Blog: Nadella's #HitRefresh - A culture masterstroke for Microsoft

Sports, Books & Movies

Nadella's #HitRefresh - A culture masterstroke for Microsoft

His first book 'Hit Refresh' has been personalized for Microsoft's employees. The main feature of the book is that it includes annotations from Nadella himself along with highlighted text, personal notes and messages by him.
Nadella's #HitRefresh - A culture masterstroke for Microsoft

After reading #HitRefresh and posting my blog on the quotes that I loved from the book, I found out that there was one more edition of the book that was personalized for Microsoft’s employees. 

The book’s title becomes “Hit Refresh FN+FS”. In the employee edition, the title changes to “Our Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone” (from “The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone”). The main feature of the book is that it includes annotations from Nadella himself along with highlighted text, personal notes and messages by him — a truly personal way to communicate, bring pride, recognize and to invite everyone at Microsoft in this journey!

But recently, I have been reading Otto Scharmer’s work at Presencing Institute at MIT. And the work he and his team is doing shows a tremendous paradigm shift in the leadership models that we know, and I want to take this opportunity to draw some parallels between the work that Scharmer is doing and Nadella’s leadership style. 

Role of the Leader

As part of the U-Lab Work, Scharmer uses Theory U, a framework, method, and way of connecting to the more authentic aspects of our self that also introduces the variable of consciousness into management and the social sciences. Regarding this, Scharmer says that “The success of any intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener.”  And one can sense that condition in every page of #HitRefresh.

The sincerity of Nadella’s story, the authenticity and the energy that Nadella is generating thought his reflections is tremendous. And with his book, he is taking this opportunity for employees as well to be part of that journey and make it their own. 

Leading from the Source – New Leadership Paradigm 

Referring to the U-Lab model, there are three traditional models and one new paradigm of leadership that they have created. Leading from Experiences – that is leading from habit, leading from the past ignoring anything new that has not being personally experienced; Leading from Facts – that is looking outside to gather new insights, having an open mind to new inputs; Leading from Within – that is leading from empathy, understanding others and seeing the world from someone’s eye; Finally, and that is where I can see Nadella’s leadership coming across is Leading from the Source – that is generative listening, taking yourself away from the center and allowing emerging opportunities to foster – taking the team to the highest possibilities. 

Here is an analogy that U-Lab uses in their courses and this is the parallel that I see. Here is the context and the situation: A leader (music conductor) directs his team – he has two orchestras that have not played together before. He also has a tenor (that is, of course, celebrity) and an audience in front of him. Imagine this in the context of Microsoft — the several companies that Microsoft has acquired, the different departments and product times (that again have not really played together before as the company has changed over years); Nadella managing the star players, partnerships and relationships (employees, investors, customers – the main characters); and Nadella also has the world watching as an audience. 

What the conductor does is so powerful and amazing. As the conductor moves from transactional movement of the orchestra, he connects with the tenor through empathy (when he turns towards the tenor and is with him as he sings), and that is where something happens — as the conductor takes a step back and allows the group to come together, he makes himself an instrument to create something that did not exist before – the team generates the collective energy, and he only holds it together, while taking the team to the pinnacle. U-Lab calls that Presencing. 

The extraordinary efforts that Nadella has made in re-energizing the culture at Microsoft, including #HitRefresh as a book and compilation of his intimate story, his personal journey and vision for Microsoft and for the industry, is the foundation of a new collective energy that is likely to take Microsoft to new level of possibilities. 

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