The Newest Leadership Concept that will take 2019 by Storm: “Sunshining”!

Have you heard of “Sunshining“? I’m guessing most of us haven’t. I came from Reed Hastings the CEO at Netflix. Netflix has a really transparent work environment and Reed and his executive team has started telling employees exactly why someone has been fired. They call these talks “Sunshining”!

It’s not just about explaining why someone got fired, it could be about almost anything. This radical transparency is part of Netflix’s unique culture and employee experience. If you have a question about anything, you’re encouraged to ask out in the open, and leadership is encouraged to welcome these discussions, even those that might be taboo in most company cultures:

In one “sunshining” scene described by the Journal, former talent chief Tawni Nazario-Cranz was asked by Hastings in front of dozens of executives why she paid for some of her team’s makeup and hair styling ahead of a company launch event. Nazario-Cranz said that if a manager took employees to a golf outing it wouldn’t be questioned, which led to a debate about “gender equity,” one person in attendance told the paper.

Employees are also encouraged to review each other and share feedback with their teams. There are”real-time 360″ lunches and dinners for feedback and criticism, with one former executive saying the pressure to participate was the “hardest part about the culture.”


Can you imagine sitting down in front of a department of employees and saying, “Hey, everyone, you all know Tim, your boss, well, I just fired Tim because Tim quite frankly wasn’t getting the results we hired him to get. Tim is right here, right now. Let’s discuss!”


Um, what!?! “Yeah, hey guys, let me wipe the tears away from my eyes, I’m still in a bit of shock, I guess I’m most concerned with how I’m going to pay my mortgage and tell my partner I just got fired, but what would you like to know?”


Holy crap! That could not happen, ever! Unless you had this culture of ongoing performance feedback and accountability where it was 100% out in the open that this was happening and there was no ill will. Even then, I’m still skeptical! I mean, I’m willing to sit down as a fired employee and talk to the troops if Reed is giving a giant parachute! “Oh, yeah, hey guys, I just lost my job, but I’m fine, I’m thinking of taking a couple of years off to pet puppies or something!”


Do you think your company culture could handle this right now?


I’m doubtful, primarily because this isn’t something you can just turn on and the next day start doing it. This is a fairly radical cultural shift to even open up and be that transparent across the organization. I think most of us would tell ourselves we would love to work in that type of environment until the mirror is turned on ourselves!


That’s a tough leadership environment to be a part of for sure!


What didn’t make it through Netflix’s leadership team? 


Having employees see each other’s salary! Reed wanted to open this up, the rest of the leadership shot this down:


Starting last year, Netflix allowed any executive above the director level to see the salaries of all employees, a decision that, like most of those detailed by the Journal, received mixed reviews from the people interviewed. In the case of employee pay, some said it led to awkwardness, while others said it encouraged people making less money to try and get raises. However, Netflix executives recently shot down an effort by Hastings to allow any employee to see the pay of any colleague, regardless of rank, the paper said.


I think that’s a giant step of any organization, but it’s probably the one step that needs to happen to fix gender pay inequality for good!

5 thoughts on “The Newest Leadership Concept that will take 2019 by Storm: “Sunshining”!

  1. Hey Tim, thanks so much for bringing “light” to this new term 🙂 I think we’ve been practising a tame version of this throughout our company’s history here at Lessonly. We emphasize the need for “psychological safety” which we say is essentially the confidence of knowing that you can bring your whole person to work every day, give and receive constructive criticism, and not operate out of fear of failure. This has led to countless conversations—both in private and in more public settings—where candor is present and progress is made. I agree with Patrick that there’s a spectrum and as with most things, balance is required, but I do believe every company no matter where they fall should be striving to push toward the transparent end of the spectrum based on the results we’ve experienced here. Best!

  2. I’m with @patrick on this one. I’m not a particularly private person but this seems absurd to me.

    And @maury….this gender wage gap has been proven to have very little and possibly nothing to do with inequality or discrimination. It has almost everything to do with personal choices that occur long before individuals actually enter the workforce. The idea companies are paying women less because they’re women is absurd.

  3. What was the point of the make-up/hair-styling story?

    Was she fired for that?

    Was she lauded for that?

    Does make-up equate to golf?

  4. Great article Tim. I agree with your comment on transparent salaries being the necessary step for gender pay parity. Today’s NYT published an article about Finland publishing the taxable income of every person in the country every year! As long as there is secrecy, there will be inequality.

  5. To me, Sunshining is a happy sounding term that is actually a very dark practice. I cannot imagine being part of a culture where highly personal matters are given a public display. The unintended consequence of this can be fear (of public shaming), mistrust (anyone can call you out for anything), and groupthink (we all must follow along or be put on notice).

    Transparency, along with its kissing cousin Radical Candor, operates along a spectrum where bad things occur and each end but positive change happens in the middle.

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