After a 5-month search and sorting through 100 candidates, Satya Nadella was announced as the new CEO of Microsoft in February 2014. Although the stock responded positively to the news, there were some who were not thrilled with the choice. But Satya Nadella has been making great changes in the c-suite at Microsoft that are turning those naysayers into supporters.
I believe Nadella was a great choice for Microsoft. With 22 years into the company, he knows the ins-and-outs that have been allowing him to move quickly. Much more quickly than if Microsoft would have brought in an outsider. He has effectively ended the technology war between Microsoft and Apple by launching Office for iPad and iPhone, and by using Apple technology at various events.
He is also shifting Microsoft’s focus to the cloud. When he led the cloud technology division within Microsoft, he was responsible for 25% of Microsoft revenues. With that history, it is only natural that they turn their eyes to the cloud. In an earnings call in April, he stated again that the focus for Microsoft is to become a mobile- and cloud-first company. His mission is to provide one cloud for everyone and every device.
With this laser focus and experience with Microsoft, I believe Nadella is a CEO superstar in the making. Coming off a positive fiscal third-quarter 2014 earnings posted in April, Nadella has some lessons for executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Have a 90-Day Plan. A 90-day plan sets the foundation and tone for a company’s cadence. Nadella has been a strong example of this by laying out his plans for integrating Microsoft technology into iOS technology, declaring his stance on the cloud and making moves in mobile technology. His plan must define the key strategies to implement to attain his long-term visions and goals.
Develop a Strong Team. C-Suite leaders surround themselves with change agents. When Bill Gates stepped away from his chairmanship, he returned to delivering input on product decisions. Nadella (and Microsoft) will benefit greatly from this because Nadella understands the importance of Gate’s analytical mind, experience and stature within the company.
Simplify Things. When Nadella took the role of CEO, he had tough decisions to make. He started by eliminating three layers of management within the Server and Tools Division. Nadella is also changing the culture of the company from sales-driven to products and services. This was on full display when Microsoft recently announced their decision to end forcing Xbox users to pay for subscriptions to access entertainment features like Netflix that come included in the console.
Enable Change Agents. The team at Microsoft views Nadella as one of them. In return, he is enabling people to challenge the status quo. In doing so, he is encouraging change agents to step up and to step outside their comfort zones. During a developers’ conference, Nadella demonstrated this type of leadership by showcasing Microsoft tools using Apple and Google technology. He has challenged developers to create better apps for Windows products by giving them the tools to write an app once, and easily convert it to all Windows versions. This type of mentality inspires change and creativity that will help move Microsoft in the right direction.
Throughout these changes, Nadella must create an environment where people are not afraid of failure. Products will be developed, tested, changed and axed. Those who have the courage to think outside the box, or the bravery to ask for better should be cheered and encouraged, because both success and failure are crucial for Microsoft’s long-term success. As we continue to watch the changes develop in Microsoft under Nadella’s leadership, I believe one thing will be clear: Nadella is a change agent and will deliver outstanding results for Microsoft in the months and years to come.