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Book Review: Powerful. Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility, by Patty McCord

Powerful Book Review
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This post is by Zena Churchill, a Senior Consultant at TrinityP3. Over the past 20 years, Zena has worked for some of the biggest international and national brands. Having worked both agency and client side, Zena has strong insight and experience across most facets of marketing, specialising in media, strategy and BTL.

Once, during a performance review I asked my boss, who happened to be the CEO, for negotiation training. He raised his eyebrow quizzically and asked, ‘which supplier do you need this for?’, my response was, ‘oh, I don’t need it for a supplier, I need it so I can better deal with a number of internal teams.’

He told me a while after this (and after I had done the training) that he was upset that I felt internal relations were so bad I needed to learn better negotiation skills to do my job. This made me chuckle a bit because the reality was, not only was this an environment he himself had created and nurtured, but one he seemed to enjoy. And the saddest thing is, this type of corporate environment is still extremely common.

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’.

Book Review of Powerful by Patty McCord

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 human 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. It’s solid thinking and one that we at TrinityP3 often discuss with managers when we conduct a strategic alignment.

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, I mean REALLY 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.

Even if you’re company is still hamstrung by hierarchy and silos, Powerful will leave you with a tool-box of questions to help you take responsibility to understand the customer, the business as a whole and how to work better to deliver across both.

Define key stakeholders and measure, manage and maximise internal collaboration, alignment and engagement to deliver success. Find out more here

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Zena is a Senior Consultant at TrinityP3. Over the past 20 years, Zena has worked for some of the biggest international and national brands. Having worked both agency and client side, Zena has strong insight and experience across most facets of marketing, specialising in media, strategy and BTL.

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