Microsoft's CEO and his way of running meetings: 3 meeting rules and 3 leadership principles

Have you ever had moments when you hated meetings? At least once in our lives, we all probably have grumbled, "Here comes another meeting. Why can't I just do my job?" What's more, studies show that productivity losses associated with poorly organized meetings cost companies hundreds of billions of dollars.

But once properly organized, a meeting only takes 10 minutes, thus avoiding long correspondence and weeks of misunderstandings on the way to new ideas and solutions.

To make this possible, let's start with studying the experience of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Microsoft's CEO and his way of running meetings: 3 meeting rules and 3 leadership principles

In this article, we'll follow the Microsoft CEO's steps and learn the three simple principles of Satya Nadella's meeting style. The current Microsoft's executive marked a new stage in the company's development.

How Nadella changed the company's meeting culture

The primary changes made by Nadella were related to Microsoft's meeting culture. In particular, he introduced the following three rules to make meetings more effective:

1. Listen more.

2. Talk less.

3. Be decisive when the time comes.

Nadella believes that even a 10-word discussion can successfully accomplish its purpose.

The most important thing in any meeting is ability to listen. After all, listening to our colleagues and learning from their points of view is exactly what we hold meetings for. Listening, therefore, represents a skill way more important than many people think. It creates a psychologically safe environment for everyone to trust each other and feel comfortable. Such an atmosphere encourages people to open up and willingly share their ideas, problems, and mistakes, which benefits other participants and the whole company.

Listen more and talk less. Note the wording: It's not silence the rule calls for but the thoughtfulness of speech. Try to restrain from an excessive talk during meetings. Here are the three questions to help you stay in control:

  1. Does it need to be said?
  2. Does it have to be me?
  3. Does it have to be now?

Thus, if something important needs to be said now and by you, say it. If at least one answer is "no", though, it's better to bite your tongue and refrain from speaking.

You also may and should:

  • Ask lots of questions.
  • Express your thoughts concisely.
  • Avoid micromanaging and personally addressing every problem out loud.
  • Don't try to force introverted team members to talk.

Sticking to these rules will make meetings shorter yet more efficient.

The crucial ingredient for inspirational leadership is decisiveness. It's important to communicate your thoughts and decisions to the gathered. Once you have a good idea in mind to be voiced and answered the three questions with a confident "yes", make sure to seize this great opportunity. Find a way to draw the attention of the meeting and convey your considerations in a succinct manner.

While this isn't easy for many people, if your speech is important, be decisive and ready to push forward. Should you choose to hide behind the "talk less, listen more" rule, your ideas will never come to fruition.

Hit Refresh

Through a series of innovations, Nadella managed to "reboot" Microsoft, thereby accomplishing the so-called organizational transformation. The most important thing done by the company's management was the recognition of the current reality. You have to "hit refresh" once in a while to see an updated version of the world around you and reintegrate with it.

"Hit Refresh" is the title of Satya Nadella's book about the transformations undergone by Microsoft. Among other things, in this book Nadella reflects on the characteristics of a modern leader. Let's take a closer look at his basic concept of leadership.

With all the fuss surrounding a leader, leadership is always about loneliness, says Nadella. Loneliness here lies in the need to make unpopular decisions. It seems like every word we say these days immediately becomes a matter of common knowledge. In this context, a leader might want to make a decision to win the hearts of the public and bring immediate benefits to the company. Instead, he must constantly rise above immediate fame and think less about what they say in the news. Microsoft leaders are expected to make profound decisions they deeply committed to. The ones that, unfortunately, not everyone can agree with.

3 leadership principles

In his book, Nadella talks about the three principles of leadership based on the ability to overcome constraints. The author believes that, with constraints being our unchanging reality, a leader's effectiveness derives from his or her skill in overcoming them. Here are the three principles:

1. Make sure employees have a clear understanding of what's going on. This requires the ability to turn complex things into simple ones. Simplification is a fundamental task of a leader, the very focus of his continuous activity.

Leaders must sense and read the internal and external disturbance signals to translate them into intelligible messages. The trends recognized serve a basis to develop the right course of action for a team.

2. A leader generates energy both on a team and company level. Thus, the inspirational leadership of each manager must influence the whole company, spreading far beyond his or her own division. A leader must inspire optimism in company's employees, fill them with faith, and nurture creativity both in times of growth and decline.

A leader's very presence creates an environment for everyone to feel comfortable and showcase their best qualities. Another purpose of a leader is to build teams and structures, improving their efficiency day by day.

3. Leaders actively look for ways to succeed and translate their vision into reality. In other words, they set the stage for innovative processes, encourage people to do great things, and know how to strike a balance between current victories and future success. In pursuit of solutions, a leader always thinks globally.

Satya Nadella emphasizes that it's not him who makes the changes in the company but each employee, regardless of title. This applies especially to middle managers as those in charge of making sure that each of their subordinates gets better every day.

Nadella believes empathy will soon become the most sought-after skill in our world, where everything is changing rapidly under the overpowering influence of innovation.

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