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The pandemic has allowed CEOs and employees to see each other's vulnerabilities, analyst says

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  • MSFT

Potential Project Partner Jacqueline Carter joins Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous to discuss how Microsoft is building a sense of community among employees and creating a healthy work environment.

Video Transcript

- As companies become increasingly global and remote during the pandemic, leaders are scrambling to find ways to build a sense of community and a purpose for their employees. Here to talk about ways they can do that is Jacqueline Carter. She is partner at the consulting firm Potential Project, also co-author of the forthcoming book "Compassionate Leadership, How to Do Hard Things in a Human Way."

Jacqueline, Thanks so much for being with us today. And I know you point to Microsoft as one of the companies that sort of is getting this right. They have 144,000 employees, yet there is still a sense of community. They are, by the way, Microsoft is the Yahoo Finance company of the year. So they're doing something right. Make your case for why Microsoft is on the right side of this.

JACQUELINE CARTER: Well, thank you so much. And absolutely, it is really inspiring to not only see Microsoft's financial performance, but also what they're doing from a cultural perspective. And when we really look at Satya's leadership and along with Kathleen Hogan, the CHRO, what they've really been able to do, and this is what the new leadership really looks like, is being able to combine a drive for high performance with a drive for high care for employees.

And this is so critical, because this is actually what employees today are looking for. They are looking for our ability as leaders to be able to make sure that we can make the tough decisions, we can drive the results, but at the same time create an environment where we have flexibility, where we feel cared for, where we feel connected and have a sense of belonging.

- And you say part of the strategy is that they take daily pulse checks. Explain that.

JACQUELINE CARTER: Yeah, absolutely. So they do many things. That's one of many things that they do to really be able to tap into how people are doing and how people are feeling. And daily pulse checks is just one of those things to be able to ask just a simple question to all of their employees worldwide and to be able to find out, how are we doing today? And this is a way to be able to not only connect with people, but also to be able to be much more agile in how we can be responsive to humans' needs, so that we're not waiting for an engagement survey that may come halfway through the year, that on a daily basis we can get an idea of, how are people doing, and what might we need to course correct to be able to make a better environment for people in this moment?

- You know, Jacqueline, I'd like to think that people and leaders are always striving to lead with compassion. But how has the pandemic, and hopefully, soon, the post-pandemic world changed leadership and what it means to be a leader inside an organization, do you think?

JACQUELINE CARTER: Yeah, absolutely. First I would say that, I think that although I totally agree with you that all leaders have always wanted to be able to care for their people, I don't think any leader wakes up and says, I want to treat my people terribly, and have a terrible day today. But I think that what we know is that oftentimes, it's back to that both-and, is that our drive for results sometimes, as leaders, makes us think that we can't be able to also care for our people. It makes us think that it's a binary choice.

And that's really one of the things that I think is so inspiring in terms of today's leadership, is we recognize that these can be a both-end. And specifically, I think what the pandemic has taught us, which has been an amazing, amazing thing, is it's taught us the power of vulnerability. You know, so many of us have seen our leaders at their homes, with their kids running around, maybe with pants on, maybe with pants off, and it's enabled us to be able to see not only our leaders, but also our employees as whole human beings.

And it's enabled us to be vulnerable. We've all faced challenges over these past two years, and I think that that's the core unlock, that when we can see each other as whole human beings, it enables us to bring our best selves to work. We're more innovative. We have a bigger mindset. We can be more focused on growth.

We can let go of the fears that usually hold us back when we walk into corporate environments where we feel stifled, or we feel judged. And that's really, I think, that vulnerability that I really hope that leaders and organizations continue to leverage off of. Because it's been such a challenging thing with the pandemic, but also one thing that's really changed, hopefully, leadership going forward.

- And what do you think is unique about Satya Nadella? Because not everyone is a born leader, but he seems to have found just the right finesse to make it work and work well.

JACQUELINE CARTER: Absolutely. I think one is, he's humble. And I think the other thing is, he's really committed to being able to support the development of people. He has two things that have been the cornerstone of his leadership, which is one, around a growth mindset. And although a growth mindset can sound like, everybody wants a growth mindset, the underpinnings of a growth mindset mean that you do have to be OK with being wrong. You have to be willing to let go of things that you held tightly to. And that's really what has enabled Microsoft to be able to let go of things that didn't work well for them in the past and enable them to be the innovative giant that they are today.

The second cornerstone of Satya's leadership that has been foundational is his focus on empathy. And that is really this unique ability that we all have as human beings to be able to see each other, and feel each other, and connect with each other. And Satya has really brought that into the culture of Microsoft, not only as a founding philosophy, but as Microsoft should, also from a technology perspective.

So using technology within Microsoft to look at things like, how can artificial intelligence help us to understand more about our colleagues? How can we use behavioral nudges to be able to, as leaders, have a little reminder that says, Jacqueline, have you checked in with your colleagues today? So that's really been the foundation, I think, for Satya's success.

- All right, we're going to leave it there. Jacqueline Carter, partner at Potential Project. Thanks for being with us.