#GrittyBookClub: Powerful, Building a Culture of Freedom & Responsibility



In the People + Culture space there are few more revered than Patty McCord, the co-creator of the infamous Netflix Culture Deck and author of our July #GrittyBook of the Month, Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility. In Powerful, Patty presents a revolutionary new way of working and leading teams where policies, procedures, and micromanaging are replaced with trust, discretion, and open debate. The result? A company culture of great teams comprised of adults who do amazing work on time.

Free cultures foster adaptability, high performance, and innovation which in today’s market are everything, but organizations can’t just strip away policies, grant unlimited PTO, install a fully stocked kitchen and magically transform into Netflix. In fact, that would result in complete chaos. So how can we, as leaders, cultivate a culture of freedom and responsibility?


Communicate openly, clearly, and constantly about the work to be done and the challenges being faced.

How transparent are you with your leadership team and employees about the state of the company? Do you share your financial information, long-term business objectives, and areas for investment? If not, ask yourself why. You could be limiting the power of your employees and the growth of your company by not looping them in on the work being done and the challenges being faced. When your team is informed on the state of affairs and armed with your clear vision, that gives them direction and context to advance your vision forward. Without that, you'll be forced to micromanage and tell them each move to make every step of the way. 


Practice radical honesty

In order build a culture of freedom and responsibility, people have to be telling each other the truth face-to-face, in a timely manner. At the end of the day, your team is working together to meet its business objectives- no more, no less. Oftentimes, we'll sacrifice honesty because we're afraid to make someone unhappy, but we're here to remind you that individual happiness is not the objective of your business! You, and everyone on your team, owe it to each other to shoot straight about performance, product, and people related issues. Caution: Leaders, this doesn't give you a free pass to be a jerk. This means that you have to practice honesty with compassion, and accept honest feedback as well. 


Encourage people to have strong, fact-based opinions, debate them avidly, and test them rigorously.

How are you solving problems in your organization right now? If you're still using a top down approach, you could be missing out on the best solutions! Employees on the frontlines get a front row seat to the main issues plaguing your organization, but they might not feel comfortable voicing their ideas. In order to build a culture of freedom and responsibility, you must open your processes to innovation from all levels. How do you encourage innovation? Encourage people to research, debate, and test ideas, and don't punish them if they don't "succeed". 


Base actions on what is best for the customer and the company, not on proving yourself right.

What's the #1 killer to a culture of freedom and responsibility? EGO. Encourage a meritocracy where the best ideas and solutions win, regardless of title or position in the company. We recently came across a company who had a core value of "No HIPPOS", which stood for "highest paid person's opinion". We love this because we've seen so many companies stagnate because they just take the opinions and ideas of the few people at the top.


Get Hiring Managers Involved in Recruiting

The key to having a culture of freedom and responsibility lies in hiring the right people. After all, you can't trust employees to make the best decisions, carry out business objectives, and act in the best interest of the organization if you're not hiring capable people. Businesses can't rely solely on HR to hire either. To create a world-class organization, hiring managers (department managers) must take the lead in preparing their teams for the future by making sure they have high performers with the right skills in every position. These managers need to take a proactive role in coaching and developing their employees, as well as cutting people who are no longer serving the company. 


If you could rank how free your company culture is on a scale from 1 to 10 (10=best), where would it fall? This whole month, we'll be exploring more strategies for increasing freedom and responsibility in our companies. If you want to join the conversation, make sure to add Powerful to your Amazon Cart asap!