Positive Leadership

Empowering people to achieve more (with Kathleen Hogan)

April 05, 2022 Jean-Philippe Courtois Season 3 Episode 3
Positive Leadership
Empowering people to achieve more (with Kathleen Hogan)
Show Notes Transcript

What do you say when you get a call from Satya Nadella himself, asking you to help him transform a culture?

Luckily for Microsoft, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Kathleen Hogan said yes. 

From that moment on, she became an integral part of the journey that brought a new purpose, growth mindset and manager expectations to the company.

In this episode, JP heads to the Microsoft Redmond campus to speak to Kathleen in-person. Listen now to hear her insights on celebrating failure, the importance of managers, being a working parent and more.

VOICEOVER: This is the Positive Leadership Podcast with Jean-Phillipe Courtois. Jean-Phillipe, JP, Courtois is Microsoft Executive Vice President and President, and the founder of Live for Good. In the Positive Leadership Podcast, he talks to some of the sharpest minds in business and beyond about their approach to leadership.

JEAN-PHILIPPE: As you may know, I’ve been at Microsoft for over 37 years. And I feel actually very lucky, I feel privileged. I get excited and energized to show up every day and to bring my best. And I think a huge part of that is our culture and the way that culture serves our mission as a company to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

So it's my great privilege today to welcome someone who's played a very instrumental role in shaping that culture at Microsoft. It is Microsoft Executive Vice President for Human Resources and Chief People Officer, my fellow SLT member and friend: Kathleen Hogan. 

It’s really great to have you today in person, Kathleen, actually, because the last two years, we've not been too much in person together.

KATHLEEN: Oh, I know. It's so amazing to think we're sitting here together. I never thought this day would come.

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JEAN-PHILIPPE: So I'd love to, to start really discussing more Kathleen, the way you, you you've evolved, actually, because I think some of your early dreams was to become a professor. And now you are CHRO of Microsoft. So how come? And maybe one day… professor again? Or for the first time? 

KATHLEEN: But yeah, when I was at, uh, when I was an undergrad, I thought I would go become a professor and my focus was economics.

And I worked at the National Bureau of Economic Research and I had applied for the Rhodes Scholarship and that was the plan… I will go. And, and, uh, I got down to the final group, but was not the final final. My dad had driven me to the final where you were interviewed. And I was told I wasn't one of the final ones chosen. And I remember coming down the escalator and seeing my dad and just shaking my head, no, and, and having a long ride home with my dad, but a very powerful discussion with my dad. He joked that he was still on the wait list at Penn and for, I think it was medical school. And, um, we shared kind of that moment and you know, that there are many paths to happiness.

JEAN-PHILIPPE: In many ways, I think your dad was a, was a positive leader in the way you brought you some positive energy. You know, after some clearly disappointment, I'm sure at the time, to bounce back.


KATHLEEN: You are right. I hadn't realized it at the time, but it is in those moments, how do you switch your mindset from I failed to  I've learned and I'm going to take this and I'm going to be better as a result of it.

And it, and it is all, you know, your mindset at the time. I didn't really think of it that way, but in retrospect, that was a powerful moment. 

JEAN-PHILIPPE: Those are very powerful moments. And I found that myself in my life, Kathleen, of some of the people… could be your parents, could be friends.. who give you that boost of positive energy, of confidence in yourself to, yeah, find another way to, to, to be happy and, and to, to get, to get to where you want to be. 

Now, I like to talk about another moment in your professional life. One day, one night, you get a call from Satya Nadella, our CEO. And I think that call was unexpected, coming out of the blue.

KATHLEEN: I had just literally started my sabbatical. Literally. I ended work on Friday, I started my sabbatical on Saturday, i had flown into Chicago and my sister, Colleen had picked me up and we were going to, uh, Caroline, my other sister's birthday to surprise her and have a big celebration. 

And so Colleen's in the car driving me. Her daughter, Catherine's in the back. She's watching the Brady Bunch reruns and the phone rings and you can see it’s Satya Nadella. 

JEAN-PHILIPPE: What's going on?

KATHLEEN: And uh, oh, do you mind if I take this? And so of course Colleen’s like, no, no, take it. And, but meanwhile, she's telling Catherine, shh! Catherine doesn't care, she's watching the Brady Bunch.

But, and I'll never forget what Satya said. He said, uh, will you help me? So you talk about, putting you in that right mindset too. You know, will you help me? Will you partner with me? Um, uh, I'd love to see if you'd be interested in taking on this role.

So that that's how they, the ask came. And, uh, of course, uh, I said… Well, maybe it's not, of course. I did say yes. And partly why I said yes, is that I had, as you said, I was running services. People are your business. You know, when you've got, when you're consulting, it's your IP, it's your ability to attract, develop and retain exceptional talent. That is what you're selling. 

And so I thought in my role as services, I knew how important people were. I knew how important that partnership with HR was. 

And I had had experiences where I thought, gee, we could do better on the culture. We could be less know-it0all and more learn at all. We could be less individual and more one Microsoft. Right. We could, um…

JEAN-PHILIPPE: And did you discuss some of that with Satya in this very first call? No I guess, in the…

KATHLEEN: I don’t know… we had talked about it before, right? The reality is Satya and I… I was running services. Satya was running STB. Or Server and Tools Business, for the audience. And so I was trying to implement the products he was building. And so we would have these quarterly discussions and so Satya and I in that context had really talked about aspirations for our culture and, and aspirations for our people in terms of lots of different styles for thriving, lots of different diversity of perspectives and ways of being, being able to bring you’re a-game.

So we had talked about that, but not during that Brady Bunch call.

JEAN-PHILIPPE: Not in the context of taking that job!

KATHLEEN: No no, but after that, when we talked for several months before, uh, cause I, in theory was on, uh, on sabbatical for two months. Then during those two months, we talked a lot about culture and aspirations and what we both aspired. 

JEAN-PHILIPPE: So let’s build on that dialogue Kathleen, because, uh, I recall that it was a nine-month period where basically you’ve been really working hard with Satya, the senior leadership team on defining, evolving our ‘Aspire To’ culture, as you said. And not just some words, but where, what are we aspiring to achieve. You drove the process with Satya and others. Can you tell us more about the way you did that? Because you know, many of our customers, many people we have been engaging with for many years, always asking you about how? It's not about what we get to do, how you did that and how do you feel, and what were the biggest challenges for you, personally, driving that process? 

KATHLEEN: One of the things I knew for sure, uh, is that I definitely couldn't do this alone. So I think part of the goal for me was to do this as, as part of a team and, and never presuming that I could do it on, on my own. But, um, if I think about that nine-month period, I think at a high level, first it started with… I have to give Satya credit. I think Satya knew that culture was a first class opportunity for us to focus on. And so I think he had that True North even before I joined. 

So it, it starts with a CEO, I think, who really wants this, versus outsourcing this to HR or somebody else. Then it was really about activating the SLT. We had a infamous SLT meeting where we sat in couches, didn't have our computers and really talked about our purpose. You know, at the end of the, at the end of the day, when you meet your maker…

JEAN-PHILIPPE: Your personal missions. 

KATHLEEN: Yeah. What, what… And then, and people talked about Catholicism and Confucius and other different things that you know, shape their value, shape their sense of purpose, their meaning. 

And then we started to talk about, could we marry that with the mission of the company and if, and if they could be aligned, wouldn't that be really powerful? 

We were doing tons of focus groups. We were doing focus groups and looking at it from different dimensions. Men, women, millennial non-millennial. US, non-US. We wanted to make sure. Sales, engineering, what is something that would appeal to everybody?

We invested nine months, really thinking hard about what is the Aspire To culture. It wasn't something that we just came up with overnight. It wasn't just based on Satya’s vision. It was a pretty extensive process before we ultimately said we going to ground our culture in a growth mindset. 

JEAN-PHILIPPE: I also recall an SLT offsite we had where you invited Brené Brown.


JEAN-PHILIPPE: And you know, many, many of our listeners have certainly read or watched or listened to Brené Brown. You know, and she says something that really stuck with me. She said, ‘When we have the courage to walk into our story and own it, we get to write the ending’.

And to me, that's really something that, that is so true. And so, so strong. 

And Kathleen in your case, clearly, you've been owning your own story, in the best times and the worst times of your life. And you've been modeling that from the top, uh, being, vulnerable, brave, open, uh, and with the biggest challenges of your life. So having two times, breast cancer. 

So how do you find the energy within yourself, and from outside in as well, to fight, win and fight those two moments in your life? And open up, you know, and give us the vital force, probably to fight with many others.


KATHLEEN: I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, which seems a long time ago. And yet it doesn't seem like a long time ago. And then again, in 2020.

And if I think back in 2007, when you say what gave me my energy? Uh, my son at the time was four years old. So really as a mother, you know, the energy to be there for your son and to say hey…

I remember the first time I was in the, uh, I had to do an MRI as part of that and I'm claustrophobic. And, um, but in my mind, I'm picturing my son swimming, right. He'd been at a swim class and he's learning to swim. And so you just, you have those images in your mind. And just, um, that's where the, for me, the energy came from. Certainly wanting to be there for my son. So. You know, the, the power of the love of a mother for their child is I think is, is huge.

So I'd lead with that. If I zoom out, though, in terms of being able to share my story more broadly… it was interesting.

As you were talking about the last question, what was coming to mind is, uh, how much I've watched you evolve, as you were saying, sharing how you had talked to your leadership team about purpose.

And, you know, thinking about when I first met you and how I viewed you, right? 

JEAN-PHILIPPE: The mid-year review theatre.

KATHLEEN: The mid-year review theatre! Very, uh… I wouldn't have seen as much of the humanity, as much of the connection. And yet watching you evolve as a leader, right, and really lean into your own humanity and sharing your story on many dimensions and how powerful that has been.

Even when we did the, uh, coaching. We can talk about that. But for the audience that we did, when we were doing this coaching of managers, Jean-Philippe actually was willing to be coached on stage. 

JEAN-PHILIPPE: That was a great moment, yes. 

KATHLEEN: It was a huge moment. It was such a powerful moment. And people still talk about that. And so I think for me, it's watching people like you and others share their story… has empowered me to share my story.

I remember somebody had shared that she had gone through breast cancer and was very open about it. And I called her the minute I was diagnosed. And the fact that she had shared her story, allowed me. And I say, she, she helped save my life, helped me have a mindset that I wouldn't have had.

Because she went through it and she said, hey, don't think that you just have to quit your job. I know you want to be there for your son, carpe, diem, all of that. But work might actually help you be in the right mindset. So don't think, and she just, she, she was incredibly helpful and I've looked at our 180,000 people at Microsoft sharing different stories, different struggles, right? Cancer is just one of many struggles people have in their life.

And having those connections as part of the Microsoft family, I think makes a huge difference. 

JEAN-PHILIPPE: Thank you so much for sharing that, Kathleen. You and I again, many years back, discussed briefly a book, a very famoust book that many people may have read… The Last Lecture from Randy Pausch.

KATHLEEN: Yes, of course.

JEAN-PHILIPPE: A very moving book, a very, uh, very, enlightening. He's a professor at Carnegie Mellon, where he'd been diagnosed with terminal cancer and he's delivering his last lecture to his students. And the title, the theme of the lecture was really achieving your childhood dreams, which was an amazing celebration of life. And he ends the story sharing his own dreams for his children.

And he wrote: 1I want my kids to know that my memories of them fill my head. I want them to develop a joyful life, and a great urge to follow their own dreams. And I want them to become what they want to become. So may I ask you, what are your dreams for James, your son? 


JEAN-PHILIPPE: I know it's, it's a tough and also emotional question for a mom.

KATHLEEN: Yes, and on some level it's pretty simple. And back to the, I want them to develop what they want or whatever you said, follow their dreams. And I think that's been something. Has been really important to me is to not project your own path or what you enjoy, but really cultivating what gives them joy. What do they love to do?

Uh, so in terms of my dreams for James, besides being healthy and having peace in the world… Uh, it comes down to having people that he loves and that love him back, right. And family and friends and, and love, right. That's it. And then a deep meaning in his work, whatever it is. Whatever that is, uh, you know, deep meaning and a sense that he's making a difference for others and to be here…

He's 19 turning 20. I feel such gratitude to be able to, to, to be here. 

JEAN-PHILIPPE: Of course. Well, Kathleen, certainly we, you know, we, we’ve both experienced with many other people across the company, in a way, that being authentic opened a lot of doors, opened a lot of doors.

It certainly has been helping me as well, you know, to open my mind, to learn as well for, uh, from others and to develop that growth mindset that we started talking about. So, you know, clearly you, you mentioned already of course the work of Carol Dweck, Dr. Carol Dweck, has done with the book, um, and she visited us at Microsoft. 

You had a chance to ask her, Carole Dweck. So I’d like you really to reflect on that, reflect a bit more about the deep learnings about that work and the way you try to translate that into the culture of Microsoft, at scale. 

KATHLEEN: Well, it started with, if we go back to when Satya and I first started talking, he was reading Mindset by Dr. Dweck and he was reading it – I got to give credit to Anu, his wife, who suggested that they think about that in their, with their kids. And, uh, so I started reading it and tried to coach James on the fixed mindset versus the growth mindset, watching his soccer coaches who had a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset, trying to move him to coaches that I thought had a growth mindset.

But really thinking, wow, could that be a powerful concept that could be applied within business? Because I think it started more in schools, et cetera. And so we first had that discussion with Dr. Dweck and she said, absolutely. And here are all the reasons why I think this would be very applicable. 

It starts with you. And it's something you work on every day, every day you're saying, when am I showing up to this with a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset.

But I'll tell you the one thing that I think she really helped us with, uh, from a very tactical perspective, is once we decided to ground our culture in a growth mindset, then a lot of the discussion was how can you have a growth mindset as a manager and hold people accountable?

Can you hold those two things? Cause if it's, if it's okay to fail?

JEAN-PHILIPPE: Is it realistic or not? Can you still be a manager?

KATHLEEN: How do you hold those two at the same time? And I thought she gave such great advice, which is of course… And it does come down to what you reward, what do you celebrate. If somebody takes risk and is successful, of course you want to celebrate that. That's what we want to do.

But if somebody takes a risk, a good risk, fails, but gets you closer to the goalpost because you've learned… let's celebrate that too, versus the person who plays it safe. Yeah. And then of course on the other end of the spectrum is the person who's always taking bad risks. And isn't sharing and, and just, uh, you know, of course that's a different, uh, you know, discussion.

But she really helped us think about how do we coach our managers, in terms of who do you reward and really how to start talking more about failures that got us closer and not just successes. To really try to get people to feel that it was okay to try.

JEAN-PHILIPPE: No, it's so true. I mean, the comment you made to Kathleen, and particularly when it comes to landing a growth mindset culture at a company as large Microsoft, and that dilemma for many people, particularly managers, to think about ‘perform or transform’. 


JEAN-PHILIPPE: That reminded you?

KATHLEEN: Yes! Oh my god! Absolutely. I remember that.

JEAN-PHILIPPE: That was actually a theme we had across the sales organization.

KATHLEEN: Yes. Perform or transform. And you do both. 

JEAN-PHILIPPE: Yeah. At the time, honestly, as I started that kind of transformation journey with the entire organization. Exactly as you said, he said that if I wanted to get that balance right, I need first to transform myself. There was this wonderful quote from Tolstoy, I’ve been using so much, so many, so many times which, you know, said, ‘Everyone wants to transform the world, but no one wants to transform himself’.

And so this is why, I started. I just started to do a few of the things I mentioned here and in other podcasts. Being a lot more vulnerable, open, authentic. Sharing, much more about my, my own past, my own purpose. Having a lot more, uh, I would say deep, deep, deep listening empathy with people and giving the space and opportunity for others to truly speak up, creating a lot more, in a way, confidence for everyone to, to bring his best by showing up fully the right culture so that people can really come together. 

And so anyway, it's been a wonderful, uh, moment to see the way we have been able, and still need to keep it active, that growth mindset muscle as a company. 

KATHLEEN: No, uh, I met with Frances Frei yesterday, who said, you know, leadership is not about you, right? It's about focusing on others. But it is about you as it relates to whatever you're asserting, whatever… It starts with you transforming.

And I do remember one of the things that I think was so powerful too, from Satya all the way down, is saying you as the leader have to role model whatever it is you're talking about. If you're talking about transformation, you better role model that you're willing to transform. If you're willing talking about growth mindset, then you know, the first time you fail, you better own it and come out. And all of that makes a huge difference. 

JEAN-PHILIPPE: So another attribute of our culture, Kathleen, is the way we are embracing diversity and inclusion as a company. And of course, as a single mom, you've been obviously modeling what it takes for female talents, uh, to talk about the female aspect of diversity… whatever it is their job, to manage what you have called I think the ‘invest and harvest’ moments of your professional lives.

And you made it clear that having an A grade as a mom is the top priority. So, uh, you know, as our Chief People Officer, how do you see Microsoft evolving to be able to attract and retain young female talents at a time where our youth is not much actually aspiring to have the careers we have got. Kathleen, your 19 years of Microsoft, plus 20, my 37 years. 

I can tell you they don't want to replicate that. What they want, they want to have a positive impact in their lives, whatever it takes.

And so what is the way you are enabling that? So that we capture the minds and the hearts of that young generation? 

KATHLEEN: Well, and I think back to the 19 years or 37 years, I think that we also, with our growth mindset have said, Hey, that's great. If somebody can come and have a career at Microsoft and wants to stay, that's great. And part of the value proposition of Microsoft is, you know, just given the breadth of our business and the global reach, you really can reinvent your career and stay and really be challenged… for 37 years apparently!

Um, but also you can come and get great development and it's also okay if then you use that platform to do something else, versus perhaps... 

I remember when I left Oracle and my dad, that generation, said what on earth are you doing? You have a job. It's great. Why would you, why would you change? And so I think, you know, that, that's the first thing.

I mean, back to the ‘invest and harvest’ and getting an A as a mom, I do think it starts with being super clear on your priorities. And I always say work will fill the capacity you give it. 


KATHLEEN: And be super clear at the end of the day what really, really matters. Because you can make decisions every day that you're not even conscious about, but, but, uh, accumulates to you've really prioritized work versus, you know, making your kid's soccer game, making sure you're there for homework, you know, planning the birthday party. 

All the things that to me are important, because as you said, at the end of the day, I want to get an A as a mom. I'd love to get an A at my job too. But if I had to pick, I want to get an A as an mom.

And being super clear on that, I think helps. Um, and then the invest and harvest is recognizing, uh, take a long-term view of your career.

All right. There were times in my career where it was going up, but the slope wasn't as steep and I was intentional about that. You know, I was, you know, when I was at McKinsey and I was traveling a lot and it was time to start a family, I said, I will take certain clients, but they have to be in town. And I'm okay if my career isn't on the fast path, right.

When I went through cancer, I said, I could still do my job, but maybe I wasn't taking on stretch assignments or anything else. And that was okay. I was investing. I was leveraging a lot of what I had… a lot of social capital, if you will, that I had. And so I try to tell people, take a long-term view of your career.

When you can invest, invest. When you need to harvest, harvest, and take that long-term view.

JEAN-PHILIPPE: I think it's so true what you said, Kathleen, and having all those additional new energizing role models in the company is going to help that younger female generation joining the ranks of the company. If you see that it’s possible. 

So let let's shift gears, Kathleen, and I mean talk about some pretty incredible, uh, moments that we are all living over the past years.

When you think about George Floyd’s death in May 2020, the capital attack in January 2021, the pandemic over the past years. And now the war in Ukraine, at the core of Europe. I mean, it's just unbelievable what humanity is going through right now. And all those events evolve our people too, because Microsoft is a global company that is empowering people everywhere on the planet.

And, uh, clearly you are at the core, at the center of that global company, with over 200,000 people in more than 200 countries. I think, as you said, culture needs to be the microcosm of the world. The question is, how does a global company and Microsoft keep raising the bar, you know, within our company? But also outside the company, with our partners, our suppliers or the entire ecosystem we have as a company, to make the bread of our city flourish in everything we do with our social agenda. I know it's a big one. 

KATHLEEN: I think there's so many different topics in there. If you just take addressing racial injustice as one of the things that you mentioned, uh, over the last two years. Um, I think one of the things we've really focused on is number one, you really have to be committed, whatever the cause, whatever you're focused on, it cannot be performative.

Right. And so, uh, that's almost worse or maybe it is worse, right? Performative, you say something and then you really do nothing. 

I think we also recognize that it's not just enough to have diversity inclusion within Microsoft, we must do much more. Right. But it has to start with that. You don't get permission to just start to do other things if you know, physician heal thyself.

And so, as you know, but just to answer the question, I think what we've really tried to do is start with ourselves. What are we doing to be more diverse? What are we doing to be more inclusive? And as you know, I could spend an hour on the agenda that we've been on to pull many, many levers. Because there's not a sense, you know, there's no one lever here and we've been trying to do lots of things to move the dial. And I feel like we've moved the dial, but we're not done. 

But then it's also saying, wow, what's our responsibility beyond, you know, our FTE, our ecosystem, our partners, everybody that we work with. And we've done a lot of work under Amy Hood's leadership and the company's leadership to really focus on that.

And then that last thing, which is, uh, with, you know, Brad obviously has spearheaded, is really focused on what can we do from a policy perspective? What can we do in terms of influencing, leveraging that side? And so I think what, uh, I think what we've come to realize is it's not a quote, “HR thing”. Yeah. 

That first pillar is a company thing to drive diversity and inclusion.But beyond that, if you really think about how the SLT, we we've got multiple pillars against all of these areas that we're really focused on, to try to make a difference. 

JEAN-PHILIPPE: Yeah, I think it’s been really fulfilling in a way to see the way we, I mean, as, as a company we've been learning and discovering, step-by-step the power of diversity in terms of opening your minds. Opening our minds.

I mean, to me, it connects always back to the growth mindset. Because if you really want to be a learn-it-all, you better learn it all from very different perspectives around yourself. And not just, you know, just learn from the same folks you've been working with all of your lives and the same people who resemble you. 

So, Kathleen, I wanted to enter, kind of, the last section of our dialogue. 


JEAN-PHILIPPE: We're going to talk about management, we're going to talk about Positive Leadership and… you know, I think, uh, I've been inspired by someone that we invited actually in one of our CEO Summits in the company. And I’ve read his books as well… I'm sure you did as well. Clayton Christensen. 

And he said once, ‘the noblest profession in the world is to be a manager’. 


JEAN-PHILIPPE: He said that, yes.

KATHLEEN: I should have remembered that. 

JEAN-PHILIPPE: Yeah. I picked that out because I found that actually quite inspiring. And so can you tell us why managers are so important in a large hyperscale company like Microsoft? I would say actually for any company, whatever the size is, the same would apply. And what are the Manager Expectations we do have as a company.

And I'm sure that for some of our regular listeners the principles may be familiar to you. So please…  

KATHLEEN: So interesting, before COVID and all the different things that you mentioned… We, as you know, because you were part of the team. 

So just for the listeners, it was you and Amy Hood, our CFO, and Jason from Azure and Chris, our CMO, and myself had really focused on what is the role of the manager.


And at the time, the reason we did that is we knew how critical…we have 18,000 managers at Microsoft… they were to unlocking and helping the 180,000 folks realize their potential. You can also say that a lot of times people say they leave because of their manager. I like to say they stay because of their manager.

Um, and so we had done the work and, uh, just for the listeners too, I don't know if you remember… The first time we presented, or at least I got to present, and one of our colleagues said this is not very inspiring work. And in retrospect, it really wasn't that inspiring work. We went back to the drawing board and this is when we came out with the essence of Model-Coach-Care.


KATHLEEN: And I always love to tell that story though, because if you're a colleague who is willing… that obligation to dissent… in the spirit of making things better. It did make us better. I'm glad that you know, our colleague didn't say, hey, this is great work and roll it out. But, uh, I think it was important before, but if you just look at the last couple of years, the role of the manager to role model…

You think about hybrid and going, and really, if you, as the manager are not role modeling hybrid, but you're telling your team they can have hybrid. It just doesn't compose. 

If you think about all of the prioritization that folks needed over the last two years, how do I get it all done with everything coming at them… That coach, and that ability to really coach… not inspect, but coach, help was so critical.

And then of course that last dimension of care, which I was so glad we put it in. It was the last thing. I love that. And I remember saying no, care doesn't mean you're somebody's best friend. You don't have to go out to dinner with them. But it does mean caring about them as a human being and helping them navigate so that they can do their best work at Microsoft.

And you think about our managers, helping people navigate kids at home, mix shifting their work, having to take time off because a family member had COVID or worse. Um, the role of the manager caring, I think, has been so, so powerful for us. 

JEAN-PHILIPPE: So building on that, you know, how do you see the way we are actually really embodying our values and our leadership principles together, but how does it look in practice?

Because as we onboard employees at Microsoft… we basically educate them on the Microsoft culture. What we just discussed. We also try to educate managers on this Model, Coach, Care. We also try to tell the leaders that they need to bring some clarity, to drive some energy, positive energy obviously, all the time and to deliver success at the end of the day.

So, oh, does it come all together in the real life? 

KATHLEEN: Well, it's a great question. And I think the key is one of the things we did when we thought about the culture is to make it who you are. It's really embedding it in all of your people processes. It's not just training, although of course, as you said, we've invested a lot in training when you onboard, how do we make sure people are clear on the leadership principles, the manager expectations, et cetera.

We have the three-day off-site programs where people really can go deep. 

But it's not just that, it's the questions you ask when you recruit people. It's the criteria for who gets promoted. Um, it's, it's our talent talks and really what we focus on in our talent talks. So I think part of, part of the journey is changing, uh, all of our people processes as well as what we communicate in, the stories we tell and what we celebrate and, and all of that I think is, uh, you know, again, going back to there's no one silver bullet. Uh, there's multiple things that we're trying to do on that dimension. 

JEAN-PHILIPPE: Yeah. Now moving on to talk about the coaching culture. I mean, you reminded me of course, about this very particular moment in my professional life, where I was on stage with 10,000 managers staring at me and being coached real-time.

KATHLEEN: Yes I was there! I remember that. 

JEAN-PHILIPPE: … By Michael Bungay Stanier, who has become a very good friend of mine.

And I discussed with Michael, actually on this podcast as well, about his coaching philosophy. As you, as you recall, Kathleen, it's very simple. It's actually about three words: being curious, being curious, being curious again and again.

KATHLEEN: Curious. Yes. 

JEAN-PHILIPPE: Being lazy and being often. Being lazy in the sense of course of not just try to solve and rescue the other person in your team, because I've done that for so many years, because I know it all!

And so I know that Kathleen has this challenge, this problem. And I just tell Kathleen, please do that. Do that!

KATHLEEN: Please just tell me! Give me the fish. And I can eat today.

JEAN-PHILIPPE: Exactly. You know, and I've learned the hard way, certainly, that you know, you are not growing your people’s capacity and capability to do that. You are not really bringing the best of people. Who have the potential, all of them have and deserve and earn the permission to show their potential in action.

And so that, that laziness really is all about listening probably for 70, 80% of the time, as opposed to talking, talking, talking, because you're the boss or the manager. And that is really about providing that confidence of course, and asking some questions, who are deeper and who are really going to really bring up the very best of the person, in terms of finding the right solution.

So anyway, I keep practicing that because that's not easy. And lazy and often, in the sense, of course, of practicing that real time. 

It's not about being a coach all the time, because it's one of the tool set you have. But it's really about doing that at a moment that matters the most for the people. 

It could be a five minutes coaching session, real-time, after something happened, a customer meeting or an event happened. Good or bad, but really bring the right questions and levels of energy out of this moment.

KATHLEEN: I think it’s so important. And the, the laziness part is also the being open to that awkward silence. For then it to happen, because to your point often I feel that I should come to the HR leadership team or when we're meeting with a certain employee resource group and have the answers.

But if you're quiet and you ask for input and you wait, then all of a sudden you're going to get a lot of feedback. If you create that psychological safety for people to give you that input and that you listen, versus just tell.

JEAN-PHILIPPE: More than agree with you, in terms of the richness of what you get, if you do that actually.


Now moving on again of course, talking about caring, clearly there's been a, there's been a lot going on. A lot of learning and practicing during the pandemic and actually even beyond the pandemic right now. Uh, and, uh, you know, can you tell us the way you've seen some of those best practices in towns of caring, coaching, modelling coming together. And what has inspired you, in terms of some of the best behaviors you've seen?

KATHLEEN: You probably remember the day where we were trying to figure out, you know, how do we continue to progress on our journey? And, uh, I said in the SLT, we had done the ‘hey check in’. 

And I said, I'm going to come back on Monday. So nobody think I'm going to quit. But today, right today, teaching math sounds really good. And usually I'm pretty positive in terms of Positive Leadership. And so I think I, uh, people were like ‘whoa’.

And I remember Satya calling me, we usually sync in person, but he was… he called me and I could tell he was in his car about to leave. And he said, Hey, I just want to con… are you still in the office?

For some reason, he thought I had left. I said, no, no, I'm still in the office. And he said, oh, I'll come up. I said, no, no, I'm fine. I honestly said that just because it was a tough week, but I'm fine. 

Hung up the phone five minutes later, he had, he was in my office. 

JEAN-PHILIPPE: He was there.

KATHLEEN: And he clearly had turned around, parked the car and it was important for him to just come up, spend 10 minutes, talk about… Zoom out, you know, at the end of the day, let's see, you know, what is our purpose and the progress that we can make. And, uh, and those moments matter. 

Those moments matter so much, Kathleen, and clearly something that has come up very often in my podcast conversations about Positive Leadership.

And we, we mentioned of course, many examples, but I had a great dialogue was Barbara Fredrickson. Uh, you know, she, she wrote a couple of books. But particularly one where she defined, or she redefined, love in the book called Love 2.0. 

And she's putting aside the conventional take on love, you know, coming from your family or spouse, partner or soulmate, which of course is, is a well understood definition of love. Nut she's also describing love as a micro moment of warmth and connection that you share with another living being actually. 

And the more experiences, the more you open up, and you grow, becoming wiser, more in tune, and more resilient, effective, happier, and healthier, including with foreigners that you may bump to into the streets. 

What is, what, what have been those micro moments of love, maybe, or one or two, you'd like to share with us, almost as a conclusion Kathleen? That gives you some… that gave you so much positive energy, and it continues…helps you to continue to grow your positive mindset.

KATHLEEN: You know, honestly, being with you, Jean-Philippe today is micro-moments of love. And having the shared history together and having been through all of these moments together, work moments, life moments, you know, we've been on this journey. And so getting to see you in person today, to actually see you, I think you're great at doing a podcast. It's not easy. I'm trying to make sure I'm answering the questions, but I'm like, wow. Keeping up as a podcast. 

So this is a moment. Um, and if I were to just say, gosh, thinking this last week, we, as you know, we had our board meeting and, um, it can be small moments. I remember sitting down at the board. And in between myself and Amy Hood… Amy Hood is our CFO. We’re the two female leaders on the SLT and we both had to present and we just sat down and before the meeting stopped, she looked at me and she just put her hand out, we did a fist bump, right. And that's a micro moment of like, I get it, right? We're, we're in it together. Uh, we're getting through this week and, um, you know, those can be those micro-moments too. 

JEAN-PHILIPPE: I love those moments. Uh, Kathleen, I will tell you and to all the listeners… I love working with you for so many years as well, being partner, uh, for the best… For bringing the best of our people, our teams and our company. And I’ve tremendously enjoyed our conversation. I was delighted to have you on this podcast, Kathleen, and a huge and warm thank you, from the bottom on my heart, for your friendship and for everything you do. 

KATHLEEN: It's my honor, my privilege. Thank you for inviting me, Jean-Philippe.

Jean-Philippe, JP, Courtois is Microsoft Executive Vice President and President, and the founder of Live For Good. To hear more inspiring conversations with innovative global leaders, subscribe now, wherever you get your podcasts, to the Positive Leadership Podcast with Jean-Phillipe Courtois