A Brilliant Lesson in Emotional Understanding from Microsoft’s CEO
Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a sceptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
America is all about more. And more. And let’s not forget more of more. Companies are encouraged to get ever-larger, yet is there really much evidence that big is often better? Big certainly makes a few people richer, but that’s not quite the same thing. For years, indeed, Microsoft was famous for using its size to bully the reluctant into using the often transparently half witted software known as Windows. Size and profit were the only goals. Making users miserable didn’t factor into Bill Gates’s thinking.
Things have changed a little.
I was moved, you see, by a Forbes profile of current Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Microsoft has been known to swallow companies whole, only to make something of an odoriferous mess. Remember when Redmond bought Nokia? Remember Nokia, for that matter? Nadella’s leadership has brought a certain peculiar civilisation. Suddenly, Microsoft isn’t (entirely) loathed, yet somehow it’s still making a lot of money. A clue in this Forbes profile was offered when recounting Nadella’s preparation to bid for software development platform GitHub.
He didn’t ask: “What’s the offer they can’t refuse?”
He didn’t even ask: “How many will we fire when we get hold of it?”
Instead, he had one question: “Have we earned the trust?”
What a peculiarly decent – and emotionally sophisticated – thing to wonder. He knew that Microsoft hadn’t exactly been the darling of developers. But he stopped to think not merely of what his company might now control, but of whether its character would be acceptable to GitHub’s employees and users.
Too many times, bigger CEO’s see companies they want to buy as numbers. Trophies, too. Rarer is the CEO who believes that corporations are people, too. Not in the sense Mitt Romney meant it, that is. When you buy a company, you’re buying people – and, in GitHub’s case, very influential users. You don’t want to incite fear or loathing, but (I’m reaching here) excitement. You don’t want to create the impression that you’ll swallow the best assets and discard the rest, leaving a very pretty picture for the next quarter’s earnings call. The best assets will, after all, quickly leave. For Nadella to stop and appreciate that Microsoft might still be considered an entirely nasty piece of work was wise. Of course this doesn’t mean that all will now be bliss and harmony. It rarely is.
I wonder if Mark Zuckerberg, as he swallowed Instagram and WhatsApp, ever asked himself whether Facebook had earned their trust. Those app’s founders may not have cared. They earned their money and ran.
I wonder whether that’ll happen at GitHub.
Author: Chris Matyszczyk