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

Find Your Balance Point

Clarify Your Priorities


Are you experiencing the highest level of clarity and confidence possible to pursue your goals? 

Do you feel inspired and fully engaged?

Does your life feel like it is in perfect harmony?


“Successful people are simply those with successful habits.” –Brian Tracy


Most of us experience times when we feel like we are on top of our game and other times when we need to rebalance our priorities. How can we consistently stay in the place that works for us?

For many years, I have been a fan of Brian Tracy, one of the world’s top speakers with audiences exceeding 250,000 people each year. He is the author of over fifty books, including the bestselling Psychology of Achievement, which remains one of the top resources for personal development. His daughter Christina Stein is a speaker, author, and psychotherapist who focuses on work-life balance and female empowerment. The father-daughter duo teamed up to write Find Your Balance Point: Clarify Your Priorities, Simplify Your Life, and Achieve More. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Christina about their new work.


“True happiness is about serving others.” –Christina Stein


How to Achieve True Balance

What is a balance point?

We are all unique individuals with our own values, vision, purpose, and goals. Each one of us has a different way of achieving true balance. Each person experiences true balance when he or she is operating at their own unique balance point. Your balance point is a state of alignment that you experience when your actions and efforts are a true reflection of your values. It is from your balance point that you experience the highest level of clarity, commitment, strength, and confidence to pursue your ambitions, both personally and professionally.Christina Stein

You want your efforts to have power, strength and meaning. In order to move forward with focus and intention you need be sure footed and feel grounded and balanced. In martial arts before you throw a punch you get into the ready stance so you know you are at optimum grounding to have the most power and resistance. Your balance point is your own unique ready stance for life.


You say we can achieve a false balance. What is this? How do we recognize it?

False balance is incongruence with your actions and your values. There are a couple ways to recognize when you are experiencing false balance:

  1. You feel a little knot in your stomach all the time, and you’ve become so accustomed to this feeling that you think its normal.
  1. At the end of a busy day you sit down and feel as though you spent the whole day doing things and yet accomplished nothing.
  1. You are constantly feeling guilty about what you are doing and think you should be doing something else.
  1. Nothing inspires you. Your life is monotonous and boring, every day rolls into the next and few things hold meaning for you.

When you are experiencing false balance you may do things to try and feel better, things associated with feeling good and aimed at achieving balance, but it is not a one size fits all. Things bring balance to us because they address a specific need, and unless you identify what you need you cannot successfully identify the solution.


“Your values lie at the core of your character.” –Tracy / Stein


Put Your Own Happiness First

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

Make Today One of Intense Purpose and Lasting Influence

What Will Your Legacy Be?

It’s graduation time. As students receive their diplomas, they look forward to the next milestone, the next development, the next opportunity. As they walk across the stage, I bet most of them don’t think about how many days they have been on Earth and how many days they have left.

My friend, Robert D Smith, affectionately known as “the Robert D” reminds me of the gift of time. His book 20,000 Days and Counting: The Crash Course for Mastering Your Life Right Now is one I give away to graduates. He shares practical reminders of how to master your life and succeed.20K Simple Truths 3D Left

Understanding your purpose, living each day to its fullest, becoming as productive as possible, and mastering your life are critical to a successful life and yet most of us are so busy with today’s tasks we don’t stop and reflect.

In 20,000 Days, you will find a compelling reminder of the value of time. It’s not a long book, and the message is simple, but profound. A few of the lessons I took away:

  • Eat dessert first.
  • Think of today as your last day and also your first day.
  • Do the thing you’ve been putting off.
  • Invite a close friend to dinner.
  • Go outside and breathe deeply.
  • Read the book you’ve been meaning to pick up.
  • Create a life statement.



And some of my favorite quotes:


“Winning is defined by the legacy you create.” @TheRobertD


“My motivating force: I know I will die, but I do not know how long I will live.” @TheRobertD


“I must govern the clock, not be governed by it.” –Golda Meir


“No reserves. No retreats. No regrets.” –William Borden

3 Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life

Are You Fully Charged?

Are you at the top of your game?

Have more energy than you need?

Is your work meaningful?

In recent research only 11 percent of people said that they have a great deal of energy. If you want to rev up your engine, read on.

One of my very favorite authors, Tom Rath has a brand new book called Are You Fully Charged?: The 3 Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life. Tom is a researcher at Gallup who studies human behavior. You may know him from any of his five New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers. From How Full Is Your Bucket? to StrengthsFinder 2.0 every one of his books inspires and challenges. We recently discussed what it takes to be fully charged at work and in life.

“The pursuit of meaning, not happiness, is what makes life worthwhile.” –Tom Rath

Maintain a Positive Attitude

You open the book with your own personal health challenge. How do you maintain such a positive attitude and strong work ethic in the face of the unknown?

I have learned it essential to focus on what you can do today that will continue to grow when you are gone. In reality, no one can say with certainty that they will live for a defined period of time. But we all have today to do something that improves the life of another human being.

You don’t even have to do anything that profound today to make a difference for someone else. The things that change people’s lives are usually an accumulation of small acts. If I have one great conversation today, do a little research or writing that contributes to something larger, or read a book to my son, those all add up in the way I think about a day where I am fully charged.


“The things that change people’s lives are usually an accumulation of small acts.” –Tom Rath


Learn the 3 Keys to a Full Charge

Three keys to a Full Charge include meaning, interactions, and energy. Are You Fully Charged?offers practical, easy steps to energize your life and become more effective. At the same time, I don’t think most of us think of our lives in these buckets. How did you develop this approach?

While I have also worked on research and books about life in a more general sense, this one focuses more on the key ingredients of a great day, for yourself and others. So I think of these three elements as little reminders of things I need to try and spend time on within a given day. As I talk about in the book’s prologue, this work has been deeply influenced by recent research suggesting that our daily experience functions very differently from our overall satisfaction with life over decades.


“Doing for others may be the only way to create lasting well-being.” –Tom Rath


Find Purpose in Your Work

FullyChargedYou say to “make work a purpose, not just a place.” What practical steps can company leaders take to make that a reality?

I think it starts by going all the way back to the fundamental compact between a person and an organization. Companies are now pretty good at quantifying the value an employee adds to their bottom line, but very few do a good job of ensuring that each person’s life is better off as a result of joining the organization.

So leaders need to spend more time helping employees to see how their daily efforts are part of something much larger that makes a difference. One way to do this is to help employees hear directly from customers and communities who are benefiting from their daily work. What matters is not just that we make a little meaningful progress each day but that each person also has a chance to see and perceive this through their own lens.


“Make work a purpose, not just a place.” –Tom Rath