You Are a Team, Not a Family.

If you really want a high performing culture, then aim for it.

Stop telling me your company is like a family.

It’s not. Just think for a moment: when was the last time you fired someone from your family? 

At Netflix, for example, we never thought of ourselves as a family. We consider ourselves a sports team. And not a little league team, where everyone plays and gets a trophy. No, we’re a professional team playing at the highest level. 

And my responsibility when I was the manager was not to make sure everyone got playing time. It was to make sure I put the best possible team on the field for every game. I did that because I owed that to the team owners. I owed it to the fans. And most importantly, I owed it to the other players

I learned a long time ago that what the best players want from me is not to field someone because “he’s a really nice guy,” or “she’ll be upset if she doesn’t get to play.” They want to know that everyone excels at their position. They want to know that everyone else will be trying as hard as they do. They want to win.

That’s why your job as manager is not just to hire well and motivate your team. Because you have an even more important job when someone isn’t playing well.  Then you’re the person who has to sit them down and explain why you’re sending them down to the minors.

This is especially hard for a startup, because in almost every case, the players you start with aren’t going to be the ones you finish with.

At the beginning, you’re looking for generalists. Since you don’t yet know what they will need to be great at, you want people who are good at a lot of things. You want people who are comfortable with the fact that their job description is going to change weekly. People who are motivated by the adventure, rather than by stability

That first team is going to give you everything they have. They’ll leave better paying jobs with great benefits to work for a fraction of their salary. They’ll work nights and weekends. They’ll do everything you ask…and then some.

So it’s especially brutal when your company is just starting to take off, and you have to sit that person down and tell them that they won’t be coming with you on the next stage of the journey.  Or that you’re bringing in a more experienced executive over them.

That part is neither easy nor fun. But if we’re building a championship team then that’s part of the job. And if I can’t do that, I don’t deserve to be in my position either.


Many ideas in this post were first discussed in the Neverland entrepreneurial community. Join us there!

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7 months ago

This is fantastic, thanks Marc!

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