I have to admit I reluctantly read Work Rules! Insights From Inside Google, by Laszlo Bock. Once again I was confronted with my deep biases, this time related to certain tech companies. To my surprise, the 19-year-old company described in the book was more similar than dissimilar to my 40-year experience at Plante Moran (the Firm).
Bock organized the book in such a way that it’s easy to reference back to certain subjects, and he provides a great summary at the end of each chapter.
In this blog, I’ll highlight a few of Bock’s major points and share my personal experiences related to them. In 2015, I posted the “Build Your Own Dream Team” Food For Thought. The ideas presented here could be considered a supplement to those thoughts.
- CHOOSE TO THINK OF YOURSELF AS A FOUNDER — AND ACT LIKE ONE: Frank Moran, founder of Plante Moran, wanted everyone to feel like a partner in the Firm and, from the time I started as an intern, I felt that way for the majority of every day. Instead of me embellishing this subject, I thought the 2014 blog posted by Gordon Krater succinctly captured Frank’s ownership concept.
- THINK OF YOUR WORK AS A CALLING: I’ve written often about purpose/mission, or whatever you want to call it. I most recently addressed this topic in my “Man’s Search for Meaning” post, where I mention Plante Moran as the Mayo Clinic for businesses.
- GIVE PEOPLE SLIGHTLY MORE TRUST, FREEDOM, AND AUTHORITY THAN YOU’RE COMFORTABLE GIVING THEM. IF YOU’RE NOT NERVOUS, YOU HAVEN’T GIVEN THEM ENOUGH: I don’t think it’s written in the handbook, but I always believed the Firm “gave me enough rope to hang myself,” allowing me to decide when to ask for help. Said another way, I had a ton of freedom to choose — but I always had a safety net. I strongly believe this accelerated my personal and professional development. Hopefully, I treated those junior to me the same way.
- HIRE ONLY THE BEST BY TAKING YOUR TIME, HIRING ONLY PEOPLE WHO ARE BETTER THAN YOU IN SOME MEANINGFUL WAY, AND NOT LETTING MANAGERS MAKE HIRING DECISIONS FOR THEIR OWN TEAM: The Firm was committed to hiring the smartest and most talented candidates. Actually, near the end of my career I used to say, “I probably wouldn’t get hired today, since the standards have been raised so high.” Our process was very rigorous, involved multiple interviews and, depending on the position, several partners participated in the final decision. We know we lost good candidates due to the process, but our retention rate was one of the highest in the profession, which benefited our clients.
- USE A CALIBRATION PROCESS TO FINALIZE PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENTS/RATINGS: Like Google, the Firm utilized a calibration process. This added a step, but it was critical to ensure fairness. As a supervisor, you didn’t always get your way, but the decisions were better.
Although a 19-year-old company wouldn’t normally make a Jim Collins or Dan Pink list, I think Bock offers some interesting and practical advice to those of us leading businesses in the 21st century.