"Improvisation allows you to snowball on those ideas that allow you then to be creative and be open, it really helps you open your mind to everybody's concepts and everybody's ideas. And certainly, within Microsoft, we found that having diverse conversations, and I mean diverse in the full sense of the word - really helps us create better solutions because we hear from the entire community."
In this episode
In episode 31, John Weigelt explains why the largest goal of management should be to get the best out of people, and reminds us that gentle nudges and words of feedback have a lot of power in helping our teammates do their best work.
We also explore strategies that John uses to convince large institutions to adopt new ways of operating and doing business, which is no easy job!
John Weigelt is the National Technology Officer at Microsoft Canada. Working closely with the government, education officials, and health care communities, John plays a key role in implementing Microsoft’s strategic policies and technology efforts across the country.
Prior to this role, John worked for the Department of National Defense and was the Senior Director of Architecture, Standards, and Engineering at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.
John is also a TedX speaker. If you haven’t yet, we recommend watching his talk on Enabling Canada’s Economy Digitally.
Tune in to hear all the value that John shares in this episode!
Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.
A cool, calm and collected manager
Balancing constructive and positive feedback
A partnership built on feedback
Getting the best out of people
Changing people’s minds
Storytelling to create change
Champions help foster change
What innovation and improv have in common
Embrace the audacity of inexperience
Operating from a learning framework
Leadership styles change as organizations change
Plan as a pessimist, act as an optimist
Be patient and listen
- Watch John’s TED Talk on Enabling Canada’s Economy Digitally
- Follow John on Twitter
- Check out Box of Crayons, who helps organizations unleash curiosity and change
Aydin Mirzaee 2:36
John, Welcome to the show.
John Weigelt 2:38
Thanks for having me!
Aydin Mirzaee 3:40
John, there’s a lot of stuff that I wanted to talk to you about. And you’ve had a really interesting background in that it’s been very wide-ranging, you’ve taught in higher education, you’ve worked in government. And now obviously, you’re the National Technology Officer at Microsoft. And you’ve played that role for quite a while, I take it that you like this job?
John Weigelt 2:59
Oh, I absolutely adore my job, I have the best job in the world. I get to wake up in the morning and talk to Canadians about technology. And it’s just something that hopefully my enthusiasm for that comes through in the conversation.
Aydin Mirzaee 3:11
Yeah, no, definitely. So I’m gonna rewind, though before we start talking about your leadership and in the current position, and things you’ve learned, I just want to dial it back and look at you know, when you started your career, and who has been your most memorable or favorable, or maybe the boss that you’ve liked the least or, or someone that you remember the most? And what have you learned from that?
John Weigelt 3:33
Well, you know, I don’t remember my boss when I started on the ice cream bicycle. But I think the first boss I remember was when I was in the military, coming out of school and working in national defense headquarters in individual Pat power, was my boss at the time, and he was so calm and collected. And if you can recall, you know, back when the Gulf War was there, there was a great partnership between industry and government. And sometimes equipment, computers were provided on simply a conversation. And so pot and I were responsible for putting in place the contracts to support all those things. And so his wit, that he had as well made this very pressing type of environment, something that was manageable, he gave me a lot of room and a lot of latitudes. And, you know, when I ever had these records of conversation that noted if department x or organization y gave us a computer to send out to the Gulf, we call it a cheeseburger. So you get these calls he goes, John, I got another cheeseburger for you just really cut through the tension that was there. And I think you know, that stuck with me is that calm, collected nature and the ability to bring humor into the workplace.
Aydin Mirzaee 4:45
Yeah, that’s interesting to take a serious situation like that and turn it into something comical that way. That’s pretty cool.
John Weigelt 4:52
Yeah, it was.
Aydin Mirzaee 4:53
And so if I were to ask you, when did you first start leading a team yourself?
John Weigelt 4:58
It was shortly thereafter. started to lead a team of a small group of individuals for computer security. And that grew out to a larger team of some 35 people around the y2k period, ever-increasing numbers of people, and each requires a little bit of different skill and approaches.
Aydin Mirzaee 5:15
Yeah. And so what did you learn? I guess, during that process? Or what kind of lessons did you learn in managing a team early? And what kind of mistakes did you make back then?
John Weigelt 5:27
Well, I’d love to say that I didn’t make mistakes, but I’ve made quite a few of them. But I think the biggest learning that I had is this idea of better as the enemy of the good, you know, you start and you ask individuals to write a report for you or to do a survey or their study. And then you dive in, and you start to polish the stone. And you know, that can be very, very disheartening. If they keep coming back with redlined information, or they’re feeling that, hey, you know, why is the boss always, you know, kind of critiquing my things. And so really having to learn to let go and say, you know, what, this is that work. And it is, it is great to work, don’t get me wrong, it’s great to work, and then carry it on, you don’t have to put your stamp on anything on everything to show up properly in front of your boss or front of the mission.
Aydin Mirzaee 6:12
Yeah. And curious, how do you balance that in terms of like, making sure that you know, quality is good? Is it? Is it very situational that you know, for some things quality good enough is good? and other places? Perfect? is good?
John Weigelt 6:25
Your indeed correct, it’s very situational. It depends on the particular work item there that you have before you, you know, I get the great opportunity to work with startups and innovators in the hardest challenge that you have is what is the minimum viable product. And so you start with this fantastic idea, run a new two world product or service, and you’ve got all the bells and whistles, but that might take you five years to build out. And you don’t have that resource to be able to do that. So can you scale that back to say today, I’m going to ship this and I know that it’s going to have some rough edges but we’ll get a sense of how we can evolve this and meet the marketplace, it’s kind of an art form to be able to get to that. And sometimes it really just takes some Excel, have some experience learning those lessons and saying, you know what, that was taken too long, or, Hey, that was released too. Early
Aydin Mirzaee 7:11
Startups are kind of something that I’ve been involved in for a long time. And, and I get the sense for like, the minimum viable product that it’s much more about, you don’t have to get all the functionality, but the things that you do decide to focus on making sure to get those really right. So should they’re high quality, but maybe in fewer places, not everything is great, but the things that are the most important, those parts work really well, well. And
John Weigelt 7:36
That’s where those initial customers or initial feedback is so important, right? So you want those initial consumers of your product to be tolerant and to be able to say, look, hey, if only it would do this, or Yeah, we’re okay that we’ve had this hiccup, and they’ll work with you. So it’s really establishing that partnership between you and your team. And then the end consumer.
Aydin Mirzaee 7:57
Yeah, that makes sense. Just talk about those early lessons. I’m curious. So how did it come that you ended up learning that lesson of, you know, trying to basically sound like you might have been doing a little bit of micromanaging back then and making sure that everything was the perfect quality? I guess, like what are the downsides of going about it that way, and trying to make things higher quality? Because, you know, I think of famously, Steve Jobs worrying about every little detail and how chips were laid on, you know, a circuit board and things that people would never see. And like emphasizing quality from that perspective, how did you end up learning the lesson that you did?
John Weigelt 8:36
So it’s a great question. I think it’s all about the people, management, leadership, coaching is all about the people and getting the best out of people getting that feedback or seeing kind of those nonverbal cues from organized for people that come to you maybe snap it pay attention to say, look, you know, hey, this comes back and forth, this goes back and forth. And people aren’t really happy about doing that. And what can happen is you fall into a trap, where people start to give you lower quality work because they say, you know what, forget it, the boss is just going to revise it anyways. And once you start to notice that you say, well, am I getting the best out of my team? And am I making the most out of my work? My work is not to redo the team’s work. My work is to provide them gentle nudges and gentle guidance so that they can perform their best work. Some of those early days when I started to see a steady decline in the reporting or in those things I needed to snap to attention and say, yeah, that’s, that can’t continue on. I’m spending far too much time on this. The team is not happy with me. Let’s find a new way.
Aydin Mirzaee 9:32
Yeah, no, that’s a very interesting way to look at it and it dives into the human psychology of the boss having too much feedback sometimes.
John Weigelt 9:42
Aydin Mirzaee 9:42
I take it that a large part of your role today in what you do as the National Technology Officer at Microsoft. I mean, you obviously mentioned that you talk a lot with startups, but it sounds like you also talk a lot with bigger corporations and governments and you know, a large part of what you do is convince people that they need to change and you know, the status quo isn’t where, you know things should stay. That’s a really hard thing to do to convince people that they need change. I’m curious, what have you learned over the course of time that has made you more successful at convincing people of that?
John Weigelt 10:16
I wish I was even what successful at convincing change, right? In Canada, Deloitte found in the report Canada 175, that Canadian business wants to maintain the status quo? You know, we find ourselves in Canada, having an even bigger challenge to try to get people to adopt new things. So Change is hard, change is something that people try to avoid. It comes down to the people as much as we talk about digital transformation or technology, innovation, it comes down to people wanting to do things differently, people being comfortable with telling people that they need to change doesn’t help. Right. It’s those gentle nudges, you know, giving people nudges and stepping them along the way of telling stories and great storytelling. Before we came on the call, we were talking briefly about the heath brothers made the stick and telling anecdotal stories or things that people can digest is important making things digestible know how can I explain technologies in tactile ways, so to speak, you know, we talk about cloud computing or machine learning. And people often find that, hey, these are difficult concepts to grasp. So can I find a simple anecdote, or a metaphor that helps people understand this a bit a little bit better, and then give them those concrete examples that would help their business and one of the biggest learning things that I do are learning paths that I’m always taking is trying to really fundamentally understand the business. And the business models of those people I speak with, you know, when you look at different coffee vendors in Canada, some are very throughput. So you know, it’s a commodity, it’s quantity, quantity, quantity, some are experienced type coffee vendors. And so understanding the kind of those levers that can help you have a more informed conversation, and then take people along the journey often seen people say, you know, it’s not pushing people to a particular conclusion is, take my hand, let me help you come on this journey with me. And I will share then what could be.
Aydin Mirzaee 12:03
Yeah, it sounds like storytelling is a very, very important part of the process. And you know, I take it like leaders should be good storytellers. And then secondly, is really, really understanding, you know, who you’re talking to and deeply and putting yourself in their shoes.
John Weigelt 12:20
Absolutely. And it’s also, you know, asking yourself the question, what’s in it for them? Right? So as you’re having this conversation, even as a leader, so as a leader, or as a salesperson, or in customers, it’s always so what drives this person? What motivates this person? Is it self fulfillment? Is it financial remuneration? Is it recognition? What are those, those particular things that really jazz somebody about the work that they’re doing or jazz them about the work that they do, and then trying to then position things in a way that fits with what’s in it for them?
Aydin Mirzaee 12:49
Yeah, and I think this is has a lot of transfer learning for not just organizations to change, but departments to change people to change teams to change, understanding them, what’s in it for them is a very important part of the process.
John Weigelt 13:04
It is indeed, another piece of that can also tie into this is to be able to have those champions, those champions that are well regarded within your community. So you might have a team member, that’s a champion, kind of that unspoken leader, or you might have a champion outside in an organization that’s looking for a change. And it’s finding those champions and nurturing them. Because often change can be done far more rapidly, far more efficiently when it’s done outside an organization than when it’s trying to be done inside an organization. And so what I mean by that is we’ve seen in some government departments where they’ve created innovation labs, their innovation centers that are a little bit outside of the normal line of business, they can try out things there, see how they work, build that innovation muscle, and then bring that into the organization. And we’ve seen that be successful at places like Transport Canada, Ontario government. I’ve even seen it at a small restaurant in Regina, where the restaurant owner bought a food truck so that he could innovate with his recipes, without upsetting his normal clientele. And so he was able to innovate, try things out and then fail fast to be able to incorporate those lessons.
Aydin Mirzaee 14:08
Yeah, that’s interesting, because obviously, the organization is all about having a process and continue with the process. And sometimes, that extra tension is probably not worth it. It makes sense to do that elsewhere.
John Weigelt 14:20
I think so. And I think it’s well, it helps them open the horizons of some of the senior leaders within the organization. You know, how many times have we heard about the Kodak company and trying to position a digital camera as the future inside the senior leadership? and senior leadership said, Well, hey, we sell film cameras. And so you know, how do you then be able to have a more informed conversation? Well, perhaps it’s through creating those incubation centers, and then taking those lessons and to be able to land that perhaps more concrete question.
Aydin Mirzaee 14:50
Yeah, I wanted to dig in on this thing that you just mentioned, which is sometimes it makes sense to convince champions or basically build champions within an organization. I think you’re right that when when you get an if you get parachuted into an organization and all of a sudden or a department or a team, and it’s really hard to convince everybody, you know, identifying key people that could convince everybody else, it seems like, you know, the bowling pin analogy, like, if you can get some players to be the champions, maybe they can do the rest of the work for you.
John Weigelt 15:23
I think that’s the champions will understand the organizational culture, they’ll understand the friction that’s there. And they’ll be able to then help you along your journey. One of the lessons that were learned early on in the military, because you get posted around quite a lot, right. So every three years, you tend to get a new job. And I learned this from the senior noncommissioned members. So it was, you know, you come into a new job, first of all, you take the senior noncommissioned member under your wing and you say, Please teach me how this organization works. And you might have some observations very early on, hey, this, this seems to be broken, this seems to be broken, this seems to be broken, they reminded me to write that on a sticky note and put it in your top desk drawer. And at the time, they said, in 90 days, pull out all these sticky notes and say this will work. And I can change this or I can’t change that the pace might have changed a little bit. But I think the lesson there is important is to really grab your bearings, orient yourself and say, okay, so who are my champions? What are those initiatives that I can champion so that I cut a path through the forest instead of trying to cut down all the trees, and then go on that journey? Because I think sometimes what happens is you’ll have strong leaders, strong managers come into new organizations, and they’ll put up their elbows and say, Well, when I was here, and they so and so I did all these things. And that can then backfire on some of the team members, when they say, Well, hey, the new person is here now, just trying to shake things up. And it makes people really, really uneasy. And uneasiness is a destroyer of organizations like that uncertainty of what’s happening is just nastiness. And so if you’re able to provide certainty in the immediate term, and then pick your spots as you move along, that helps that graceful transition, as new leaders come in, or as new initiatives come.
Aydin Mirzaee 16:55
So along those lines and you kind of hinted at it was in saying that organizations, sometimes in order to innovate, they might need to create these labs or the separate places where, where they can innovate, basically, you know, outside the norms and processes of the main organization. I wanted to dig a little bit more into innovation since it’s so much of what you live every day you have this term called improv in the workplace. I’d love for you to explain that to us and why that’s relevant to innovation.
John Weigelt 17:28
Sure, so a good friend of mine, Andrew McMurtry made a go of trying to put improvisational tools. So those things that the comedy network does or comedians do, into the workplace, and improvisational tools are our ability to keep a conversation going and build upon the ideas of others. And so one of the taboo words is no, you don’t say no, it’s Yes. And you build upon that idea. And so you end up in this great environment where you build upon others, others ideas, it’s a very inclusive conversation. So you’re grabbing ideas from everybody around the table. And you’re snowballing and I like to call them fast neuron conversations. And so you’re able to say, Hey, you know, this end, and I can go here and I can go there, and I can go there, we’ve all been at a meeting where an idea is presented, somebody gets up the courage to finally present their idea put themselves out there, then someone says, Nah, that’s just dumb. Well, what happens right now part of the body language, which is just retreat, and you might not hear from them for the rest of the meeting, and no hurt feelings and whatnot, and it might have been a great thing. And so improvisation allows you to snowball on those ideas that allow you then to be creative and be open, it helps you open your mind to everybody’s concepts and everybody’s ideas. And certainly, within Microsoft, we found that having diverse conversations, and I mean diverse in the full sense of the word from different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different religions, religions, different orientations, really helps us create better solutions because we can hear from the entire community. And improv lets you do that it gives you that muscle those tools to be able to do that.
Aydin Mirzaee 19:01
So that makes a lot of sense. And, you know, another way that I’ve also heard that explained is it’s not to say that won’t work because you could instead say that could work if Absolutely, and just find, you know, a way to Yeah, like build on each other’s ideas. I think that makes a lot of sense. One question that I wanted to ask is like, you know, it’s obvious we always talk about it’s hard to get people to change or organizations to change. Part of that is because probably on an individual level, you know when we look at ourselves, it’s also hard for ourselves to change. Are there any tips or tricks or, or things that you would tell people on an individual level to understand that they need to change or get themselves to change and not like keep doing the same things or making decisions in the same way that they always have?
John Weigelt 19:49
Yeah, that’s, you know, change is hard. And if you’re not familiar or comfortable with making changes on a regular basis and reminding yourself to be open to change Then you can get stuck in a rut. And so I think, first of all, it’s the mindset, it’s, you know, getting into that frame of reference in your own mind that, hey, changes continual, and how do I continue to put that change out there, I tried to be bold and vulnerable, put myself out there, put out ideas and try new things. Now, I’ve got the great fortune of, hey, I need to understand the breadth of Microsoft solutions and products. And I also get put in front of audiences, from high school students, all the way up to the CEO of a bank, really, you get there, you have to represent yourself. So there’s a lot of learning that happens along the way. And learning helps you with that change. And then afterward, it’s being self-critical. And seeking that feedback and seeking that input from others and saying, you know, what, how that really goes. And being direct about it. Everybody can say, Well, hey, that presentation you knocked out of the park? Well, yes, great. But how can I approve? You know, where were the wincing moments are? Where did you feel that you know what I lost the audience or that? And so it’s being that that self-critical as well.
Aydin Mirzaee 21:04
Hey there before moving to the next part of the interview, quick interjection to tell you about one of the internet’s best kept secrets, the manager TLDR newsletter. So every two weeks, we read the best content out there, the greatest articles, the advice, the case studies, whatever the latest and greatest is, we summarize it, and we send it to your inbox, we know you don’t have the time to read everything. But because we’re doing the work, we’ll summarize it and send it to your inbox once every two weeks. And the best news, it’s completely free. So go on over to fellow dot app slash newsletter, and sign up today. And with that said, let’s go back to the interview. You know, one thing that, you know, I have to talk to you about, you know, given your role at Microsoft, and also just how often you come up with come across AI and AI in the workplace, and how things are changing towards that end? You know, a lot of the things that I usually hear leaders say is, well, organizations are really hard, because people are really hard, and people aren’t really you can’t manage people. It’s not a science, it’s somewhat of an art. And so I’m just curious, like, if we move forward into the future, say, 510 years into the future, what role do you think AI will have in helping managers manage their teams?
John Weigelt 22:26
That’s a great question. And I think, you know, there’s a lot of misperceptions out there around AI and AI taking over or displacing individuals. And so, you know, AI is going to complement and enhance create human creativity. At the end of the day, leaders want to get the most out of their people. And so I look at the leadership of being something that is very compassionate is very person to person type interaction to understand kind of what makes a person drive tick, and how can I see the best out of the leader almost into a coaching perspective, coaches and leaders a little bit different skill sets, you know, leaders, you know, take my hand, come with me on this journey coach, you know, you have to conduct this play, but I’m going to I know, you, I’m gonna get the most out of you, managers, a little bit different type of skills, right, looking at the metrics that you’re putting out, looking at those scorecards, looking at those types of things. I think AI can complement those score carding, or those metrics, parts that fit into the coaching and the leadership. So for example, being able to recognize that, hey, during your weekly meeting, 90% of your team members are on male, right. And so instead of being interacting and being engaged, they’re doing email, you know, AI can help you with those tools provide a comfortable work environment where your employees don’t feel that big brother’s watching because their anonymized statistics or they’re their generalized statistics, things like that, AI can help with, let’s say, retail shift management meant. So if I have a cadre of 100 employees, and I have to fill in my shifts, AI can help me better manage that or understand what my capacity is. So there are places where AI fits. But it doesn’t take over that human interaction. Again, we are humans, we come into the work environment or social environments, you and I are connecting over this video conference, because, hey, it’s going to help us have that connection, that interaction and so AI can’t replace that.
Aydin Mirzaee 24:18
Yeah, that makes sense, enhancing human creativity, like doing a lot of the number crunching, giving you better data, and then helping you make those decisions.
John Weigelt 24:27
That’s right. And it also helps employees as well. So one of the tools that we have internally is my analytics, my workplace analytics and it tells me you know, how many hours I worked past the nine to five, how many evenings were there? What was my downtime? What was the meeting time? Do I have think time and so it helps me then learn and adjust my work so that I can get the right work-life balance or, you know, just my way of work?
Aydin Mirzaee 24:51
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. JOHN, you have this saying that says embrace the audacity of inexperience. That is it. sure that you actually have this on your wall somewhere
John Weigelt 25:02
I did, when I had a whiteboard in my office I had written on the top of my wall. And it was as a counterpoint towards the curse of knowledge. Right? So So we’ve all encountered, you know, a computer system that is very frustrating to work with, right, maybe it’s a green screen, maybe the application doesn’t work as it’s supposed to. Maybe it’s even something or an organization created. And as old-timers would say, you know, what you’ll get used to it, you’ll figure it out, you’ll figure out the arcane keystrokes and whatnot, the young person might come in and go, you know what, this isn’t good enough, you say, okay, young timer, you’ll learn. The timer says You know what, I’m going to build a new app and fix it. And they’ll come up with something fantastic, that makes life easy. They’ll have the audacity of inexperienced to say, I’m not going to put up with the status quo, I’m just going to go off and do these things, I’m going to call the boss or I’m gonna get this project running or those types of things. And so I see that all the time, as we get new people within our teams, new people with an organization I get to talk to new people, this audacity of inexperienced to me is almost addictive to get these new ideas, these bright new ideas, and then to really try to quash down that status quo that I might have to say, Yeah, yes. And what if we could build out on that way? And so, you know, it’s important to remind ourselves of that on a reoccurring basis.
Aydin Mirzaee 26:15
So taking that growth mindset and the ability to change. One of the things that, you know, I’ve heard you say is that when you approach relationships or meeting new people, you always come from this, this learning framework. So let’s be free to elaborate on you know, what that means? What does it mean to have a learning mindset in working relationships?
John Weigelt 26:37
Yeah, that’s a great question. That’s something that I exercise on a repeated basis. And I remind myself of all this before I go into the sessions is remind myself that look, I have the great fortune of working with some very advanced technologies, and I talk about them all day long. And so for example, cloud computing, we hear about cloud computing, it’s now almost ubiquitous. I’ve been, I got to work for that for 10 years. But the person that I meet, might just have this new exposure to it. And so what can I learn from that person, as I have this conversation, and that names, recognize that I have something to share it, they have something to share? And sometimes people have said to me, John, you’ve gone to this chamber of commerce meeting in this small community, why did you do that? as well, I’ve got a great opportunity to learn from that opportunity. Or if I could talk to high school students, you know, high school students and even elementary students ask the toughest questions. And so you get that unadulterated quest for knowledge. And it helps them you think about things in a different fashion. The last piece as a funny story is I went to the Chamber of Commerce in Whitby, Ontario, invited him to speak about innovation, technology, innovation. And some people would say, well, John, why are you going into Whitby?
Aydin Mirzaee 27:48
Whitby is a small place, right?
John Weigelt 27:53
Yes, It’s a small population, I’m not even sure it’s 100,000. It’s pretty small. But they askwell, John, why did you go in there and I said, Well, I get to hear from small businesses, I get to hear their challenges, I get to hear what is on their minds. And at the same time, I met Ryan Smoklin, the CEO of Smoke’s Poutine and oh, my goodness, the messages that he shared around his journey to becoming a global brand for a Canadian startup, was just tremendous, and to hear his mindset in that. So you know, going into these, these opportunities, the learning mindset, might give you that serendipitous collision of ideas, and I found on a repeated basis, if I can do that, then that enlightens the conversations, enlightens the stories, and that helps me then position where I do my learning.
Aydin Mirzaee 28:35
You know, I think that makes a lot of sense, in the way that you’re describing it and in your role, but I also think within organizations just having those sorts of conversations talking with, you know, all employees, not just your immediate team, that can provide a lot of value in and like you said, the collisions, a chance happenings, a lot of those sorts of conversations, you don’t know what they can lead to. But also, if you don’t do it, you might be out of touch with reality.
John Weigelt 29:02
Absolutely, absolutely. I found that today’s new employees are much more amenable to having those conversations. So they’re not shy to say, hey, I want to talk with the President, I want to talk with this person, I want to get a sense of what’s on their minds. There, they’re bold and brash. And that’s a really, really cool thing is to take that opportunity to share your thinking and then for leaders to make sure you have that opportunity as well. I know that when I first joined Microsoft, Frank Clegg, who was the president at the time, you know, came in and set some time up with me and had a conversation said What’s on your mind? How’s it going? Like all those types of things that really demonstrate that strong leadership ship along with the management skills?
Aydin Mirzaee 29:38
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Even John has to ask you because of you know, obviously you worked with, you know, at a mega Corporation, you currently work at a mega Corporation, government, military teaching, you know, all these different things. What is your opinion on how leadership differs or how your style of leadership differs in each one of these different types of organizations? Are they all the same?
John Weigelt 30:01
They are, they’re quite dramatically different across organizations. You know, the military is true, the military. And I’ve seen different styles across the different domains. So Air Force leaders are different than army leaders different than Navy leaders. And each has that, that leadership style and at peacetime or in conflict, you know, that leadership style changes. And so recognizing that it’s very situational, for the particular mission at hand, so to speak. And so when you’re an operational role, there’s far less coaching and former directed, you know, I need you to do X, Y, and Zed, and Hey, you, you shouldn’t be questioning me at this point. Whereas in a peacetime scenario is like, let’s explore and figure out how we can best do this together, right? So there’s those that dynamics in the government framework, government framework was more on, on policy outcomes and longer timeframes. And so where you had something very direct in the military setting where you would get through half of your, your conversation, and someone would be acting almost before you finish speaking government a little bit more, longer timeframes, because when you think about where I worked, and Treasury Board, the policy environment, do you want policies to last for 10 to 15 years. So there’s detailed consultation, there’s a lot of collaboration across the department’s consensus-building is is key. And so a lot of diplomacies that happens behind the scenes and different leadership skills required for that, in order to move things through academic setting, this same type of idea, you know, there’s a crunch time before the academic year getting the curriculum set up, but then now much more casual, in the business world, very, very focused on quarterly accountability, and how do we make sure that we act very, very quickly? And how do we make sure we’re very customer-centric. And so having that that tension to say, we need to do what’s right for the customer, but recognizing what we can do to help, right what’s on our part of the equation that said that Microsoft, there is a huge emphasis on manager excellence. And so I’m quite fortunate that, you know, on a regular basis, they’re looking to build our management and leadership skills, so that we can have this, this better environment for everybody that works here, and really empower them to do their best work. So help everybody really, you know, realize, and it sounds great, right along our mission line, but realize their full potential.
Aydin Mirzaee 32:14
So that’s really interesting. I assume there is new manager training, but it sounds like on an ongoing basis, there are things that the company does to ensure that its leaders continue to get better. What are some of the things that you do? Did you mention something quarterly?
John Weigelt 32:28
Yeah, indeed. So at Microsoft, we’ve shifted under Satya Nadella from a no-huddle culture to a learn it all culture. And so there’s a great deal of emphasis on learning and getting tech intensity tech, skilling. But part of that is also around making sure that our people can do their best work. So as I mentioned, we want to make sure that we have an inclusive environment, our goal is that our organization reflects the employees in our organization reflect our customers. And so we want to have this rich mosaic in the Canadian context or melting pot, or, you know, we want to better represent the customers we serve. And so our sense is that that really creates better products. And so there’s a great deal of emphasis on that and personal commitment that we make to that, and learning and education. And so we do have regular learning requirements around diversity and inclusion around dialogues across differences, other types of courses. And then we have management excellence teams that come with quarterly learnings with group sessions with breakouts and, and a lot of interaction to talk about sharing skills, much like this podcast, to share experience to share those skills to take those lessons to get tactile experiences to say, Hey, you know what, I felt vulnerable when I did this, you can learn from that in this way. And so that really helps make us better managers, better leaders.
Aydin Mirzaee 33:47
Yeah, no, that’s really cool to actually have the shared experiences. In that way. It looks like you know, from your, from your standing point, it sounds like I mean, you have to almost be an optimist, because you know, you look forward to the future, you see all the great things that technology is going to do, you can see that the future is brighter than it is today. I just have to ask you, like, in your opinion, can you be a great leader and be a pessimist?
John Weigelt 34:12
I don’t think he can be a great leader and be a pessimist outwardly facing, right? So I think for your teams, you need to be enthusiastic, and you need to be optimistic because we need to be positive about the outcomes that we’re making. We all know that when we meet the ears in our teams, you know, they can bring us down and we can’t do our best work. And so I think if you’re a pessimistic leader, you can never show that to your organization. Can you imagine being the leader in front of a troop that’s about to liberate a city and saying, I don’t think we’re going to make it perfect to do anything? You really have to be optimistic and say, Hey, gang, we’re gonna be wildly successful, and then go forward with that and put in place the plans and the processes in order to support that. So never let your team see you swear, never let your team see pessimism, I really think you do need to be optimistic and positive.
Aydin Mirzaee 35:04
Hmm, interesting. So it’s almost like plan as a pessimist but act like an optimist.
John Weigelt 35:09
That’s probably a good way to put it.
Aydin Mirzaee 35:11
Some variation of that. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So, john, we’re just coming up on time here, and so many great learnings and what we’ve discussed so far, but one of the questions that we like to ask at the end of every episode is just any advice, resources, tips, books, podcasts, like anything that you would recommend to managers and leaders out there looking to actively work on getting better at their craft of leading people?
John Weigelt 35:37
Yeah, you know, that’s a tough one. Because I know that there are so many great leaders that are listening to the podcast. And so, you know, one of the things that I always try to remind myself is to listen, it’s just to be quiet, or and I tend to be vivacious, and I get enthused, and I start to talk a mile a minute. And then often that can drown out other people’s opinions. And that’s quite a shame if that happens. And so as a leader, you know, we need to be patient, we need to listen to what happens, what are what’s on people’s minds, I think that’s a muscle that we can build, there is an organization that helps leaders with those skills called a box of crayons, and I really encourage people to take a look at that group, because they do help you build muscle and reinforce that idea of being patient and listening to your team and catching things. I think as well, it’s always important to understand, there’s not just one approach, right? There’s a time for coaching, there’s a time for managing, there’s a time for leading, and there’s a time perhaps for discipline, and you know, those different things, there’s not one unique style, we as leaders have to understand what situation we need to use, what particular style and, and be able to be flexible to be able to accommodate that. And the last piece is always the people aspect of it, you know, work doesn’t keep me up at night. But the people keep me up at night. And I know that sounds kind of odd, but you know, a presentation the next day or a report, I have to write that that doesn’t keep me up at night. But if there’s a team member that’s going through difficulty, and I’m trying to help them that is where it is. And so I think it’s always let’s come back to the people, our team and seeing the best out of them.
Aydin Mirzaee 37:14
That makes a lot of sense and a great way to end it. John, thank you so much for doing this.
John Weigelt 37:19
Well, thank you so much for the invite, certainly filling some big shoes with your predecessor, so the other people you’ve interviewed, so I really appreciate the opportunity.