Xbox Revisited: Develop Your Successful Game Plan

Develop Your Successful Game Plan

Robbie Bach’s book, Xbox Revisited: A Game Plan for Corporate and Civic Renewal, uniquely shares the stories behind the creation of the Xbox, the business strategy blueprints for others to follow, and Robbie’s personal philosophy of civic renewal.

For twenty-two years, Robbie Bach worked at Microsoft in various marketing, management and leadership roles. As Chief Xbox Officer, Robbie led the launch of Xbox. He retired from Microsoft in 2010 and now serves on charitable boards while writing articles on various civic issues.

I recently asked Robbie to reflect back on his many years at Microsoft. What he learned provides lessons for us all.

 

“Without principles, a team has no central rudder to keep it on course.” -Robbie Bach

 

Hitting Rock Bottom

Robbie, the book is a wonderful read as both the inside story of the Xbox creation and then also about your personal goals in what you call your Act 2. As I reflect back on the entire book, though, one email you included in it sticks with me. It was your “rock bottom” email when you tried to resign from Xbox. Tell us more about that.

The period leading up to the Xbox launch was very challenging on many fronts. I certainly was struggling to provide the right type of leadership; the team was like the United Nations with many differing points of view on important topics, and the mountain in front of us was a difficult climb under any circumstances. Ultimately, however, none of that led to me submitting my resignation. The real issue was the impact work was having on my personal life and my inability to manage that situation. It was just another instance of me being unprepared for the challenges presented by the Xbox project, but this one was very personal and cut to the core of my beliefs. I’m a “family first” guy, and when I realized I wasn’t living up to that, I knew something needed to change.

 

The Importance of Accountability and Transparency

What strikes me about this email was this: no excuses, no blaming, just pure personal accountability. You outline what you think is needed and then what you don’t feel you can do. Would other executives be served by being this transparent or did it work uniquely within the Microsoft culture?

E3 XBox Press Briefing Robbie Bach 17 MS_05_2004I am a believer in transparency – it is very difficult to solve problems when you obfuscate the situation with a fog filled with excuses. So I think this is an important skill for all leaders – in business, non-profits, or government. With that said, how you approach transparency and full disclosure absolutely will (and should) vary depending on the situation, the organizational culture, and the personalities involved. I clearly trusted my boss, Rick Belluzzo, to manage this situation appropriately, and he was remarkably helpful during a difficult time. In other circumstances, I might have used a different approach to declare the issues, and I might have pursued the discussion through other channels. Bottom line: being honest with yourself and open to your manager and your team is an important skill to master. Done well, it can fundamentally change the dynamics and attitude of a team in a very positive way.

 

“If you don’t define your purpose, you don’t know what you’re doing or why.” -Robbie Bach

 

Developing a Strategic Framework

5 Tips to Increase Your Efficiency and Impact

Power Tips to Increase Your Impact

All of us want to be more productive. David Horsager is a productivity expert. His work has been featured in numerous publications from The Wall Street Journal to The Washington Post. His research is focused on the impact of trust, and his client list ranges from the New York Yankees to John Deere.

His latest book is The Daily Edge: Simple Strategies to Increase Efficiency and Make an Impact Every Day. I recently asked him about five of the thirty-five tips included in his new book.

 

“Lost time is never found again.” -Ben Franklin

 

Manage Your Energy 

Tip 7Tip 7. Managing your energy is something few think about. We are often on autopilot. How do we become more conscious of our energy? What’s the best way to use our energy through the day?

Before you make any changes, you have to become aware of how you are spending your time. Take two weeks and log it. Keep track of both your time usage and the level of energy you feel at that time. Then, take time to study it and make a few adjustments with how you spend your time. Log for another week if you need to in order to gather useful information.

Try scheduling an early morning meeting and then not another until after lunch. See how creating this pocket of time affects your daily productivity and energy levels. Maybe you need to schedule as many meetings as possible on one day so that other days are left more open. I have learned that morning is my most effective time, so that is when I tackle writing, research, and other more difficult projects. I try to protect a morning power hour so I can have at least one uninterrupted hour on my most difficult tasks first thing in the morning. My team knows to try to schedule meetings with me right after lunch. Since I am an extrovert, the people I meet with during that low-energy time of day end up energizing me for the remainder of the afternoon!

You can’t dictate everything about your schedule, but you can influence it to meet your needs. A lot of people squander their most valuable time doing their easiest activities and tackle their toughest tasks when their energy is at a low point. Don’t let that happen to you! Leverage your time and schedule so that it works for you. Awareness and intentionality come first. If you can do this, it will build momentum and your work life will be easier.

 

“Clutter is a result of delayed decisions.” -Audrey Thomas

 

Efficient Email 

unnamed-4Tip 13. Email. Some people really struggle with it. What tips have you seen make a difference for those who find it a challenge?

If you feel you have an e-mail problem, it isn’t going to go away any time soon. Ignoring your lack of a system will compound the problem and affect the rest of your work life. Some people have hundreds if not thousands of e-mails in their inbox. This is a very common area to struggle with because of the sheer number of e-mails we receive every day. Managing it is simpler than you might think once you have a process in place. It’s going to require getting disciplined about it. I know an executive who went from 57,000 emails to 9 in his inbox! He called and said, “I’ve never felt better!” Before you get too overwhelmed thinking about it, consider the following ideas.

  • Get rid of the chime or prompt. Ask yourself: Are the e-mails coming into your inbox worthy of dropping everything to read and respond? If the answer is no, then turn off the notification function.
  • Let them bundle. You think things are urgent, but the cost of interruptions is enormous. See if you can only check e-mail at the top of every hour. So much time is spent managing e-mail. Don’t fall victim to this.
  • Get in the habit of going through these four steps. The minute you open an e-mail, archive or delete if at all possible. Deal with it right away. Don’t read it now and also read it later.
  • File it or archive it. Get it out of your inbox once you’ve replied. It takes your mindshare if it’s always there as a distraction. It’s overwhelming. Feelings of being overwhelmed are the killers of productivity. Try setting up filters for certain e-mails you don’t want to see until you are ready. For example, I auto-filter newsletters for when I have extra time to read on the plane or in a taxi.
  • Flag it for later or attach it to the calendar. If you know you will need to reference it prior to a meeting, flag it for a later date or attach it to your calendar. Again, our mindshare is limited, so avoid constant exposure to something you don’t need to look at for a while. The information will be there for you when you need it.

By the way, e-mail with an emotional context can absorb an enormous amount of time. Leave the emotional conversations for a phone call or an in-person meeting. You will be less likely to be misunderstood and e-mail will be preserved as a means for information sharing – the way it was intended. 

 

“With each sunrise, we start anew.” -Anonymous

 

 

Maximize Meetings

The Genius of Opposites: Extroverts and Introverts

How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together

 

  • “I don’t understand extroverts. She is so out there.”
  • “I don’t know what he is thinking. What is bothering him?”
  • “How do I break through to her?”
  • “Was that a conclusion or is he thinking out loud?”

 

As an extrovert married to an introvert, I have long been interested in what makes an effective partnership between very different people.  I’ve learned that I’m far from alone and that many successful duos are two people with different styles and approaches. Whether a married couple or a business partnership, it is possible to adapt and develop a winning partnership. Learning to leverage each other’s strengths and capitalize on your differences can improve your results.

Author and speaker Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, PhD is known as the “champion for introverts.” I recently talked with her about her research and her new book, The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together.  She has developed a system designed to help opposites stop emphasizing the differences and instead drive toward results.

 

“Relationships are most successful when opposites stop focusing on differences.” -Dr Kahnweiler

 

Famous Opposites

Would you share a few examples of famous opposites?

Sure, there are many. The Wright Brothers, Venus and Serena Williams, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, Penn and Teller, Siskel and Ebert, Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

 

Sticking Points

What most bothers introverts about extroverts and vice versa?

There are a lot of disconnects on both sides. Introverts think extroverts are changing their minds and don’t have clear thinking when they toss out ideas. But they are just releasing their energy, and they get charged up that way. They are just downloading ideas.

Introverts also wonder why extroverts need so much going on. They think extroverts don’t have enough self-discipline to just be there and get work done. Introverts judge that a lot. But extroverts like more stimulation, and the juggling makes them energized and engaged. They get their work done, just in spurts.Jennifer Kahnweiler headshot

Other misfirings in their wiring? Being private (introverts) vs. being an open book (extroverts) causes challenges. Introverts want to get to know you slowly and warm up to you. Extroverts feel excluded when introverts don’t share and get tired of pulling answers out of introverts who don’t offer much info during conversations.

Introverts crave quiet time for recharging, creativity and decompression and are frustrated when extroverts don’t let them have it. Like a teenage boy, my introverted husband Bill keeps a sign on the door that says, “Do Not Disturb.” He means it, too!

 

A Model for Bringing Us Together

Opposites can form a strong partnership if they follow your ABCDE model. How did you develop this approach? Is one part more difficult for an extrovert or introvert?

I interviewed over 40 sets of opposite partners and key themes emerged. I asked them to explore the successes and struggles they had in working with their opposite partner. Because they spoke with me or wrote me separately, some unique perspectives emerged. I also read about figures from sports, entertainment and science. I learned that the success factors crossed over fields and roles.

I think the challenges we face in opposite pairings are equally difficult for introverts and extroverts. And if we are honest about it, we each drive each other crazy from time to time!

Extraordinary Results

“Genius opposites do not just ‘happen’.” -Jennifer Kahnweiler

 

How Opposites React to Stress

How do opposites react to major stress?

How to Lead Like a Navy SEAL

Navy SEAL

When you read those two words, what comes to mind?

Words like: tough, decisive, driven, fearless, disciplined?

What can leaders learn from the SEALS?

 

Under incredible conditions, Navy SEALS prove their worth by getting the job done. When I meet a SEAL, I am intrigued because I know this is someone who is proven. Recently, when I had the opportunity to interview Brian “Iron Ed” Hiner, about his new book, First, Fast, Fearless: How to Lead Like a Navy SEAL, I knew I would walk away with many lessons I could apply in business and in life.

 

“When leadership is right, you really don’t see it any more.” -Ed Hiner

 

HIRING LESSONS FROM THE SEALS

Becoming a NAVY SEAL means you have overcome all odds. What can corporate leaders learn from the selection process in terms of hiring and recruiting the very best team possible?

Navy Seal Ed HinerWe have identified four major traits that we look for in a perspective SEAL candidate: physical courage, moral courage, problem solving, and what I call “teamability.” Physical courage is obvious, but moral courage does not rank far behind because we are an organization that relies heavily on trust and for our people to do the right thing for our country.

We also want SEALs to be problem solvers who thrive in what we call VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity), an environment often referred to as the “fog of war.” In our Gallop polling, we discovered that chess players are almost four times more likely than non-chess players to successfully make it through Navy SEAL training; chess players are problem solvers, and the board is VUCA writ small.

The last trait that I call “teamability” is a person’s ability to lead and be led, who can move from team to team seamlessly.

 

The 4 Must-Have Traits of a SEAL

1: Physical courage.

2: Moral courage.

3: Problem solving.

4: Teamability.

 

The takeaway of this is that hiring and recruiting needs be very deliberate. Organizations that understand the critical traits they need in their employees, and actively recruit for these traits, will be more successful down the road. Obviously all organizations look for skills and experience, but oftentimes they overlook the fundamental traits they actually need to be the elite organization that they wish to be.

 

“Leadership is something you do with people, not to them.” -Ed Hiner

 

PUT MISSION BEFORE SELF

Could you cover teamability a little more and what that means? What methods do you employ to get people to put “mission before me.”

Teamability requires that leaders and team members put mission and team before their own personal interests. When people know that leaders are selflessly making decisions for the team to succeed, and protecting their people along the way, it sets the conditions for teamability. From the beginning of SEALs training we set conditions to reinforce this concept.

In some ways it’s like we turn the pyramid upside down and take care of the broader team mission first and work our way down to the individual. For example, after we finish a mission, we take care of the teams’ common gear first. Then we all split off to our smaller teams and take care of that gear and issues until we get to the individual. This applies to everyone on the team, rank doesn’t matter; the motto is mission before me. This applies everywhere in the SEAL Teams. During staff meetings SEAL Team issues get addressed first, then the smaller Task Unit issues and so forth. It’s a practiced ritual that develops teamability and mission focus. As for the leaders of team, the rank of importance is the Mission, the men and then me. When it’s time to shower and eat, leaders eat last.

When organizations depend on teamwork it’s critical for them to reward the teams that exhibit this trait. In the SEAL Teams your performance review is heavily skewed toward your teamability; we don’t just give it lip service. We reward the traits that we want, to be the elite organization that we need to be. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of just rewarding individual performance at the expense of critical traits that you need for overall mission success.

 

“Servant leadership means that the team is not about you.” -Ed Hiner

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF HUMILITY

You say, “The biggest enemy of humility is our own ego, which is molded by our fears.” Talk about that interplay between fear and ego.IMG_0089

We are an organization of “Alpha males” and high performers, and it’s easy for individuals in any organization with high performers to fall in love with their own ideas and abilities. Elite teams perform at their best when their leaders are humble. It’s an outward indicator that the leader is willing not to fall in love with his or her own ideas but is instead willing to find the best direction for the mission and the team. When leaders are humble and act selflessly it builds trust, and trust is the invisible thread that holds all elite teams together. When this invisible thread is broken and leaders act in their own self-interest, and don’t engage the skills and talents of the team, results will suffer.

We all have fears, and those fears can contribute to shaping our personalities: fear of failure, not being intelligent, shame, etc. Humility is the antidote to those fears. Elite leaders are not worried about being right; they are focused on the cause-and-effect relationship to get results and accomplish the mission.

I’m not saying that people should completely get rid of their egos so that they dance naked in the halls; I’m saying divorce your ego, yet stay friends. Don’t let your ego run your life. As the saying goes, “Humble people don’t think less of themselves, they think of themselves less.”

 

“Be the cause, not the effect.” -Ed Hiner

 

What qualities do you first notice when someone is leading with humility and acting as a servant leader?

Leadership Lessons From the Unusual Story of Market Basket

An Uplifting Corporate Story

We often read stories about corporate greed, about slimy executives, about profits at the expense of people. These stories grab headlines because they hit a nerve and fuel anger. I have never read a story quite like We Are Market Basket: The Story of the Unlikely Grassroots Movement That Saved a Beloved Business where employees and customers joined together to demand the return of a fired CEO.

The story may be unique, but it offers powerful lessons and insight into the changing nature of how we view corporations and what we expect as employees.

I recently spoke with the authors, Daniel Korschun and Grant Welker, about this story.

 

Loyalty is Demonstrated Every Day

This story has so many powerful lessons. One of those is about loyalty. What does the We Are Market Basket teach us about loyalty?

Arthur T. and much of the senior management team have been extraordinarily successful at engendering loyalty. But loyalty at this company tends to be viewed as a two-way street. Employees – they call themselves associates – we speak with tell us that they feel loyal to the company and top management because they feel a loyalty to them from that top management. So what we see at Market Basket is people who are reaffirming their commitment to each other over time. The result is these very strong bonds we see. The lesson for managers is that you can’t expect loyalty without making a sacrifice yourself. You’re not going to gain loyalty just by changing the pay or the job responsibilities; it’s something that has to be demonstrated every day.

 

“You can’t expect loyalty without making a sacrifice yourself.”

 

A Respect for Others

Why did Arthur T. inspire such passion and loyalty?

Arthur T. is beloved as the CEO largely because he gives all associates, customers, and vendors respect. He says explicitly that no one person is special at the company, and from what we’ve seen he walks the walk.

But it’s also important to point out his place in the protest. Bringing back Arthur T. was the central demand of protesters, but in our view, they were fighting to save the company’s culture. Reinstating Arthur T. became the critical step in making sure that this New England institution continued to serve those who have known it for years, and sometimes for generations.

Market Basket 

A Lesson for Boards and Corporate Leaders

What does the Market Basket experience teach boards of directors?

Most business schools today teach that the fiduciary responsibility of directors is to look after the interests of shareholders. However, this idea is simply not supported by the corporate code in Massachusetts and many other states. The code states explicitly that the board is to be a steward of the corporation, which includes customers, employees, shareholders, and others. We need to hold our boards to this higher standard.

Leadership lesson: A corporation’s duties extend beyond shareholders to the broader community.

 

A Commitment to the Community