Former Netflix Chief Explains Why Being Ruthless Is Necessary In Business
"A company is like a pro sports team, where good managers are good coaches, and the goal is to field stars in every position."
In many ways, these words written by FirstRound.com in a piece discussing former Netflix Chief Talent Officer Patty McCord's management style are accurate, you might think at first. It really is easy to make the connection between sports and business.
If you're a CEO, you want your managers to always have a gameplan, to have a good understanding of how to use certain employees in certain situations and to know which workers do what tasks in the most efficient manner just as you would a expect a coach to do so.
Furthermore, if you're a top Enterprise in a competitive field, you're always going to find yourself competing with other companies for the best talent around in the same way that teams compete with each other for the best free agents to improve their rosters. This is especially true for a company like Netflix, which has a whole slew of top quality tech companies surrounding it in Silicon Valley, vying for the best engineers and employees.
Of course, another point that some of sports' most enthusiastic fans might convey to you is that if the players don't believe in what the coach is doing, they are less likely to do it well. So when McCord had to fire a third of her company's 120 employees in the fall of 2001, she knew what she had to do.
“I said goodbye to the whiners and the babies and the people who didn't believe," she's quoted as saying by First Round, "because if they didn't believe then we had no chance at all.”
McCord served for Netflix for 14 years, from 1998 to 2012, and in those years found a set rule of principles by which she abides by in regards to managing her employees, or players. Those principles have made McCord the seemingly ruthless type of boss that has no interest in keeping people around when it's clear they don't have the skill set to be at her company.
But while her words imply that she has a zero tolerance policy and favors running a very strict workplace, McCord prefers quite the opposite and says the way she chooses talent allows her to do that.
"Instead of having more rules, just hire better people, who have better judgment, so you can have fewer rules," she said at a Be Unleashed conference in 2010.
As her "Netflix Culture: Freedom and Responsibility" presentation details, McCord looks for responsible people who "thrive on freedom and are worthy of freedom."
There's one thing that's undeniable about Patty McCord. She is indeed ruthless, but there's a method to her madness as she explains that her management style is best for both employee and employer.
“The thing to know is this person probably isn't very happy, and unhappy employees act like it,” said McCord. “You can ask them what's on your mind? What's bugging you? And they'll say, 'I don't think people realize how talented I am.' And the answer is, well yeah, we haven't realized it because you're late to everything, and everything you said was going to happen didn't.”
In the end, what McCord emphasizes in her interviews and in the very guidelines that she wrote for Netflix is fitting in. "Does this employee's skills and mindset fit our culture?" That may as well be the question McCord would advise all bosses to consider. And if the answer is no and an employee ends up having to be fired, the former talent officer says there's no need for hard feelings.
"I call myself the queen of the good goodbye," McCord said. "[I have] lots and lots of ex-employees I hear from all the time, and they're really good friends. I want everybody, all the amazing people that we hired to be really successful. It's just not always gonna be with us forever. And I don't feel bad about that, I feel great about that."
Photo courtesy Slate