NextGen Know-How: Creating an Exceptional Culture

September 2018: Vol 41 No 9
Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CPCC, PHR
The one question Netflix uses to ensure ‘stunning’ performance.
Group of people raising a flag at the top of a mountain symbolizing high performance and success

You may know Netflix as a top media entertainment provider, with shows like Orange is the New Black and Stranger Things, but behind this media giant is a high-performance company culture that seeks to attract and retain “stunning colleagues.”
 
Netflix believes in people over process and promotes freedom, independence and collaboration. Like many organizations, they have company values that sound great, but the difference is they actually live by them. 

Almost a decade ago, some of the secrets of the company’s exceptional culture were revealed in a document that was shared frequently on the internet. The slide deck, entitled “Netflix Culture: Freedom and Responsibility,” not only detailed the company values, but also their philosophy on pay, benefits and what actually makes a great company culture. (Hint: It’s not free espresso, sushi lunches and great offices.)

And it’s anything but traditional. 

What stood out to me when I first read this document was a structure that managers use called “The Keeper Test.” 

Here is the Keeper Test question that Netflix managers ask themselves regularly:

“Which of my people, if they told me they were leaving for a similar job at a peer company, would I fight hard to keep at Netflix?”

And for those not on that list?

“The other people should get a generous severance now, so we can open a slot to try to find a star for that role.”

Many organizations talk about great workplace cultures, cohesive teams and cross-departmental collaboration. But few companies instill practices that align with this strategy. Few companies take action when someone isn’t measuring up. Culture is not what you say, it’s what you do. Not taking the necessary actions to create an exceptional culture only breeds mediocrity. Creating an exceptional place to work with stunning colleagues takes courage and consistency.

As a leader in your organization, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is not measuring up to the standards we have in place?
  • Who do I need to give constructive feedback to (that maybe I’ve been avoiding)?
  • Knowing what I know now, who would I not hire again?
  • Knowing what I know now, who should not be in a leadership role?
  • What I am doing as a leader that gets in the way of creating an exceptional culture with stunning colleagues? (Examples include not giving feedback, not coaching, not giving clear expectations, holding on to an underperforming employee, and not modeling the values and attributes that create an exceptional culture.)

If you want a high-performing company, you have to do things differently than most organizations. Mediocre managers and executives breed mediocre cultures. You need bold and courageous leaders who are willing to make the tough decisions for the sake of creating an exceptional culture where stunning colleagues want to work.

Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CPCC, PHR, is a certified executive coach, leadership consultant and founder of Envision Excellence, LLC in the Washington, D.C., area. Her mission is to create exceptional cultures by teaching leaders how to be exceptional. Maddalena facilitates management and executive training programs and team-building sessions and speaks at leadership events. Prior to starting her business, she was an HR executive at a $450 million credit union. Contact her at 240.605.7940 or lmaddalena@envisionexcellence.net.

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