I have known Satya for many years, even before he took over as the CEO of Microsoft; however, I only met him face to face the during his first trip to India post that honour. We have several close friends (all ex-Microsoft) in common- Sanjay Parthasarathy, Vijay Vashee & S Somasegar – who are also early angels investors of GOQii. I have been making my annual trip to Seattle right before going to Vancouver for TED just to spend time with these amazing people.
A few weeks ago, when I got a call from Microsoft inviting me to attend the launchof Satya’s book ‘Hit Refresh’: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone, I immediately realised that this was not just another event. To give some context- for the book, Satya wanted to have a few Indian Entrepreneurs talk about their ‘Hit Refresh’ moments. The idea was brilliant as it would give the media and the 100’s of attendees the perfect context to the book.
Microsoft team was kind enough to send me an advance copy of the book. I had a busy week and never really got the chance to read the book until the day of the event. Thanks to delayed flights and the extreme pollution in Delhi which kept me indoors. I finished a few chapters on my flight to Delhi and then the entire book on my flight back the same night to Mumbai.
I have read many books- most of them by or about technology entrepreneurs and their creations- Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Ben Horowitz, Tony Tshe, Ronnie Screwvala and more. Most talk of their rags to riches stories and how their vision, passion and relentless quest to deliver the best customer experience took them to where they are. Most of their entrepreneurial lessons have been extremely valuable. This time, however, I was unsure of what lessons I could glean from a ‘Manager’ and was expecting sections on processes, appraisal methodology, hiring and firing, Managing expectations. I was completely wrong! ‘Hit Refresh’ is one of those books which is soon going to become a bible for both entrepreneurs and managers in this world of extreme disruption.
Everyone is talking about transforming their companies and culture but when you are BIG and as big as Microsoft it is easier said than done. Most people think changing culture is all about taking ideas from various ‘cool’ Silicon Valley companies and introducing it to your employees. Suddenly we are seeing Hackathons, Free food, 20% personal project, internal business plan competitions, open plan offices, Town Hall meetings & meditation rooms in the name of transforming Culture.
Satya shows how it is really done…. Starting from his personal journey and his process of transforming himself and using similar principles to transform Microsoft to then showing us the new era of computing where a company selling Boxes and software has shifted to selling Solutions. He also gives a peek into the future with VR/AR, Quantum Computing, Big Data and Gaming!
In the book, he talks of his own early life, the influence of cricket on his life and the remarkable advantages, adversities, family members and experiences that have shaped his worldview. It also focuses on empathy and continuous learning and unlearning.
Here are my 5 takeaways from Hit Refresh
- Empathy and how it can shape your personal and professional life
Empathy is the magic pill which can help heal a lot of issues in our corporate and personal lives. In this Facebook and Instagram generation, we have substituted interactions with likes and the key elements of talking, listening and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes are becoming extinct. Satya’s experience with his own children changed him and gave him this amazing superpower. Empathy is a like a drug. The touchstone of empathy is leadership.
Satya, describes the transformative power of empathy as being one of the key ingredients of success. For him, empathy comes from living and loving the experience that he has imbibed through caring for a child with special needs.
It took him multiple years to come to terms with it and made him more empathetic as a parent and a leader. Empathy and empowerment are not just nice words, but concepts that can change how employees approach their jobs and their relationships with customers, partners, and colleagues.
- Everyone needs AVENGERS :
It’s no longer about having a team of perfectionists but more people with different abilities. These amazing ‘superheroes’ excel at a few things but lack in some. Think of Hulk who is super powerful but has anger issues, or Iron Man who is a genius but has that big ego to go with it. Satya is building a team of such superheroes who individually may have weaknesses but collectively are invincible. As a leader, you look for petals in a field of shit. The world is full of problems but it’s about finding an opportunity in that problem and moving ahead rather than wallowing in the problem which can be an impediment to growth.
On Leadership, Satya rightly says that leaders are made in the field. If you play a sport you automatically learn about leadership. Sports brings out the best in a person. Nadella himself played cricket in his younger years and as a CEO- he competes vigorously and with passion in the face of uncertainty, putting the team first, and bringing out the best in everybody.
- Practice what you preach. Culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Culture change begins at the top. Just like parents can be early role models for kids, similarly, Satya strongly believes that the cultural transformation at Microsoft must begin from himself and his key leadership team. Once he was able to successfully start that, the rest was easier.
You have to bet the company on one thing and for Satya, that focus was the Cloud. Microsoft Azure went to $20b in revenues in a short period of time and his focus on fixing the culture and rallying the company around the cloud got the Microsoft Stock price back to its glory days. Shareholder, Partner and Employee confidence is at an all-time high. He has also defined a clear strategy and vision to help individuals and companies do more by a new vision statement and clearly outlines areas of future focus for Microsoft.
He takes us in detail through his strategy around acquiring Minecraft and LinkedIn- one a playground for Kids and other for Adults, both of which will redefine networking in the future.
I love my Xbox! My kids & I spend hours every week playing FIFA 18, Call of Duty-WWII and given HoloLens, I can see why Microsoft will dominate gaming.
Microsoft was well known in the past as a company constantly in trouble with antitrust. If you had a Product competing with Microsoft you are toast. Microsoft seldom supported other platforms and even if they did the experience was sub-par. Satya changed it today. My go-to email client on my Android and iPhone is Outlook, PowerPoint runs beautifully on an iPad and doesn’t remember the last time I used Keynote. And, Microsoft products are leading the charts across both the Android and Apple ecosystem. Linux is fully supported by Microsoft and More and More enterprises are opting for Azure over AWS.
Under Satya’s leadership, Microsoft had developed strategic relationships with Flipkart, Ola and several other Indian startups and he has been successful ‘Hitting Refresh’ on every single Page at Microsoft.