Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft’

Great Corporate Storytelling at Microsoft

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

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 When I saw the Google news alert about an article on Microsoft’s great use of brand storytelling, I was immediately intrigued. As a long-time contract writer for Microsoft, I helped create the company’s intial collection of corporate stories, but that’s been a few years ago and I haven’t checked their website for months to see how the storytelling efforts have grown. Not only that, but I helped a colleague with a book on technology branding more than 20 years ago–before most consumers were familiar with technology products by brand.

When I checked out Arik Hanson’s blog discussion of the Microsoft Stories site, I was captivated even further by the screen shot included in the post (shown). As Arik points out, you’d expect to see the program manager being featured to be show in the office working on the development of great new software. But instead you see a dominant photo of the employee in a barrel room sipping wine. That drew me in even further because my husband and I have been part of a wine-making group for the past 11 years–and we live in Washington near the largest collection of tasting rooms in the state!

So you’ll understand why I agree with Arik that it’s a great example of corporate storytelling. Employees are brand evangelists, and they’re also interesting people whose non-work activities are at least as fascinating as their professional involvement. By helping co-workers and customers get to know the whole person, Microsoft is creating deeper, more lasting connections than work-related topics alone ever would.

Key point: When people develop deeper connections, they become more committed to one another’s success. Stories that help people get to know one another more fully result in a win for everyone involved.

How about you? How well are you telling corporate stories that do that?

Jack Welch on Leadership Communication and Performance

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Reacting to the recent announcement that Microsoft would stop force-ranking employees, a practice often referred to as “rank and yank,” former GE CEO Jack Welch delivered a strong case for another approach. Calling the “rank and yank” approach to performance evaluations”a media-invented, politicized, sledgehammer of a pejorative,” he said that it “perpetuates a myth about a powerfully effective real practice called (more appropriately) differentiation.”

Much has been written about “rank and yank” approach used by companies in recent years. It can, and often does, result in the firing of excellent employees who happen to be on an exceptionally high-performing team. Under the system, the bottom-ranked employees have to go, even those who are strong contributors. If it seems self-defeating, that’s because it is!

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Welch states a strong case for differentiation, which, he says, is “about building great teams and great companies through consistency, transparency and candor. It’s about aligning performance with the organization’s mission and values. It’s about making sure that all employees know where they stand. Differentiation is nuanced, humane, and occasionally complex, and it has been used successfully by companies for decades.”

Welch clearly articulates the need for leaders to clarify mission (where we’re going) and values (how we’re going to get there)–a goal achieved through storytelling, as emphasized in my Corporate Storytelling® workshops. Aligning performance with mission and values is crucial. To achieve that goal, Welch advocates for honest, supportive performance evaluations that let employees know where they stand, where they excel, and where they need to improve.

With this approach, everybody wins! And everybody wins when someone is let go. That’s because only those who aren’t performing well enough are let go–after they’re given help in identifying where their strengths would be a better fit and supporting their efforts to find another job.

Leadership communications based on consistency, transparency and candor are the keys to building and retaining high-performance teams and building strong, enduring companies. The most powerful tool for clear communication is storytelling.

CFO Communication Skills a Major Asset for Twitter IPO

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

According to a report from Bloomberg News, Twitter’s CFO has the ability to communicate clearly, even when discussing complicated concepts–and that talent is expected to be a valuable asset as Twitter seeks investors for its upcoming IPO. Mike Gupta, who joined the company last year, is known for his skill in explaining complex systems and business models in a simple way. Because of his communication skills and his negotiation credentials, he likely will accompany Twitter’s CEO, Dick Costolo, on the “road show” to drum up interest for the new offering.

Twitter is anticipating sales of $1 billion next year and hoping to sustain solid long-term growth. But it’s difficult for many potential investors to understand how the company earns revenues and how it can continue to grow sales. Formerly head of finance for Yahoo, Gupta  played a key role in Yahoo’s negotiations with Microsoft that led to a partnership for web-base search. He also helped Yahoo secure a valuable investment in China-based Alibaba.

Beginning his career in investment banking, Gupta moved into technology as an executive with Zynga, where he was involved in that company’s IPO. As Zynga’s former operating chief observes, “He was instrumental during our earnings calls and during our road show. He would do a great job of playing the other side and thinking through all the intricacies.”