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May 24, 2016 // 11:28 AM

Real Talk With Company Culture Guru Patty McCord

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If you’ve ever looked for someone to give it to you straight, Patty McCord’s your woman for the job.

An HR maven, Patty has spent years creating and advising some of the most iconic company cultures, including Netflix’s and now Warby Parker’s, and hundreds of businesses in between.

Patty’s unique because she doesn’t shy away from the hard questions, and it is this straight shooter approach that has carried her to the highest ranks of Silicon Valley and beyond.

Recently, Patty dropped by HubSpot and sat down with employees to offer her take on the current world of corporate culture. Wasting no time with small talk, she immediately jumped into the sensitive subjects of equalized pay for women, employee empowerment, and the false notion of “business as family.”

Though Patty is a fountain of candid wisdom, we’ve boiled down three of her key takeaways for you:

Algorithm for Success

Coopting the mathematical term that underlies most of the internet, Patty outlined her ‘algorithm’ for success. “Ask yourself,” she said, “is what you love to do, and that you are extraordinarily good at doing, something that the company needs someone to be great at?” If not, then, in Patty’s eyes, it’s time to reevaluate.

Either, you are not very good at what you do, or, you don’t love what you do enough to be great at it. In which case, says Patty, “do the duck test": If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. If you, the company, and your skills aren't benefitting from you in that role, then there’s probably no point in staying in it. You’ll learn what you love to do overtime, so it’s detrimental to both you and your company to stay put at a company that’s no longer giving you that tingly feeling of excitement. Employee success at work often means leaving at a good time and knowing when to say goodbye.

Always Be Recruiting

real-talk.jpgIn her early days as a talent recruiter, Patty said she used to find out which ethnic restaurant in the local strip mall was the current darling of software engineers in the Valley. These restaurants would often have a fishbowl on the counter where patrons could drop their business cards in order to win free meal.

So Patty, maverick that she is, would walk in, take the bowl off the counter, and spend hours combing through the business cards to generate contacts she could reach out to as potential recruits.

“ABR,” said Patty. “Always Be Recruiting.” It’s all about being scrappy and knowing a lot of people. In Patty’s eyes, this is especially important for managers whose sole job should be to build amazing teams that do high quality work on time. But, she also stressed that it’s imperative for companies to encourage all of their employees to be brand and hiring ambassadors right out of the gate.

The Power of Positive Feedback 

Already an outspoken critic of performance reviews, Patty spoke about her affinity for in-the-moment feedback, particularly the positive kind. Patty explained the importance of catching people doing the right things. “When you see an employee doing something well,” she said, “stop them and say ‘That thing you did there, that was great. Do that again.’”

Patty believes that we’ve somehow conflated the idea of feedback with constructive criticism. She operates under the assumption that people can hear anything, as long as it’s true; however, she’s quick to point out that we should not underestimate the power of positive reinforcement. 

Two female executives from Bain & Company published an article in the Harvard Business Review with similar conclusions: “Positive affirmation creates huge benefits. Both men and women want to work for organizations that recognize talent in all its varieties, polls show. Having engaged employees assures better business outcomes and more loyal customers.” At the end of the day, Patty notes that feedback comes down to the simple premise of creating an environment where people feel comfortable enough to just have a conversation.

Patty knows people, and her years of working in the HR space have taught her the recipe for creating a killer company culture. Being honest about your passions and motivations, keeping a constant eye out for talented coworkers, and not being afraid to give credit where credit’s due are key ingredients in being engaged in your own work, and in fueling an engaging workplace for others.

Personally, one of the biggest learnings from Patty’s talk wasn’t about any particular thing she said, but how she said it. Bold ideas need bold advocates, and her candor was a good example of how we can all, especially young women, use our seat at the table. A huge thank you to Patty McCord for making time to share her sage advice with us here at HubSpot. If you are interested in learning more about Patty’s latest endeavors and hearing some more hard hitting truths, find her at http://pattymccordconsulting.com/, or follow her on Twitter.

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