Review of Patty McCord’s: Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility

May 3, 2021
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In Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility, Patty McCord tears down the old way of managing teams and corporate culture and presents the reader with an alternate way to recruit, motivate and create great teams that better suit this new, fast paced, agile obsessed landscape we now find ourselves in. The result is a company with the culture of ‘Freedom & Responsibility’.

This is an easy book to read, broken down into short, succinct chapters which are rounded out with a summary of key points and a list of questions the reader can take away and implement into their day to day life.

It is one of the most real team building and corporate culture books I have read, probably because it clearly articulates the way I think when it comes to working in teams; we are all adults working to get a job done, and we should do this together. Oh, and stop fighting.

Written off the back of a decades-long career in HR, Patty primarily draws on her 14 years as Chief Talent Officer at Netflix, where she was co-contributor to the widely read Netflix Culture Deck, to provide context and give examples.

Because of this, the book is jammed full of great anecdotes and insight into what it’s like to work for one of the most successful companies on the planet. Unfortunately, the anecdotes favour the ‘successes’ more so than the ‘failures’. However what this book delivers is a guide to creating a work environment that allows people to behave in a more humane manner, where trust, integrity, respect, discipline, truth and adulting are the common behaviours that underpin how to be successful in this rapidly changing new world order.

The author presents compelling arguments for why the old way of HR is broken and why companies operating in this new landscape of constant evolution and adaptation can’t continue to operate in this manner if they want to genuinely deliver on customer benefit and grow their business.

It pushes readers to think about questioning everything, and managers to encourage an environment where intense questioning is considered the norm. The ultimate role of the hiring manager according to Patty is to build great teams that will take the business to where you want to go.

Let me clarify, this book is much more than a ‘how to’ for better HR. It is a book that delivers great insight, using Netflix as an example, on what it really means to be agile. It does this by positioning the concept of agility as much more than a process and placing it firmly into the sphere of a mindset. Importantly, this book demonstrates how this mindset helped shape Netflix into the company it is today.

Why is it relevant to today’s marketer?

The marketing landscape has been massively disrupted by external factors such as technology and consumer behaviour for the last two decades. More recently however, marketing has started to disrupt and be disrupted from internal factors also.

The role and function of marketing has changed and whilst its responsibility for the customer journey has continued to increase, the influence of marketing on other departments, and vice versa, has shifted at a rapid rate.

This environment of inter-dependencies means marketing and marketers must now work hand in glove with engineers, IT, technicians and sales, for example, at a much greater level and with much greater knowledge than before.

This means marketers need to know how to work across each team to achieve the best possible solution for the customer and the business.

Powerful is a solid ‘how to’ guide for implementing key tenets of agility, resilience and adaptability into developing the best possible teams to deliver on business-critical goals. It provides easy to implement tips on working across departments and teams to be able to deliver what is best for the customer and the business.

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