Growth Mindset and Coaching Culture at Microsoft

How Microsoft shifted from “Know it all to learn it all.”

“Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast!”

Popular quote attributed often to Peter Drucker (see Quote investigator)

There is a direct correlation between a company’s cultural health and its business performance according to a report by Institute of Corporate Productivity (i4cp)

Coaching Culture and Growth Mindset are two big topics, here we’ll focus on one company that transformed its culture with both, Microsoft.

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When Nadella took the reins, in 2014, he was only the third chief executive in the company’s four-decade history. During the 14-year tenure of his predecessor, Steve Ballmer, revenue had tripled and profits had doubled, however the company was losing momentum. A culture of inspection and judgment prevailed.

Since Satya Nadella took the helm in 2014 as CEO, Microsoft has been through great changes. “Our ability to change our culture is the leading indicator of our future success,” Satya told shareholders in 2015

The organisation was leading away from an “inspection culture” towards a culture of learning and coaching.

No one leader, no one group, and no one CEO would be the hero of Microsoft’s renewal. If there was to be a renewal, it would take all of us and all parts of each of us. Cultural transformation would be slow and trying before it would be rewarding.” Satya Nadella, in his book “Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone”

Microsoft’s stock price is five times higher than when Satya Nadella became, and its market capitalisation has passed a trillion dollars.

Microsoft realised that their 18,000 managers represent the make-or-break point for any cultural shift. As go the Mindsets of the managers, so go the Mindsets of the 148,000+ employees around the world.

Starting from over 80 behavioural traits, Microsoft Senior Leadership Team narrowed down to 3 behaviours that every leader must demonstrate: model – be a role model and lead by example, coach – slow down on advise giving and stay curious a little bit longer, and care – do really care about colleagues around you.Microsoft is applying a new management framework: Model Coach Care

Each element of the framework – Model, Coach, Care – relates to Microsoft’s overall emphasis on the growth mindset. Inspired by Stanford professor Carol Dweck’s research on growth mindset.  

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Coaching at Microsoft is about defining team objectives and helping the team adapt and learn. Managers create a space where employees can learn from their mistakes, and emphasise their potential to grow and learn.

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This example of how Microsoft is transforming its culture with coaching and a growth mindset, can inspire a cultural transformation in many organisations.

Relevant articles about the coaching culture change at Microsoft:

How Microsoft “Renovated” Its Culture by Following These 3 Steps , great video at the end of this article

Microsoft is rolling out a new management framework to its leaders. It centers around a psychological insight called growth mindset.

The Leader as Coach

Satya Nadella’s book “Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone”

Microsoft’s Chief People Officer: What I’ve Learned About Leading Culture Change

About Growth Mindset:

Carol Dweck – Ted Talk

Carol Dweck book – Mindset

How Microsoft uses a Growth Mindset to Develop Leaders

André Ribeiro is an executive coach, mentor coach and team coach. Master Certified Coach by the International Coach Federation and Senior Practitioner by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council.