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Setting your business up for future success

Setting your business up for future success

By Ryan Gottfredson, author of Success mindsets: Your keys to unlocking greater success in your Life, Work & Leadership. 

In 2013, Microsoft was not primed for future success. For the prior 13 years, their market capitalization and stock price stayed stagnate at around $250 billion and $26, respectively.

This stagnation meant that they were losing ground to their competitor. In fact, many wondered if Microsoft was “dead in the water.”

Since 2014, though, Microsoft has been on a tear, with its market capitalization now at $1.4 trillion, and its stock price at around $175.

Ryan Gottfredson

Ryan Gottfredson

I believe we have to consider Microsoft to be much more primed for future success than in 2013.

What has been the difference?

One thing is obvious: a new CEO. During the early part of 2014, Satya Nadella took the helm at Microsoft.

Since then, Nadella’s focus has been on helping Microsoft develop the characteristics of future success.

What organizational characteristics enable future success?

Let’s start with this question: What characteristics do organizations have that are going to be obsolete 5, 10, 20 years from now possess today that will hinder their future success?

They include being:

  • Traditional
  • Change-resistant
  • Risk-adverse
  • Comfort-seeking
  • Problem-avoiding

What characteristics do organizations have that are going to be highly successful 5, 10, 20 years from now possess today that will help them ensure future success?

They are the opposite. Being:

  • Innovative
  • Change-willing
  • Opportunistic
  • Purpose-seeking
  • Problem-solving

This sets up a continuum as follows:

success-ratesWhere does your organization fall on this continuum?

And more importantly, how can you help your organization develop more of the future-ready characteristics? Let’s consider what Microsoft did.

How did Microsoft become primed for future success?

When Satya Nadella stepped in as CEO of Microsoft, he quickly recognized that Microsoft possessed more of the characteristics that hindered future success than those that enabled future success. This became evident in one of the first meetings he had with his leadership team. In the meeting, a facilitator asked for a volunteer amongst the team, promising whoever volunteered to have an extraordinary personal experience. Nobody was willing to stand up. This led Nadella to wonder: “Why wouldn’t everyone jump up. Wasn’t this a high performing group? Didn’t everyone just say they wanted to do something extraordinary? … The answers were hard to pull out, even though they were just beneath the surface: Fear of being ridiculed, of failing, of not looking like the smartest person in the room, and arrogance. ‘I am too important for these games.’”

In his book, Hit Refresh, Nadella describes Microsoft’s culture as: “Rigid. Each employee had to prove to everyone that he or she knew it all and was the smartest person in the room. Accountability, delivering on time, and hitting the numbers trumped everything. Meetings were formal. Everything had to be planned in perfect detail before the meeting…Hierarchy and pecking order had taken control and spontaneity and creativity had suffered as a result.”

Recognizing these limiting characteristics, Nadella made it his mission to change the culture at Microsoft. In fact, in his book, he continually states that the ‘C’ in CEO stands for curator of the organization’s culture and is the CEO’s most important role.

So, what did Nadella focus on to ensure Microsoft developed the characteristics that enable future success?


Priming your organization for future success

The solution for priming your organization for future success is the same as it was for Microsoft’s.

As we make shifts in our mindsets, we develop the characteristics that enable future success.

Specifically, there are four shifts in mindsets that we need to make:

Fixed mindset to a growth mindset

As an organization shifts from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, it, and the employees within it, will focus less on looking good and more on continually improving the organization’s impact on and value to those it is serving.

Nadella quickly realized that the negative culture at Microsoft was because of a fixed mindset. One way that he helped Microsoft make the shift was by putting the following on all employee ID cards: “Know it all to learn it all.”

Closed mindset to an open mindset

As an organization shifts from a closed mindset to an open mindset, it, and the employees within it, adhere less to tradition and become more willing to embrace innovation and new ideas. Also, this shift necessitates a change from communication and information going from the top down to communication and information coming from the bottom up. Such a change allows for the fostering of psychological safety, which is the #1 factor that drives top performing teams.

Nadella knew that if Microsoft was going to be the spontaneous and creative company that it once was and that it needed to be, there needed to be greater open-mindedness and psychological safety. Thus, Nadella sought to break down structures and polices that prevented empowerment.

Prevention mindset to a promotion mindset

A shift from a prevention mindset to a promotion mindset requires that the organization develop a clearer purpose and destination they are shooting toward. This primes the organization for future success in two ways:

  1. It forces the organization to become less short-sighted and more future-centered
  2. It helps the organization to become less risk adverse and more willing to take the strategic risks that will ensure progress toward the organization’s destination and accomplishment of its purpose.

One of Nadella’s first priorities was to develop and evangelize a new, clear mission statement: “Empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” What a great mission statement! It gets leaders and employees to be forward thinking, causing them to naturally ask the question: “How do we/I do that?”

Inward mindset to an outward mindset

As an organization shifts from an inward mindset to an outward mindset, it, and the employees within it, view employees and customers less as objects or numbers and more as people of value.

To help make this shift, Nadella has emphasized inclusivity, stating “Inclusion happens when…you are showing up, you are being an ally, a mentor, you are really creating, through your everyday actions, a more inclusive environment…that’s the journey we’re on…[its] very, very exciting.” He has even developed a mobile empathy museum.

Is your organization primed for future success?

What mindsets does your organization currently have? Regardless, your organization will develop more of the characteristics of future-readiness if you can promote growth, open, promotion, and outward mindsets.

If you are interested in assessing the mindsets of your organization, consider this free personal mindset assessment.

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