Business_news Reed Hastings said that his marriage counselor is the ‘best CEO coach’ he ever had. Here’s how that’s helped shape Netflix’s famously frank company culture.


  • As CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings’ unique approach to business leadership has brought Netflix to new heights of success. 
  • Hastingstold CNN on Thursdaythat some of the best advice he got on leadership came from his marriage counselor. He also talked about what he learned from marriage counseling in his new book, “No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention.” 
  • For a company to run effectively, it’s essential that leaders promote complete honesty and constant feedback, according to Hastings. 
  • Visit business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has drawn leadership advice from some unexpected places. In particular, Hastings credits much of his successful leadership style to his marriage counselor. 

“That marriage counselor turned out to be the best CEO coach I ever had,” Hastingstold CNN on Thursday,saying that the advice he learned about total honesty helped his marriage and informed his approach to leadership at Netflix. 

As a business leader, Hastings is anything but conventional. When Netflix’s pitch deck, or set of slides outlining the company’s core values, was released to the public in 2009, it sparkedmajor controversyfor its brutally honest approach to hiring and lack of firm employee policies. 

But that same controversial approach to leadership also allowed Hastings to catapult his company from a scrappy subscription DVD startup to a media giant with a$220 billion market capas of this writing. Facebook COOSheryl Sandberg saidthat the Netflix pitch deck “may well be the most important document to ever come out of Silicon Valley.” 

So it’s worth taking note of how Hastings came to develop his unique approach to leadership. The Netflix CEO shared his greatest takeaways from his marriage counselor and personal relationships in his book released Tuesday,“No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention.”

Hastings’ biggest takeaway from marriage counseling, he wrote in the book, was learning how to apply honesty to every situation. And both at home and in the office, that approach paid off. 

Here’s what the Netflix CEO learned from his marriage counselor about using honesty to become a more effective business leader. 

Business_newsBe radically honest in your relationships 

Hastings said that honesty was one of the main things that helped to repair his relationship with his wife of twenty-nine years. 

In his book, Hastings wrote that he had been telling his wife things like “family is the most important thing to me,” while working through the night and missing dinners at home. 

“What the marriage counseling got me to see was that I was a systematic liar,”Hastings told CNN.

Hastings said that the marriage counseling allowed him to realize that his actions didn’t match his words. And that not only made him a liar, but it also damaged his marriage. 

After realizing this through his marriage counseling, Hastings said that he “really became a fan of exploring conflict and being able to say exactly what we were thinking.” 

He brought that same approach to the office shortly after. 

Business_newsBring the honesty from your relationships to the office 

Marriage counseling inspired Hastings to bring a similar culture of honest communication to the office. Hastings began not only providing honest feedback to his employees, but also set an example by encouraging employees to provide him with feedback.

“Getting feedback had an added benefit,” Hastings wrote. “It pushed performance to new levels.” 

Instead of running circles around a problem, Netflix employees are encouraged to speak up directly and confront people whose ideas they disagree with. After firing an employee, Netflix even explains its reasons for letting them go in anemail to the employee’s department, which could be hundreds of people.

To Hastings, this public handling of layoffs can be positive for all parties involved, because clear explanations can prevent office gossip and murmurs. 

Hastings wrote that encouraging employees to open up about their opinions “reduced the backstabbing and politics and allowed us to be faster.” 

Business_newsEncourage candor at the executive level 

According to Hastings, executive leaders should keep themselves especially accountable to the feedback of colleagues. It’s not enough, Hastings wrote, to encourage feedback at the employee level without taking the time to examine your own performance. 

People who work in managerial or leadership positions at their companies are less likely to receive feedback than their subordinates. “This is not just dysfunctional but dangerous,” Hastings wrote. “If an office assistant screws up a coffee order and no one tells him, it’s no big deal. If the chief financial officer screws up a financial statement, and no one dares speak truth to power, it sends the company into crisis.”

The book’s co-writer, Erin Meyer, noted that Hastings himself probably gets the most negative feedback out of everyone in the company – and he takes it as a positive sign. 

That’s why Hastings recommends that leaders explicitly set aside time on meeting agendas to seek out feedback for themselves. He also said that they need to reassure the employee that it’s safe to give criticism by responding to it with gratitude and thanking them for their courage to speak up.

Disclosure: Mathias Döpfner, CEO of business Insider’s parent company, Axel Springer, is a Netflix board member.

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