Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility – Mcord

Patty Mcord did a good job writing this book, especially for her consulting career.

It's a good book but lacks a solid theory or structure towards what god leadership is. It's more an abstraction of her learnings from growing Netflix.


  • "A company’s job isn’t to empower people; it’s to remind people that they walk in the door with power and to create the conditions for them to exercise it."
  • "a business leader’s job is to create great teams that do amazing work on time. That’s it. That’s the job of management."
  • "It’s a matter of identifying the behaviors that you would like to see become consistent practices and then instilling the discipline of actually doing them."
  • "We fully and consistently communicated to everyone at Netflix the behaviors we expected them to be disciplined about, and that started with the executive team and every manager."
  • "We wanted open, clear, and constant communication about the work to be done and the challenges being faced, not only for a manager’s own team but for the company as a whole. • We wanted people to practice radical honesty: telling one another, and us, the truth in a timely fashion and ideally face to face. • We wanted people to have strong, fact-based opinions and to debate them avidly and test them rigorously. • We wanted people to base their actions on what was best for the customer and the company, not on attempts to prove themselves right. • We wanted hiring managers to take the lead in preparing their teams for the future by making sure they had high performers with the right skills in every position."
  • "They are created by hiring talented people who are adults and want nothing more than to tackle a challenge, and then communicating to them, clearly and continuously, about what the challenge is."
  • "Being given a great problem to tackle and the right colleagues to tackle it with is the best incentive of all."
  • "They were all built upon the realization that the most important job of management is to focus really intently on the building of great teams."
  • "The beautiful thing for me was that because the shift in the business was so dramatic, I had to focus very intensively on two things. First, I had to deeply understand the new business model and what was at stake. Subscription is a numbers race, and revenue occurs only over time after an up-front investment. I appreciated what a very big bet it was. We’d have to spend considerable money to sign up a first group of subscribers, which was an investment in getting more customers, and those new customers would allow us to pay for the next expansion. This is the fundamental Netflix model; pay up front for benefits in future years."
  • "the people who are in direct contact with customers must understand that their every interaction with a customer leads to that person telling another person, for free, either to use the company’s product or service or not to. Everyone in customer service, from day one, should understand exactly how the experience they provide customers directly impacts the bottom line. Making that clear isn’t difficult. Every company has calculated its cost of customer acquisition, and each person who becomes a customer on another customer’s recommendation saves the company that amount of money. Every company can share that information with service representatives as part of bringing them on board."
  • "If you stop any employee, at any level of the company, in the break room or the elevator and ask what are the five most important things the company is working on for the next six months, that person should be able to tell you, rapid fire, one, two, three, four, five, ideally using the same words you’ve used in your communications to the staff and, if they’re really good, in the same order. If not, the heartbeat isn’t strong enough yet."
  • "What existing meetings or forums could be used to carve out dedicated time for communicating more about the business context? Do you regularly review these meetings to be sure they still are effective? Do you set different agendas for different kinds of communication (for example, a weekly stand-up versus a quarterly all-hands meeting)?"
  • "Because I was the head of HR, managers would often complain to me about an employee or someone in another department. I’d always say, “Have you told her yet?”"
  • "We’d also discuss the importance of giving specific examples of the problematic behavior and proposing solutions."
  • "“I can see how hard you’re working, and I really appreciate that, but I’ve noticed that there are some things you’re spending too much time on at the expense of others that are more important.”"
  • "Many people feel hesitant to speak so openly, but the truth is that most people really appreciate the opportunity to get a better understanding of their behavior and how it’s being perceived, as long as the tone of delivery isn’t hostile or condescending."
  • "We insisted that they share feedback on a continual basis. In addition, we asked them to explicitly set the standard with their teams that it was unacceptable to talk about people behind their backs or to come to them to complain about a colleague,"
  • "Too often upper management thinks that sharing about problems confronting the business will heighten anxiety among staff, but what’s much more anxiety provoking is not knowing. You can’t protect your people from hard truths anyway. And holding back the truth, or telling them half-truths, will only breed contempt. Trust is based on honest communication, and I find that employees become cynical when they hear half-truths. Cynicism is a cancer. It creates a metastasizing discontent that feeds on itself, leading to smarminess and fueling backstabbing."
  • "How open have you been with your team about the current prospects of your business and the most difficult problems the company and your team are dealing with? Do people at all levels know the challenges the company is facing in the next six months?"
  • "“How do you know that’s true?”"
  • "“Can you help me understand what leads you to believe that’s true?”"
  • "One of the great dangers in business is people who are great at winning an argument due to their powers of persuasion rather than the merits of their case."
  • "An essential question is, do you have enough capacity builders? By which I mean people who know how to build a great team. Bringing in great capacity builders was one of my main missions at Netflix. If you do that, they will tell you what teams you need and build them for you when you need them."
  • "One of the first things I did at Netflix was to decouple our pay system from the feedback process. I appreciate that it’s difficult to accept that this is possible, let alone advisable. The systems have become seemingly inextricably intertwined. Indeed, the tight bond between the performance review process and salary increase and bonus calculations is one of the main factors holding companies back from doing away with the review process. Which is one of the good reasons for decoupling the systems."
  • "We should also be told if we’re not performing well enough, so that we can either make speedy corrections or move to a new firm."


Sebastian Kade, Founder of Sumry and Author of Living Happiness, is a software designer and full-stack engineer. He writes thought-provoking articles every now and then on sebastiankade.com

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