same,
ou have to start with the job that needs to get done in the future and what success looks like. You have to think about it a lot harder than we need five more engineers with, you know, Ruby on rails experience or something like that, right? It's that idea that if we just hire more people we'll get more done, which is, you know, your early stage solution. Like, we need five more engineers and six more marketing people and two sales guys. And we're golden, right? And then you know what you hire you know five more of the same people. And then you wonder why you can't get anything done right. The reason you can't get anything done is usually not volume. It's usually skills. So it's doing the hard work up front that says, You know, you've seen this in my book. I have a very distinct methodology that I've learned, I was a recruiter. So I mean, you know, and I was an internal recruiter so I could learn over time who was successful and who wasn't. And so the match wasn't about, you know, finding all the keyword matches on the resume. The match was about finding somebody who's really good at and really capable of solving the problem. But at first, the hard part is defining the problem. So it's looking six months out and saying in order to succeed, what does that look like? What? How do we measure it? How does it you know, if I walk around and see people doing things differently. What is what? What are they doing differently? Right? And really think about it. Are there more meetings? Are there less meetings? Is there somebody at the meeting who has the answer there? Or is it that stuff is just get being done in the background? Really? Really Think about that and then work backwards and say, wow, in order for that to get done next year next year. Time is very, very important because, especially in early stage companies, you tend to use words like someday. And I think someday means, you know, next Thursday. And you think someday means next year. So we have to be really clear, right? So I'm so in order to get that done by the you know, by the by summer, um, what would people need to know how to do? And then you can say, Well, they need to be able to operate at scale. That's 10 times bigger than what we are. For example, that's a typical early stage company problem, which is Oh, shit. We figured it out. Now we've got to do it at scale, right? Okay. So next year, 10 times more than what we're doing next year. Okay? Now you drop down and go. Wow. Okay. What? Would someone need to know how to do. What skills and experience would it take for them to do it? Well, they'd probably have to have already seen 10 times growth. Right then you say. Now, who do you have? And you realize everybody on the current team has only worked there, so they haven't seen 10 times. They haven't seen two times, right? And it's not that they're, not smart people. It's just that they don't have the skills and experience to be able to do what you need to do in the summer of this year, right? Because they won't, they're gonna have that experience someday, But they won't have it in six months. So that tells you who to hire right. So now you're looking at somebody to help you solve that problem that's unique to your organization. That's about scale with the rest of this team, by the end, right, But in a six month period of time and that's who you go look for the person to solve the problem. And it is not someone just like who you already have. Because if you already have the right person, that problem would be solved. Raises that thing, you know, then you really want to build your interview team around finding the answer to that question. And it may not be that you have panel interviews and everybody on the team interview this person to give their input. Since half of the people on the team don't know what to ask, because if they did, they'd already be asking it. So it may be that that conversation is with candidates who you sit down and say, Here's our situation. What would you do, right? And and by that kind of interviewing? Not only are you learning about that particular candidate, you get all kinds of good ideas and, you know, and I've found that when I do that, sometimes I'll be interviewing somebody I'd be like, you know, we never thought of that. Oh, wow. All right. I mean, we've never looked at it that way, huh? I might be really bad. Well, to look at it I'm serious. I mean, I would say to people like, just bring him inou have to start with the job that needs to get done in the future and what success looks like. You have to think about it a lot harder than we need five more engineers with, you know, Ruby on rails experience or something like that, right? It's that idea that if we just hire more people we'll get more done, which is, you know, your early stage solution. Like, we need five more engineers and six more marketing people and two sales guys. And we're golden, right? And then you know what you hire you know five more of the same people. And then you wonder why you can't get anything done right. The reason you can't get anything done is usually not volume. It's usually skills. So it's doing the hard work up front that says, You know, you've seen this in my book. I have a very distinct methodology that I've learned, I was a recruiter. So I mean, you know, and I was an internal recruiter so I could learn over time who was successful and who wasn't. And so the match wasn't about, you know, finding all the keyword matches on the resume. The match was about finding somebody who's really good at and really capable of solving the problem. But at first, the hard part is defining the problem. So it's looking six months out and saying in order to succeed, what does that look like? What? How do we measure it? How does it you know, if I walk around and see people doing things differently. What is what? What are they doing differently? Right? And really think about it. Are there more meetings? Are there less meetings? Is there somebody at the meeting who has the answer there? Or is it that stuff is just get being done in the background? Really? Really Think about that and then work backwards and say, wow, in order for that to get done next year next year. Time is very, very important because, especially in early stage companies, you tend to use words like someday. And I think someday means, you know, next Thursday. And you think someday means next year. So we have to be really clear, right? So I'm so in order to get that done by the you know, by the by summer, um, what would people need to know how to do? And then you can say, Well, they need to be able to operate at scale. That's 10 times bigger than what we are. For example, that's a typical early stage company problem, which is Oh, shit. We figured it out. Now we've got to do it at scale, right? Okay. So next year, 10 times more than what we're doing next year. Okay? Now you drop down and go. Wow. Okay. What? Would someone need to know how to do. What skills and experience would it take for them to do it? Well, they'd probably have to have already seen 10 times growth. Right then you say. Now, who do you have? And you realize everybody on the current team has only worked there, so they haven't seen 10 times. They haven't seen two times, right? And it's not that they're, not smart people. It's just that they don't have the skills and experience to be able to do what you need to do in the summer of this year, right? Because they won't, they're gonna have that experience someday, But they won't have it in six months. So that tells you who to hire right. So now you're looking at somebody to help you solve that problem that's unique to your organization. That's about scale with the rest of this team, by the end, right, But in a six month period of time and that's who you go look for the person to solve the problem. And it is not someone just like who you already have. Because if you already have the right person, that problem would be solved. Raises that thing, you know, then you really want to build your interview team around finding the answer to that question. And it may not be that you have panel interviews and everybody on the team interview this person to give their input. Since half of the people on the team don't know what to ask, because if they did, they'd already be asking it. So it may be that that conversation is with candidates who you sit down and say, Here's our situation. What would you do, right? And and by that kind of interviewing? Not only are you learning about that particular candidate, you get all kinds of good ideas and, you know, and I've found that when I do that, sometimes I'll be interviewing somebody I'd be like, you know, we never thought of that. Oh, wow. All right. I mean, we've never looked at it that way, huh? I might be really bad. Well, to look at it I'm serious. I mean, I would say to people like, just bring him in
I'm serious. I mean, I would say to people like, just bring him in and suck their brains. I mean, you know, this person is really let's find out what they know. And so then and, oh, by the way, those are, the really fun interviews to have for you and for the candidate. Now you're not finding out if they're good enough, you're finding out if they're interested and capable of solving the problem that you have to solve in the time frame, you have to solve it, right? So it's more fun for everybody and you're more like and then you're more likely to take a chance on somebody who's not like you because they're gonna approach the problem differently. And then and then the other thing is, sometimes when I prepare people for interviews, I say, Let's before we go look for somebody like you. Um, let's talk about who's been really successful that we've hired this year. What is it that lives that they brought to the table? That was especially valuable and you'll start to see that things have evolved and changed right? Well, remember the guy that we hired that like we were worried because he was meek as a mouse and never said a word. Now, when he opens his mouth, we all hold our breath because he doesn't say much, but what he says is really important. And so that a person that I talked about in the book, but it really leads you to be open to lots of different, you know, where was I last week? We were talking about I somebody was bemoaning they were in the Midwest and in the US And they were bemoaning that they didn't have enough great tech candidates. And they happen to be in a place that had a lot of financial institutions, insurance companies, you know, big firms there. I'm like, Are you kidding? You mean you haven't gone to the banks? You think they don't know math you know, you think they're not programming there? Are you crazy? Have you? Have you tried the government, right? You want to find someone whos just trapped in that horrible job with their brilliant mind, you know? So that's it. It's not just people that look different than you. It's people that really approach the problems very differently than you we hired in the early days. In fact, there's a couple of very, very successful executives there at Netflix that I hired out of, Um you know, a government lab that made missile systems or something. But the complex math that they used was unbelievable and the discipline that they had right? So they were like, crazy, different than the classic Silicon Valley hacky engineer types. Um, but they were really the people that really helped us scale because they worked on projects. So
I think. One of questions for me. It's someone that has to trying inform who those roles are. We're hiring for you talked about for six months. Time less on the hiring, more on the strategy bit. But how do you actually know what you will need in six months time?
You have to define success, right? I mean, you have to be able to say, What if it was wildly amazing. I mean, you know, I'm whatever it is for your organization is it that you would triple your listenership, right? Or you would have five times the volume of content to play? Is that you know, I don't don't know your business exactly, But you know what it looks like. I mean, you have the fan take the fantasy all the way. I mean the story I used in Netflix was that, you know, we've grown 30% quarter over quarter, 3/4 in a row. Compound it. And so when we extrapolated that out into the future, it was shocking. Like Oh, my God, We could be at the time, the storytelling. The book is you know, we could be our CFO was looking at revenue growth, and he was just like, happy Slappy guy, right? Three times the revenue quarter over quarter, 30% compounded like, are you kidding? And then Ted Sarandos who's our head of content. At the time, we would say, Oh, someday we'll be as big as HBO. Someday. He looks at the revenue numbers and he goes, You guys, we could be HBO next year and we're like, What? What? And then our head of product said, Oh my God, you guys, this is 1/3 of the US Internet bandwidth and we just sat back and went ugh. Do you even do that? We couldn't think really big, right? Sometimes it's about not worrying about what could go wrong, but fantasizing what could go right. And then you realize, Oh my God, the people that know how to do that there's no one here who knows how to do that right. So we better at least start talking to people. Wrap our arms around it. So the here's another thing for you as a hiring manager, you should be interviewing all the time all the time, like 2-3 times a week. I'm serious and you know it can be that you have lunch with somebody or you meet somebody so that on the flip side, when I'm coaching people about their own careers, I tell them, Look, it's not what you know or who you know. It's who knows what you know, the okay, one more time. Not what you know who you know. But who knows what you know. Right so that you want to go out and meet with people all the time so that somebody can say, Hey, you can say, Hey, Aaron, remember that person you told me about that you talked to last month? I wonder if she might be the right.. can we bring her back in and talk to her, right? And that's and and you know, in the in the example of scale, right, it's perfectly reasonable for you to reach out like you reached out to me and say wow you're somebody who's done stuff at scale, can I pick your brain a little bit about how you got there? And people love talking about themselves. You got a little bit about what that person knows. That person knows you, right? So now you have that connection that human connection where you can call me like Patty. I'm stuck. Do you have five minutes, Or? Do you know anybody, right? So now you just start to develop those real networks, not just social media, but the real networks of knowing people that you can call up and go. I bet you know somebody. Yeah this morning, I did an email exchange with a guy who ran operations for us forever. And he was a guy, he was the CTO of a very large tech company I worked at. And when I went to Netflix we were tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny. And he called me up and he said, Hey, I understand you're looking for somebody to run operations. I said, Oh, God. Tell him I didn't even think about you. Of course you'll know somebody who has You have a right to use the questions I ask my and that he says Yeah, I thought of somebody I think would be really good for it. Like Let's go, baby, Who is it? And he said me, Are you Are you crazy? Don't you run an organization of like, 500 people? Don't you make like, $750,000 a year? You really sure. You want to come up? I mean, seriously, we got a warehouse like with things that the glue get stuck in. Why would you want to do this? And he said, I'm I'm a I'm a customer. That was we had no customers and he's like, I'm really interested in the technology. It's a passion of mine. I'd love to just come and meet you guys. And so he ran operations for us for like, eight years and course did very well, giving up things big salary. But he approached the situation as if we would be successful, right? He came into it and said, You know, when we're shipping a 1,000,000 DVDs a day, we should be thinking about what the system's gonna look like that
Awesome, so we've done a lot of talking about hiring hiring managers and how you get good people in the organization. But let's flip it around and think about the people that're interviewing companies, you know, when at the start of this conversation we spoke about the Netflix Culture Deck as kind of up there as a prime example about how you determine what a company cares about, what their values are for those companies that don't have a culture deck like Netflixes. What kind of questions can you ask as an interviewee to understand the company's culture?
You want to ask how decisions get made? You wanna take a look at the sort of organizational structure you want to pay a lot of attention to the environment, right? So, hey, look, use your eyes. Use your ears. Use all your senses. Right, Um, are the women only sitting at desks in front of important people or reception? Or, you know, do you see them sprinkled around the technical team? You want to pay attention with all of your senses? You want to take a look at who's doing what, how people are talking to each other, what their body language is. I mean, there's a whole lot you can tell by waiting for somebody to pick you up. You want to pay attention to? Are they on time? Are they prepared? Do they know what they're talking about? Did you have the same interview six times, right? Did everybody take your resume and go? Let's start from the beginning. And by the time you've done that, eight times you realize they don't care who you are, right? They have. They have a mother to prepare to say you're going to talk about culture. You're gonna talk about technology you're gonna talk about. You know how this person likes to operate so again, Like I said, and And by the way, the other thing is I used to say to my recruiting staff, We want every single person that comes in here to want the job, even if we hate them, right, Because we want them to go back and say, Man, my interview and Netflix was great. It was hard, and I don't think I'm gonna get the job, but, you know, you might apply, right? So So it's just to to be curious of. The other thing is, you should be very very you know, these days you don't go into any company without finding something about them. So read all the stuff, you know, read Glassdoor, read their quarterly, whatever. They have its public read their who find out who you're interviewing with and look up, look up their profiles and find them on social media. I mean, go in really prepared and go in with as many questions as they're going to ask you. So if I was successful in this job, what would that look like? Right, so you're really finding out. Like I said, we're just reversing your reverse engineering what I told you about earlier, which is in six months, if I'm a star, what what's that gonna look like? And then so that I can walk out and think That's not the job I thought it was, you know, And I don't I don't know if I really want to do this for six months or a man. I could just kill this right and said, Oh, that's what you're looking for on the other end, because these are people you're gonna go work with. So, for example, when I talk to women's groups, I say to them, Look, when your company talks about engagement they didn't put a ring on it, right? You're not married to your company and you should be interviewing all the time. And it's not cheating on your spouse. It's just finding out what you're worth and what's out there. People's careers are never and they haven't been in the last 20/30 years what we think they are that you're gonna join a firm and work for it for the rest of your life. It's just not true. Not true at all. I just had a good talk with a group of a 1000 CEOs and I said, Raise your hand if you're in the position that you had when you graduated from university you know how many hands with zero. Raise your hand If you think measuring retention is important in your company, 999 hands went up. I'm like, Seriously, you know, why are we telling this lie? So what you want to do is you know, a lot of people come in to interview and they want to ask, you know, what's my career gonna look like? What's my career progressions? How long is it gonna take for me to be promoted? The answer is whoever tells you a distinctly clear answer to that doesn't know what they're talking about because you know what's gonna happen in five years. So you want to know how you're going to be successful in six months to a year, and then you want to know what else is important that's gonna happen around here, right? And and And you have to be really, really self aware. This is the thing. I wish I could teach everybody early in their career. And I'm not talking millennial, right, because I don't this age there's there's early in your career. There's a little more experience that I know a lot of really mature 20 somethings, and I know a lot of really immature 40 so it didn't have anything to do with age. But you wanna learn early to be self aware enough to know that you get hired to do something, and eventually you did it right. And so when you're done, you know that. So if you sit there passively waiting for management to find a better role for you, so that you can further your career and it's completely up to them, you could be waiting a really long time, right? That's when you want to go huh. That was fun. I accomplished that. What else? What do I want to do next? And is that available to me here? And if it's not available to you here, then go find it. No harm, no foul. All right, own it, Own your career.
So that ties in really nicely, I think with this idea that you have in the book about wanting to make a company that people are proud to graduate from, I love the idea like that. People, if people are proud to move on you'll be able to hire, but also people will move on, which is a healthy thing. Is it something you share internally? Like do you make that a kind of public part of their company culture? Or is it just something that you you're quietly trying to build up so that people you can have people moving out of the company happily?
It took time. Yes, the answer, the correct answer to your question is, yes, but it took time and it took a lot of reflection of, um like Well, you know, I guess they kind of have to go because that's an opportunity we can't give them. And we don't want the person to be stifled because they're staying here. God knows we don't want a smart person to, like fail because they hung out with us on the other hand, and then the other part is, um, you have to stay in touch with your alumni and find out and talk about like Oh my God, did you hear that? So and so I went to Google and now they're running this that's that's really cool. A great example was, Ah, an early guy in our content organization. He's like the number two guy left us and went to YouTube, and now he's like running content for YouTube. He's been there probably 10 years, and is super super successful, and it was a great opportunity for him. I'm really proud of what he's done. The other thing that's happened in Netflix since I've been gone is quite a few people have left and come back and they're and they're much, much better, employees, you know, Reed tells me. It's like, Oh my God, the experience that they got it out of the company like you know, they left before we were international. And then they worked with all these people in India and China, and they came back and brought to us the gift of their new experience. So, you know, you really want people with a lot of varied experience, and and yes, I think we can talk about that. I think we should talk about that with people. That's like, Okay, so what are we gonna What are you gonna do here? That you're gonna be so proud? And I And when I coach managers, I'm like your job. Your only job is a manager is to create amazing teams that build incredible stuff on time with quality that is resume CV worthy. Right. So you want having been on this team be something that somebody's gonna put on their CV and go? Oh, yeah. Let me tell you about that. We really we really did something amazing.
Yeah, that's also what a metric I wish you could measure it.
Well, but you can, But you can right you can, that's what I talk to HR people and they asked me what are the important human resources metrics? I'm like they're in the P&l. You already have the metrics that you need. Did you get stuff done when you said you're going to get it done and does it work? It's really not that hard. And you can measure that in every single part of the company. Right? Did you close the books on time? Did you hire the people that you thought you were gonna hire? Did they? Were they successful? Do customers love the product? does it work? You know, did that did that software update that you talked about last year ever get done, right? And so, you know, I learned all this, you guys were geeks so you understand this. I learned a ton of this from the engineers I worked with, you know, you know, in software, you know, you pause pretty regularly and do a postmortem, which is something I say. That was a funny term. It's like why we didn't let the patients. But anyway, you, you stop and you look back at what you've built and say. Did it work the way we thought it was going to? Did we get it done on time? If we did it again? What will we do differently next time? so it would be more successful. You can do that with any part of the organization, and you should just you have to set aside the time to say today instead of looking, you know, my look forward thing. We're going to reflect on what we just accomplish and say, you know, we're really proud of it. But could it have been better? And what did we learn, right? My mom says about Texas. Mama says the difference between a wise man and a fool is the wise man doesn't make the same mistake. You could make the lots of new mistakes to make sure their new ones. The other fun fact about because I was at Netflix for so long I was there long enough to have the ideas that we bring somebody new in and they'd say, Hey, I've been thinking about it. I think we should do this. And we'd say, No, no, no, no. We tried that. We've tested that and it didn't work. Customers hate it. Does you? No, no, no, no, no, no. We tried. It didn't work. And they would say, Well, that was five years ago. And by the way, you know the customer then was an early adopter software engineer. And now it's your mother. So, like, Oh, wow, maybe we should go digging through all those bad ideas. Resurface them again. I mean, as you know, we knew back in those days that people would binge watch, for example, because of the way they watch DVDs. Right? If you if you wanted to watch a series, you would just keep putting the DVD in over and over again until you finished it. So back in those days, we didn't know, that streaming was coming. But we knew that when you would,
um, Patty, I think we could probably talk another hour easily and send questions your way. But got to be conscious of time we don't want to steal all your time today. But I did want to rap, we have three quick questions we like to ask all our guests. So just three quick questions?
Our first one of you is what you reading right now?
I was just reading. Ah, well, I work for one of my clients is Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs' widow and she runs a thing called the Emerson Collective, which is a group of all the charities and businesses that she invests in. And so I was just looking at this. Is their? Ah, their book from last year of all the different investments they made, the accomplishments that they did in education and environment stuff. So that happens to be what's on my desk right now. So that's my current reading.
Awesome. And what's your number one tip for keeping up with the industry?
You know, before I wrote the book, I was not a Twitter fan because I thought, this is just ridiculous waste of time. And but, you know, I had my social media coach. Who would she'd say to me, You know, Patty, you haven't tweeted recently, and I would say to her, Look, if you're gonna be my coach, you've got to be a lot rougher than this. You gotta be Oh, I want five minutes today, four retweets and follow five more people before and give me that. Right. So But I've become really interested in finding out information through Twitter, right? I mean, so I get, like, a something that piques my interest. And then I go deeper and like talking to people like you. Then I'll follow you and you'll follow me. And then we just It's been a really great way of discovering information.
Well, it's nice to hear a positive twitter story.
Yeah. The other thing I'll say is that in my time since Netflix, I have learned a ton from sports coaches. I think there's huge value in talking to people who coach athletes to high performance to winning right, they're very disciplined about it. It's a great metaphor. I I did a talk where the coach of a famous basketball team was on and on stage, and someone in the audience is oh, doesn't it just break your heart at the end of the season. You know when you have to let these people go. When they played their hearts out, he goes, No, it's professional basketball like they get to have played for the San Antonio Spurs. I think it's gonna work out for them, right? You don't play professional basketball when you're 60 years old. I think we all know that right? And I'm thinking, how come they can say it? How come that seems like a perfectly reasonable answer, But for me to say to you, you know I'm seeing you here for a couple of years, then we'll figure it out is not a perfectly reasonable thing to say to you.
It's true. Last question. Who inspires you?
Oh, well, because I have Laurene on my mind. She does. Laurene Powell Jobs inspires me with the work that she's doing, dedicating her life to making the world better. But, you know, I mean, I get inspired all the time by my my gardener. You know, that carries this wealth of information in his head, and he's got a family, of four to support and just has this really positive, wonderful outlook. And I love having him being my business partner these days in my yard. right, so it's, I think, you know, I'm in a different chapter of my life now. That is not going to work every day like I have for the vast majority of my life. So I see inspiration all over.
So where can people find out more about you, Patty?
The easiest way is my website, which is Patty McCord dot com. All one word. And there you'll see the links to the book and to the talks that I'm doing and podcasts like this will show up there. And so there's lots of ways to find me.
Awesome. It's been absolute pleasure, Patty. As I say we could talk for hours. Thank you so much for taking the time today. Really appreciate it.
You're very welcome. I better take the dog out. Nice to meet you.
We are massive fans of this book, So if you haven't a chance to read it yet, go and grab yourself a copy. It's called Powerful by Patty McCord. I'm Aaron Randall. This is Amy Phillips, and you've been listening to the Humans+Tech podcast.