Executive English: You and the Microsoft CEO

Compare your ideas on a variety of business topics with those of Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella. Scroll down and dive straight into the video. Or, if you want, read the questions first to  brainstorm your own idea.

Brainstorming Questions

  1. Satya Nadella had some big shoes to fill when taking over from Steve to become  Microsoft CEO. What advice do you think he received? What advice have you received (or would you like to receive) when succeeding someone at the workplace?
  2. Did you parents have high expectations of you? Did you achieve enough in their eyes?
  3. Has anything happened to you or someone you know that threw your career plans up in the air?
  4. When talking of his daughter’s learning disability, Nadella mentions the idea of nueroplasticity, of training your brain to learn. What do you think of this idea?
  5. Nadella is very big on empathy. In your opinion, how important a priority is empathy for a business, particularly when it comes to meeting customer’s unmet and un-articulated needs.
  6. Both Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer were candid and didn’t sugar-coat anything. What do you think about that communication style?
  7. Nadella talks of how success is a combination of product concept, company capabilities and company culture. What’s the connection between a concept for a product, company capabilities and company culture. How do they relate to each other?
  8. How good are you at identifying secular trends before they become conventional wisdom? Why is it difficult for a company like Microsoft to act even if they succeed in this?
  9. Thinking about your competitors, can you spot any ways you may figure out a way to combine forces, or do you think that with them it’s a zero sum game?
  10. Microsoft spent 26 billion on the acquisition of linked in despite its not being obviously connected with Microsoft’s tradional cashcows of Windows and Office. What common thread do you think Nadella saw between Office and Linked, and how might this form his vision.
  11. Nadella’s wife and mother had to make trade-offs between their career and personal life because CEOs and the system did not do enough to make sure women could fully participate in companies and economies, and that there is equal pay for equal work and equal opportunity for equal work. Why might a company like Microsoft have a long way to go in this regard and what steps can be taken?

Microsoft CEO:


 

Microsoft CEO answers and further questions for you to discuss:

 

  1. Satya Nadella had some big shoes to fill when taking over from Steve in Microsoft as CEO. What advice do you think he received? What advice have you received (or would you like to receive) when succeeding someone at the workplace?The best advice Nadella got from Bill and Steve was to not try and succeed them, to just be your own. What do you think of this?
  2. Did you parents have high expectations of you? Did you achieve enough in their eyes?Despite becoming a CEO of Microsoft, Nadella still fell short of his father’s expectations.
  3. Has anything happened to you or someone you know that threw your career plans up in the air? What did they learn?
    All of Nadella’s plans were thrown up in the air when his son was born with cerebral palsy. This taught him the value of a reliable network and empathy.
  4. When talking of his daughter’s learning disability, Nadella mentions the idea of neuroplasticity , of training your brain to learn. What do you think of this idea?Nadella believed in it enough to send his wife and daughter to Canada to learn there. Would you have done that? In his situation?
  5. Nadella is very big on empathy. In your opinion, how important a priority is empathy for a business, particularly when it comes to meeting customer’s unmet and unarticulated needs?Nadella: “Empathy is an existential priority for a business” as it helps “meet unmet and unarticulated needs” . Empathy should not just be preserved for friends and family. A key goal (for him) is, year-on-year, is he feeling more empathy for others. Do you agree that it is an “existential priority”? How can you pinpoint the unarticulated needs of your customer?
  6. Both Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer were candid and didn’t sugar-coat anything. What do you think about that communication style?Nadella said that both Bill and Steve are candid, they don’t sugar-coat anything in life. He appreciated how straightforward they were.
  7. Nadella talks of how success is a combination of product concept, company capabilities and company culture. What’s the connection between a concept for a product, company capabilities and company culture. How do they relate to each other? Nadella: When a company has a successful the concept, you get a beautiful virtuous cycle between your concept of product, your capability and culture, all three things fall into gear. But then the concept runs out of gas, in order to execute a new one you need new capabilities, and to have the new capability, you need a culture that allows you to grow that capability. What do you think about this?
  8. How good are you at identifying secular trends before they become conventional wisdom? Why is it difficult for the Microsoft CEO to act even if he succeeds in this?It involves changing the business model, technology and product.
  9. One thing that Nadella changed in Microsoft was the approach to competitors. Thinking about your competitors, can you spot any ways you may figure out a way to combine forces, or do you think that with them it’s a zero sum game? According to Nadella, customers are heterogenious, you can figure out a way to combine forces where it’s market expansive and it satisfies customers.
  10. As Microsoft CEO, Nadella spent 26 billion on the acquisition of linked in despite its not being obviously connected with Microsoft’s tradional cashcows of Windows and Office. What common thread do you think Nadella saw between Office and Linked, and how might this form his vision?The common thread is that they’re all professionals trying to get things done. This fits the vision of bringing together professional devices with a professional network to drive productivity.
  11. Nadella’s wife and mother had to make trade-offs between their career and personal life because CEOs and the system did not do enough to make sure women could fully participate in companies and economies, and that there is equal pay for equal work and equal opportunity for equal work. Why might a company like Microsoft have a long way to go in this regard and what steps can be taken?It’s particularly difficult in the tech sphere. Nadella recommends tying compensation to numerical progress, ensuring continuous vigilance,  and keeping it as a top of mind issue.

 

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