8 lessons on building a company people enjoy working for | The Way We Work, a TED series

HR jargon makes me crazy. We have to have all these stupid acronyms that describe things that nobody
understands: OKRs and PIPs. I think we can run our businesses by just talking to each other
like regular human beings. We might actually get more done. [The Way We Work] I really always wanted to be
an HR professional, I wanted to be able to speak
the language of management. And you know what I’ve learned
after all this time? I don’t think any of it matters. There’s all kinds of things
that we call “best practices” that aren’t best practices at all. How do we know it’s best?
We don’t measure this stuff. In fact, I’ve learned
that “best practices” usually means copying what everybody else does. Our world is changing
and evolving all the time. Here are some lessons to help you adapt. Lesson one: Your employees are adults. You know, we’ve created so many layers and so many processes
and so many guidelines to keep those employees in place that we’ve ended up with systems
that treat people like they’re children. And they’re not. Fully formed adults
walk in the door every single day. They have rent payments,
they have obligations, they’re members of society, they want to create
a difference in the world. So if we start with the assumption that everybody comes to work
to do an amazing job, you’d be surprised what you get. Lesson two: The job of management
isn’t to control people, it’s to build great teams. When managers build great teams,
here’s how you know it. They’ve done amazing stuff. Customers are really happy. Those are the metrics that really matter. Not the metrics of:
“Do you come to work on time?” “Did you take your vacation?”
“Did you follow the rules?” “Did you ask for permission?” Lesson three: People want to do work
that means something. After they do it,
they should be free to move on. Careers are journeys. Nobody’s going to want to do
the same thing for 60 years. So the idea of keeping people
for the sake of keeping them really hurts both of us. Instead, what if we created companies
that were great places to be from? And everyone who leaves you becomes an ambassador
for not only your product, but who you are and how you operate. And when you spread that kind
of excitement throughout the world, then we make all of our companies better. Lesson four: Everyone in your company
should understand the business. Now, based on the assumption
that we’ve got smart adults here, the most important thing we can teach them
is how our business works. When I look at companies
that are moving fast, that are really innovative and that are doing amazing things
with agility and speed, it’s because they’re collaborative. The best thing that we can do
is constantly teach each other what we do, what matters to us, what we measure,
what goodness looks like, so that we can all drive
towards achieving the same thing. Lesson five: Everyone in your company
should be able to handle the truth. You know why people say
giving feedback is so hard? They don’t practice. Let’s take the annual performance review. What else do you do in your whole life
that you’re really good at that you only do once a year? Here’s what I found: humans can hear anything if it’s true. So let’s rethink the word “feedback,” and think about it as telling people
the truth, the honest truth, about what they’re doing right
and what they’re doing wrong, in the moment when they’re doing it. That good thing you just did, whoo! That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Go do that again. And people will do that again,
today, three more times. Lesson six: Your company needs
to live out its values. I was talking to a company
not long ago, to the CEO. He was having trouble
because the company was rocky and things weren’t getting done on time, and he felt like things were sloppy. This also was a man who, I observed, never showed up to any meeting on time. Ever. If you’re part of a leadership team, the most important thing that you can do
to “uphold your values” is to live them. People can’t be what they can’t see. We say, “Yes, we’re here for equality,” and then we proudly pound our chest because we’d achieved 30 percent
representation of women on an executive team. Well that’s not equal, that’s 30 percent. Lesson seven: All start-up
ideas are stupid. I spend a lot of time with start-ups, and I have a lot of friends that work
in larger, more established companies. They are always pooh-poohing
the companies that I work with. “That is such a stupid idea.” Well, guess what:
all start-up ideas are stupid. If they were reasonable, somebody else
would have already been doing them. Lesson eight: Every company
needs to be excited for change. Beware of the smoke of nostalgia. If you find yourself saying,
“Remember the way it used to be?” I want you to shift your thinking to say, “Think about the way it’s going to be.” If I had a dream company, I would walk in the door and I would say, “Everything’s changed, all bets are off. We were running
as fast as we can to the right, and now we’ll take a hard left.” And everybody would go “Yes!” It’s a pretty exciting world out there,
and it’s changing all the time. The more we embrace it
and get excited about it, the more fun we’re going to have.

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