Netflix’s exercise for radical honesty 

A workplace can become too “nice.” 

Netflix’s exercise for radical honesty 

Insight from Patty McCord

A workplace can become too “nice.” 

People are afraid of telling it like it is, and as a result:

  • Quality of work drops 

  • Results suck

  • Resentment builds

Before you know it, you’ve got a toxic culture that everyone wants to leave, all in the name of “niceness.” 

How do great leaders prevent this? 

They built a culture around radical honesty, a concept based on telling the truth without sugar coating it.

It’s a broad concept that we’ll cover more in future playbooks, but if you want to start implementing it right away, below is an exercise that the executive team at Netflix developed.

It was 2001. The dot-com bubble had burst and they had to lay off 1/3 of their employees. Just as they re-jigged their team to adapt to the downturn, their DVD-by-mail service exploded. They had to pivot again.

The leadership team knew that to keep their best people during changes like these, they'd have to overhaul their talent management approach. It took years to create, but they produced the "Netflix Culture slides" outlining their new approach, which has now been viewed over 5 million times.

Today, Netflix is known as the company that conquers the odds, the place where people win.

A key component of this change was ditching formal performance reviews in favor of a peer-to-peer exercise called Start, Stop, Continue. They do it in real time, in front of each other.

Each person tells a colleague one thing they want them to start doing, one thing to stop doing and one thing they’re doing really well.

A regular, structured exercise like this gets everything out into the open and prevents resentment from building over time.

Less in-fighting. More excellent work. 


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