Wonder what it’s like to read over two dozen HR books in ten months?
Welcome to the October edition of #HRBookClub where I’ve consumed close to 25 books during the past ten months and tried to curate the best and most compelling recommendations for our journey together.
My job hasn’t been easy. Most HR books are written to impress you with abstract, technical knowledge of an industry that’s as dry as the Gobi Desert. Sometimes I put down my Kindle and rub my eyes like I’ve endured a sandstorm when I’ve just read three chapters on innovative and disruptive talent management trends in the age of cloud computing.
So, when thinking about the October selection of the HR Book Club, I wanted to save myself from reading another book that lectures me about the future of HR while also sounding dated. Several members of our HR Book Club Facebook group wanted to read “Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility” by Patty McCord, so I gave it a whirl.
It’s not bad. I’d recommend it. Here’s my breakdown.
1. Patty McCord was a guest on the Let’s Fix Work podcast, and I know she’s funny and can tell a story. The book is true to her voice. She’s not messing around with rethinking global corporate structures, and you can feel her passion in the pages of the book.
2. Patty McCord trusts employees and leaders, and she believes that the best HR is the lightest HR. We help organizations build teams who deliver on their promises to customers. Then we get out of the way.
3. Patty McCord is a thriving contrarian and has alternative views on management, trust, and even compensation planning. Read the book alone for her unique take on bonus plans. If you tried half of what Patty suggests in her book, your leadership team might like you more.
Here are a few things I struggled with in Patty’s book.
1. Patty McCord doesn’t have a lot of love for HR. Like most business leaders who make a name for themselves in HR — including me — she uses stereotypes and gendered language (“den mother”) to differentiate herself from traditional human resources leaders. That’s one approach, and it’s not invalid, but Steve Browne shows us you can love HR and criticize it at the same time. While Patty is radically honest and not wrong about HR, I wish she would’ve been as supportive of human resources as she was of her fellow executive colleagues in the book.
2. Patty McCord has a ton of anecdotes from business meetings. You know what’s more boring than my job? Your job. I’m not sure how else you tell a story about crucial decisions made at work; however, I know that bringing me into the heart of a conference room isn’t always the best narrative vehicle.
3. Patty McCord assumes we believe Netflix was a great place to work. Was it? Honestly, I have no idea. I’m forty-three years old and worked in human resources since 1995. I’ve been all around the world and talked to employees and leaders who’ve done cool things. The only time I’ve ever heard someone tell me that Netflix was a great place to work was when a fellow HR person handed me the infamous culture deck. Was Netflix all that great? You tell me. Know somebody who worked there? Did they like it? And if it was so great, why hasn’t the Netflix culture been replicated?
The last point is my biggest obstacle with “Powerful” and other books in the HR space. There’s a ton of research on how to get things right — and even more anecdotal evidence on how treating people like empowered adults leads to better business outcomes — yet, so many companies get it wrong. How do authors of HR books square that circle? Why does work still suck so much when we have all these good theories and ideas on how to get it right?
You should read “Powerful.”
“Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility,” tells us that former Netflix leaders have done cool and innovative things at new companies. And I don’t doubt it. I’m just waiting for those remarkable ideas to trickle down from coastal California employers and into the heartland. I know she’s doing her part by writing this book, and it’s up to you — as readers — to take the football and run with it.
So, please read “Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility” and tell me how you feel. Can you adopt the Netflix way of doing things? Would it work in your organization? Are these ideas and actions even relevant and valid for your workforce? Do you feel more powerful after reading the book?
I’d love to hear more from you. Join our private Facebook group and tell me what you think!