Netflix Co-Founder Marc Randolph Reveals The Four Words Behind Every Company Policy He Created

Marc Randolph, the co-founder and former CEO of Netflix who laid much of the groundwork for the service that has grown to more than 250 million subscribers and fundamentally altered how the world experiences media, learned one of his greatest leadership lessons in a rain storm he got caught in as a kid.

One beautiful morning, he and his fellow students in the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) hiked for two hours around a lake to spend the day rock climbing. Suddenly, it began to rain—hard. When the underprepared students complained, their instructor said, “What do you mean? You knew you were going to be hours away from camp all day. You have to learn to take care of yourself. You can’t always rely on me to take care of you.” 

From that moment on, Randolph never left camp unprepared, but more importantly, he learned an important lesson about responsibility and decision-making that guided his leadership at Netflix. 

“Fundamentally, NOLS is a leadership school that uses the wilderness as a classroom to teach leadership,” Randolph explained. “And it does so in an experiential way. Each time you go out, you’re learning to make real decisions with real consequences and seeing the impact of your decision and your leadership style almost immediately.”

Randolph went on to apply this leadership style, with its emphasis on semper paratus (always ready) to Netflix where he established a company-wide policy that any NOLS instructor could appreciate: Use your best judgment.

“Most companies, especially as they get bigger, are building all these guardrails around people,” said Randolph. “We believed that what makes someone want to work at a company is being treated like an adult—being given the opportunity to have impact. It wasn’t being constrained and judged but being able to unleash yourself, your creativity, your thoughtfulness, your decision-making ability. We wanted to get rid of all these guardrails.” 

Listeners will learn how this extraordinarily successful company fostered a culture that empowered employees to become independent decision makers. Lessons include:

  • What playing baseball taught Randolph about the importance of good daily habits.
  • Why Netflix decided to have no vacation policy or travel policy.
  • How to develop managers to be excellent evaluators of talent.

“At Netflix, a manager only had two responsibilities,” offered Randolph of his days leading the company. “One was to make sure the right people were in the right seats. That’s the team building side. The other responsibility was to make sure everybody on the team had all that knowledge and context to make their own good decisions.” 

And after that, well, it was up to them to use their best judgment.

Check out more episodes of Corporate Competitor Podcast with guests including Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders, MasterClass CEO David Rogier, and Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian.

Don Yaeger

Over the last 30 years, longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated and 11-time New York Times Best-Selling Author Don Yaeger has been blessed to interview the greatest winners of our generation. He has made a second career as a keynote speaker and executive coach, discerning habits of high performance to teach teams how to reach their full potential.

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