Guest Post: Freedom and Responsibility: Why Netflex Scrapped Its Vacation Policy by David Burkus

David Burkus is one of the most readable and thought-provoking folks talking about progressive management and leadership.  His new book titled Under New Management debuts on Amazon 5.  I am pleased to host the following guest post.

This original post was inspired by concepts from chapter three of Under New Management. This case study examines Netflix’s decision to completely scrap its standard vacation policy immediately following its move to a publicly traded company, relying instead on the maturity and common sense of its employees to do the right thing.

b1e8b0cd-f5de-4901-853c-2dac404c4a62Freedom and Responsibility: Why Netflix Scrapped its Vacation Policy

When Netflix went public in 2002, company leaders weren’t expecting to end up changing their long-standing vacation policy. Before it becoming a publicly traded company, Netflix’s vacation policy looked like those of most companies: you get a certain number of vacation days per year, and any days left over you lose, roll over, or get paid extra for at the end of the year. This kind of policy is largely a holdover from the industrial age, when factory managers needed to ensure that all shifts were properly covered.

At Netflix, people received ten vacation days, ten floating holidays, and a few sick days. Employees were on the honor system, keeping track of the days they took off and letting their managers know when and how many they took. Freedom and responsibility are strongly valued in the Netflix culture, but after going public, culture and regulations collided. The first collision was instigated by the company’s auditors, who claimed that Sarbanes-Oxley rules for public companies required Netflix to account for all time off taken by employees and that the honor system was inadequate for tracking. Continue reading

Something Coming, Something Good …

David Burkus has a new book coming out tomorrow, which should be very good news to us all …

b1e8b0cd-f5de-4901-853c-2dac404c4a62David is a professor, author of The Myths of Creativity and other best-selling leadership and management titles, and a very clear thinker about leadership and management.  He writes concisely, with warmth and humor, and is useful to anyone who cares about making our workplace interactions more effective and more human.

I will have more to say about his new book, cleverly called Under New Management:  How Leading Organizations are Upending Business as Usual, later this week.  

In the meantime, do two things for me, would you?

… Read sample chapters of both books and explore other resources by visiting David’s webpage.  

… For a taste of his thinking and personality, watch this  short TEDTalk charmingly titled Why Do We Keep Our Salaries Secret?. 


Enjoying something old (The Myths of Creativity), something new (Under New Management), and something very useful (fresh thinking) in the Heartland ….


Guest Post: “I Quit” by John Perkins


John Perkins was Chief Economist at a major international consulting firm where he advised the World Bank, United Nations, the IMF, U.S. Treasury Department, Fortune 500 corporations, and governments in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Since then, his books have sold more than 1 million copies and been printed in over 30 languages.  He has been featured on ABC, NBC, CNN, NPR, A&E, the History Channel, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Der Spiegel, and many other publications. He is a founder and board member of Dream Change and The Pachamama Alliance, nonprofits devoted to establishing a world our children will want to inherit. His new book, The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, can be found on Amazon.


It has been nearly twelve years since the release of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. People have wondered how the publication of that book has affected me and what I am doing to redeem myself and change the EHM system. They have also questioned what they themselves can do to help turn the system around. The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is my answer.

In the excerpt below, I had just learned that the president of my company, MAIN, who was my personal mentor, had been fired. I slowed down to reflect on the things my job had entailed. I had to admit that it was about more than oil, profitability, and global empires. It was about real people, real families, and how I had exploited  – enslaved- them. I hope you enjoy this short glimpse into chapter 25 of the book and the events that became my confessions.

I’d like say a special thanks to John E. Smith for his support of my new release and for his willingness to post this on his blog. I hope you’ll connect with me on Twitter and Facebook!

share_02I Quit

In late March 1980, still smarting from the firing [of Bruno Zambotti], I took a sailing vacation in the Virgin Islands. Although I did not think about it when I chose the location, I now know that the region’s history was a factor in helping me make a decision that would start to fulfill my New Year’s resolution.

I entered Leinster Bay, nestled into Saint John Island, a cove where pirate ships had lain in wait for the gold fleet when it passed through this very body of water. I nudged the anchor over the side; the chain rattled down into the crystal clear water and the boat drifted to a stop.

After settling in, I rowed the dinghy ashore and beached it just below the ruins of an old sugar plantation. I sat there next to the water for a long time, trying not to think, concentrating on emptying myself of all emotion. But it did not work.

Late in the afternoon, I struggled up the steep hill and found myself standing on the crumbling walls of this ancient plantation, looking down at my anchored sloop. I watched the sun sink toward the Caribbean. It all seemed very idyllic, yet I knew that the plantation surrounding me had been the scene of untold misery; hundreds of African slaves had died here—forced at gunpoint to build the stately mansion, to plant and harvest the cane, and to operate the equipment that turned raw sugar into the basic ingredient of rum. The tranquility of the place masked its history of brutality.

The sun disappeared behind a mountain-ridged island. A vast magenta arch spread across the sky. The sea began to darken, and I came face-to-face with the shocking fact that I too had been a slaver, that my job at MAIN had not been just about using debt to draw poor countries into the global empire. My inflated forecasts were not merely vehicles for assuring that when my country needed oil we could call in our pound of flesh, and my position as a partner was not simply about enhancing the firm’s profitability. My job was also about people and their families, people akin to the ones who had died to construct the wall I sat on, people I had exploited.

For ten years, I had been the heir of those earlier slavers. Mine had been a more modern approach, subtler—I never had to see the dying bodies, smell the rotting flesh, or hear the screams of agony. But I too had committed sin, and because I could remove myself from it, because I could cut myself off from the personal aspects, the bodies, the flesh, and the screams, perhaps in the final analysis I was the greater sinner.

I turned away from the sea and the bay and the magenta sky. I closed my eyes to the walls that had been built by slaves torn from their African homes. I tried to shut it all out. When I opened my eyes, I was staring at a large gnarled stick, as thick as a baseball bat and twice as long. I leaped up, grabbed the stick, and began slamming it against the stone walls. I beat on those walls until I collapsed from exhaustion. I lay in the grass after that, watching the clouds drift over me.

Eventually I made my way back down to the dinghy. I stood there on the beach, looking out at my sailboat anchored in the azure waters, and I knew what I had to do. I had to take responsibility. I knew that if I ever went back to my former life, to MAIN and all it represented, I would be lost forever. The raises, the pensions, the insurance and perks, the equity… The longer I stayed, the more difficult it was to get out. I could continue to beat myself up as I had beat on those stone walls, or I could escape.

Two days later I returned to Boston. On April 1, 1980, I walked into Paul Priddy’s office and resigned.


During the 12 years since the publication of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, the world has changed radically. I am excited to share with you how economic hit men and jackal assassins have spread to the U.S. and the rest of the planet and what we all can do to stop them and to create a better world. The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is an expanded and updated edition that includes 15 explosive new chapters. It also provides detailed strategies each and every one of us can employ to avert the crises looming before us. To learn more please visit, and join me in moving not just into ‘sustainability’ but also into ‘regenerating’ devastated environments.

Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down? …

Thumbs - MorguefileFast Company just announced their annual list of the 10 Best and Worst Leaders of 2015 …

As you might imagine, this list has some controversial selections, including one prominent presidential candidate and a slew of business folks.   Some are well-known names, while others might have many of us going “Now just who is this person again?“.   

All wield power and influence … and in that respect, I guess all are considered leaders.  


The article does not include any criteria to show how the decisions were made to include or exclude people or how they wound up on one list or the other, so this is worth some thought.

I do not doubt that the staff of Fast Company are well-equipped to make such decisions and the people who I am familiar with are accurately placed on either the Good or Bad list. 

However, I do wonder whether they just got together and contributed their individual favorites or had some type of standardization.   That might introduce some objectivity into the process.


Challenge:  Read the article HERE and respond with your thoughts, either by answering one or more of the questions below or shooting off in new directions:

Whose inclusions on the lists, good or bad, surprises you?

Who did Fast Company miss adding to the lists?

What do you think the criteria should be for being named a Best or Worst Leader?

Bonus Question:  How does that criteria change as we move from the business world to politics to science and technology … or does it?

Wondering about the usefulness of such lists, which proliferate at this time of year, in the Heartland ….


Related Links via Fast Company:

2015 Unicorn Naughty List: “Unicorns” are start-ups valued at one billion dollars or more – NOT your one-man shows, Mom N’ Pop stores, or garage enterprises

2015 Silicon Valley Nice List:  Companies that went the proverbial extra mile, in a business sense.

Image:  Adapted from

Strange Bedfellows …


Mismatched - GratisographyI guess I don’t watch enough television … or maybe I just don’t watch the advertisements …


Recently I saw a television spot for Geico Insurance, but at the end of the spot, a blatant plug for Helzberg’s Diamonds was added in.  Apparently these two products have enjoyed a business relationship for several years, of which I was not aware.

The commercial was well-done, using high production values and with an affirmation of loving commitments, a bit of humor, beautiful beachfront scenery, a heart-warming wedding scene … and a talking Gecko … and a sidekick crab.   I thoroughly enjoyed it and still find a smile every time I have seen it since that first sweet moment.

However … 

The combination of products struck me as somewhat incongruent.  It was like seeing an attractive young woman with unexpected facial hair. 

I could see matching diamonds and wedding caterers or car insurance and an automobile dealership, because those products are closely related.   But diamonds and car insurance?  Seems a stretch to me, but I am relatively naive regarding the ways of the world.  

What is your reaction to seeing incongruent or very tenuously connected products matched up in ads?

How do you feel about seeing two products touted in the same commercial, even if they are closely and logically related?

How do you like television commercials in the first place?

Wondering why this little triviality caught my attention  today in the Heartland ….