Daniel Pink interviews Reid Hoffman / Ben Casnocha / Chris Yeh Daniel H. Pink is the author of Drive, To Sell is Human, A Whole New Mind, and other books about business and behavior.
Every so often a company comes along that transforms the world of work. LinkedIn is one of those companies. Since its founding more than a decade ago, it has become the place where professionals build, maintain, and nurture their networks. For millions of people from all over the globe, LinkedIn is a source of opportunities, talent, even inspiration.
But its founder, Reid Hoffman, isn’t content with merely building a hugely successful company. He’s also established himself as one of the most interesting thinkers in Silicon Valley. His first book, The Start Up of You, written with longtime collaborator Ben Casnocha, encouraged individuals to think of themselves as entrepreneurs, even if they were collecting a W-2 paycheck.
Now Hoffman and Casnocha (with Chris Yeh) are back with a new book, which takes a smart, fresh, (and occasionally bracing) look at the evolving relationship between the bosses and the bossed. It’s a terrific and accessible read that provides business leaders with both insights and tools to handle a world in which talent is paramount. Pink:
One of the many things I like about The Alliance is that you take on the notion that successful companies are “families.” Explain. Hoffman / Casnocha / Yeh:
Some CEOs like to refer to their companies as families. The concept of family is a powerful one, and describes how the best companies treat their people: with compassion and respect. Yet we believe that using family language is a big mistake. The problem is that families are permanent--you can't fire your kids, no matter how many times they may forget to take out the trash. Companies are not permanent. The instant you lay off an underperforming employee, or someone leaves to pursue a better opportunity, the illusion of family is shattered. The only way to maintain the fiction is for people to lie to themselves and each other.
This underlying dishonesty is corrosive, and prevents the kind of trust that is necessary for a close, high-performance relationship. Both sides need to be honest with each other about the fact that the employment might not be permanent. Pink:
The big idea in this book is the “tour of duty.” How did you come up with that concept? Hoffman / Casnocha / Yeh:
We realized the employment relationship was broken. The family model was no longer affordable, but the opposite approach of treating every employee like a free agent doesn’t build the high trust, collaborative relationships necessary for innovation.
Many Silicon Valley companies began using the Alliance and tour of duty frameworks as a way to manage the employer-employee relationship for the modern era. One of us (Reid) deployed it successfully when founding LinkedIn. In order to attract great people, he avoided vague talk about loyalty and instead made an explicit deal with employees: if they signed up for a tour of duty of between two to four years and made an important contribution to the business, Reid and the company would help advance their careers, preferably in the form of another tour of duty at LinkedIn, or at a different company if that's what was best for them.
This approach provided a crisp focus and a mutually agreeable time frame for discussing the employment relationship. It improved retention of great employees at LinkedIn. The paradox of the tour of duty idea is that acknowledging the fact that an employee can and might leave your company in the future improves your ability to construct a tour of duty that convinces him or her to stay. Pink:
How does a sense of purpose factor in to your analysis of talent and its place in modern organization? Hoffman / Casnocha / Yeh:
A sense of purpose matters hugely for employee engagement and effectiveness, but you don't get that through a single, company-wide mission statement. Most corporate mission statements are little loved and have little impact on the day to day task of recruiting and retaining great people. Click here to read the full interview