Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead

I read Work Rules! along with several other colleagues at Automattic. After everyone finished reading the book, we had an awesome discussion about company culture, values, goal setting, and the like. Google is certainly an inspiring company. They’re very well-known for things like 20% time, which has famously led to creations like Gmail. While reading the book, I was reminded just how lucky I am to work at Automattic, which is inspiring in many of the same ways. Several pieces really matched the culture of Automattic.

The best predictor of how someone will perform in a job is a work sample test (29 percent).

This really resonated with me. Everyone at Automattic has to go through a trial before they’re offered a full-time position. During the trial, we get a sense of what it’s like to work with them, and they get a sense of what it’s like to work with us.

All it takes is a belief that people are fundamentally good—and enough courage to treat your people like owners instead of machines.

With everyone working from home, Automattic really exemplifies this belief that when you hire the right people, you don’t have to babysit them. They’ll do whatever is necessary.

‘If you have facts, present them and we’ll use them. But if you have opinions, we’re gonna use mine.’

When presenting a different opinion or way of operating, it’s crucial to back that up with facts. Opinions are useless.

I highly recommend giving this one a read. It’s well worth your time.

Note: these are a collection of my highlights and notes from the book. In some cases, I highlight just a word or phrase.

It’s easy to run a team that does what they are told. But to have to explain to them why they’re doing something? And then debate whether it’s the right thing to do? What if they disagree with me? What if my team doesn’t want to do what I tell them to? And won’t I look like an idiot if I’m wrong? It’s faster and more efficient to just tell the team what to do and then make sure they deliver. Right?

the default leadership style at Google is one where a manager focuses not on punishments or rewards but on clearing roadblocks and inspiring her team.

All it takes is a belief that people are fundamentally good—and enough courage to treat your people like owners instead of machines. Machines do their jobs; owners do whatever is needed to make their companies and teams successful.

The fundamental lesson from Google’s experience is that you must first choose whether you want to be a founder or an employee. It’s not a question of literal ownership. It’s a question of attitude.

Having workers meet the people they are helping is the greatest motivator, even if they only meet for a few minutes. It imbues one’s work with a significance that transcends careerism or money.

The best predictor of how someone will perform in a job is a work sample test (29 percent).

There are two kinds of structured interviews: behavioral and situational. Behavioral interviews ask candidates to describe prior achievements and match those to what is required in the current job (i.e., “Tell me about a time…?”). Situational interviews present a job-related hypothetical situation (i.e., “What would you do if…?”). A diligent interviewer will probe deeply to assess the veracity and thought process behind the stories told by the candidate.

Interviews are awkward because you’re having an intimate conversation with someone you just met, and the candidate is in a very vulnerable position. It’s always worth investing time to make sure they feel good at the end of it, because they will tell other people about their experience—and because it’s the right way to treat people.

‘If you have facts, present them and we’ll use them. But if you have opinions, we’re gonna use mine.’

Senior executives shouldn’t be wasting time debating whether the best background color for an ad is yellow or blue. Just run an experiment. This leaves management free to worry about the stuff that is hard to quantify, which is usually a much better use of their time.”

Rather, it is a robust, data-driven discussion that brings the best ideas to light, so that when a decision is made, it leaves the dissenters with enough context to understand and respect the rationale for the decision, even if they disagree with the outcome.

The only questions that should rise up the org chart are ones where, Serrat continues, “given the same data and information,” more senior leaders would make a different decision than the rank and file.

If you’re achieving all your goals, you’re not setting them aggressively enough.

Make development a constant back-and-forth between you and your team members, rather than a year-end surprise.

If you are not promoted, the committee provides feedback on what to do to improve your chances next time. Seems obvious when you read it, but it’s a vanishingly rare practice.

First, set goals correctly. Make them public. Make them ambitious. Second, gather peer feedback. Third, for evaluation, adopt some kind of calibration process. Fourth, split reward conversations from development conversations.

As we’ll discuss later, most organizations measure training based on the time spent, not on the behaviors changed. It’s a better investment to deliver less content and have people retain it, than it is to deliver more hours of “learning” that is quickly forgotten.

individual performance scales linearly, while teaching scales geometrically.

Innovation thrives on creativity and experimentation, but it also requires thoughtful pruning.

But freedom is not absolute, and being part of a team, an organization, means that on some level you’ve agreed to give up some small measure of personal freedom in exchange for the promise of accomplishing more together than you could alone.

sparking a debate should never be a crime.

WORK RULES…FOR SCREWING UP Admit your mistake. Be transparent about it. Take counsel from all directions. Fix whatever broke. Find the moral in the mistake, and teach it.