PRINCIPLES: S – Scaling through others

Principles - Scale

As many of our companies and organizations take the precautionary steps to protect individual safety and public health in light of the COVID-19, and as Microsoft has requested its employees to work from home if able, many of us are needing to realign, reconnect, and re-engage with one another to stay on track of our business goals. There’s an importance to collaboration and positioning ourselves, teams, and colleagues to stay cognizant of growth and keep our eyes on the future.


Principles - Scale

At Microsoft, we’re already talking about goals and ambitions for FY21. It reminds of the reality that we can’t accomplish all the work we need to get done on our own. It takes a collective effort, which means empowering others to take the lead, so we can all move forward. Over the years, I have found that one of the most important tools in my toolbox is scaling through others.

Collective efforts make all the difference

Scaling through others is all about giving your ideas away and letting other people take them, formulate them, and make them great. When others are eager about a project—when you have an aligned vision on the outcome, and a joint plan for success—they will drive forward and help you deliver. The beautiful thing is, when they cross the finish line, it’s THEIR success. And when they’re successful, you’re successful. Think about it: if you can set 10 people up for success, then you are 10 times more productive!

Learning to scale through others is the first step in leadership and management. When you can empower others to take the lead, by definition, you become a leader. You are helping other people create a vision and drive their own success.

Scaling for Microsoft Partners

There are many examples of scaling through others across my team at Microsoft, which manages our global ecosystem of partner organizations. One specific example is the job of our Partner Development Managers (PDMs). They must scale effectively with their teams in order to create success.

The priority of our PDM is to make our partners successful. But in order to do that, the expectation can’t just fall on the PDM. They form relationships across the company with our Partner Technical Specialists (PTS), Cloud Solution Architects (CSA), Partner Marketing Advisors, and others to tackle the partners’ business and deliver results. The PDM has to create a joint vision of success with Microsoft’s technical teams and the partner organization.  And by scaling through others, everyone is aligned and has a clear path to success.

Collaboration to scale

The key to scaling through others is finding success for everyone. It’s not about getting people to help you get something done.  It’s about envisioning success for others and empowering them to drive toward their own success.  When they cross the finish line victorious, everyone wins.

Have a great week everyone!

If you’re reading on mobile, swipe your screen left to view more of the PRINCIPLES I’ve covered the past few weeks!

PRINCIPLES: E- Execution is Elemental

Principles - Execute

Sue Grafton—a best-selling American novelist—once said, “ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.” She couldn’t be more right.

You can have the best idea and a strong plan, but if you can’t execute, then it’s all for not. I’ve seen a lot of great ideas fall flat because they simply weren’t executed well. Unfortunately, some of those were my own “great” ideas. 😊

This is where I’ve found it’s often better to have an okay idea that’s well executed than a great idea that doesn’t get off the ground. How we set ourselves up to execute on our ideas and visions is what makes all the difference.

Principles - Execute

Getting off the ground: executing your plan

So, what are the steps necessary to execute on your plan? For me there are four, straight-forward components:

  • Get Aligned – Everyone has to be rowing in the same direction. Create clarity by defining a strategy, principles and an execution plan with a clearly defined outcome. What does success look like? Get people excited about the vision and help them buy-in. Always build the execution plan TOGETHER.
  • Socialize the Plan – Talk about the strategy with everyone—to the point where you can’t think of someone you haven’t Debate it and collect feedback throughout the process. That’s when good ideas become terrific ideas. Getting input from people who will question the plan’s success, will push the team to do better and keep things on track.  Don’t forget: socialization is iterative – not a one-and-done thing. 
  • Create Clear Roles & Responsibilities – How are you going to bring the vision to life? Who’s doing what to get there? One of the keys to proper execution is matching responsibilities to capabilities. Great project managers know their team’s individual skill sets and play to those strengths.
  • Check as you Go – Are you on the right path?  Execution requires ongoing project management. When you lay out the roadmap to success, build check-ins and milestones, build in go/no-go checkpoints to measure if you’re on track. 

If the project has taken you on a path different from your execution plan, analyze and be prepared to shift and even to restart if it has gone off track from the objective or something in the business case has significantly shifted.

Avoiding the crash and burn

Many things can derail a good execution plan. In my experience, complexity is the number one cause for crash and burn.

I remember when I was running the licensing team at Microsoft and we were coming up on our first set of renewals. Our first pass at an execution plan revolved around “12 steps to renew.”  TWELVE STEPS! We determined that was way too many and boiled it down to THREE:

  • Connect with your customer at least 12 months prior in advance to their renewal.
  • Set up a meeting with the partner to create a T-12 customer engagement plan. 
  • Prepare the renewal proposal consistent with the customer’s conditions of success plan.

Once we did that, renewals took off. Simplicity is nearly always key. Which makes sense because our brains can really only handle three or four steps at a time.

In order to drive execution, you need a simple motion that is continuous, functional, and repeatable. We tend to over-complicate things. But when you boil things down to a 1-2-3 process, you’ll drive real success.

Delivering results and executing is critical.  As I’ve said before, we work in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately kind of world. Whether you’re working on a small project or a big game-changing idea, stay focused—with clarity and vision—and you will execute your goals.

PRINCIPLES – L: Learning to lead

Principles - Leadership

I would imagine that many of you are familiar with Simon Sinek. Simon is a renowned author, speaker, and expert in business relationships and human behavior. In 2019, Simon joined me on stage at Microsoft Inspire. It was a great opportunity to bring his thoughts on leadership and collaboration to Microsoft’s global partner conference!

Simon often talks about the qualities of successful leadership. This quote from our conversation continues to resonate with me:

“Leadership isn’t about being in charge. It’s about taking care of people in your charge. People always ask me, ‘How do I get the most out of my people?’ I tell them, ‘First of all, people aren’t towels. We don’t wring them out. The correct question is, How do we create an environment where people can work at their natural best?’ And that is the responsibility of leadership. We have to act in the way we expect our people to act. We have to be the leaders we wish we had…at all times.”

Taking good care of people in your charge is not always easy to do. But it’s imperative for ensuring success as a team. Creating a culture that enables people to do their best is what Microsoft’s three Leadership Principles are all about.

Microsoft’s leadership principles lay the ground for some great leadership principles

Creating clarity

If people aren’t clear about what the goal is, they’ll never reach it. Likewise, if people aren’t clear about what their role is in reaching the goal, they feel confined. Satya once called-out that Microsoft is great at creating clarity on Horizon 2—where we’re headed and what the technology landscape will look like five years from now. But we can improve our illustration of Horizon 1—the path we lay out to get to the North Star.

A great leader paints a clear picture of where they want their organization to go and every person’s role to get there. They lay out the roadmap and milestones—especially in the face of ambiguity—so the whole team is clear on what success looks like. A great leader then continues to communicate and clarify this vision to keep everyone on the right path.

Generating energy

My take on this leadership principle is all about matching people to their passion. I’ve worked on teams where I see people who really excel at something, but not the specific job they’re doing. On my teams, when I spot this, I try to correct it.

Some leaders prefer to build an organizational structure and then put people in the roles. I think that’s kind of backwards. You could be looking forever to find the “perfect” person for a specific role! My approach is to look at the people on your team—and the experience and perspective they bring—then build jobs around their strengths. Capitalizing on the unique abilities of your team members will position them for greater success. This approach inspires creativity, optimism, and growth, and generates energy and enthusiasm around your organization’s goals and mission.

Delivering success

This is critical: results matter. And the results should be visible. How are you providing value to your team, your manager, and the business? People need to be aligned and know the success you’re aiming to deliver.

The unfortunate truth is, we live and work in a what-have-you-done-for-me-today kind of world. Everything you’ve done has helped you get to this point, but what matters most is delivering success today. Ongoing success builds your credibility, your brand, and your network.

As a leader, you deliver success in many ways. You do it by helping others succeed—ensuring your team members are able to work productively toward a goal. You do it by innovating constantly and coming up with new and better ideas. And you do it by relentlessly pursuing solutions to seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Principles - Leadership

Learning the art of leadership is a lifelong journey. Each one of us has a role to play in creating a culture where people can thrive and be their “natural best.” How are you creating that culture on your team?

Have a great week everyone!

If you’re reading on mobile, swipe your screen left to view more of the PRINCIPLES I’ve covered the past few weeks!