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Nadella Named FT Person of the Year Offers Further Proof Culture of Continuous Learning Yields Big Results

Satya Nadella succeeded in revitalizing Microsoft by changing it from a company of know-it-alls to learning-it-alls. It's profound proof a culture of continuous learning positively impacts business performance. This post explains how and why that's the case.

By: Gal Rimon, Founder & CEO, Centrical

Nadella Named FT Person of the Year Offers Further Proof Culture of Continuous Learning Yields Big Results

The Financial Times honored the efforts of Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO. The authoritative global business news organization named him the “FT Person of the Year.” I bring this to your attention not because he took a company from the brink of irrelevance back to the top of the tech industry. Rather, it’s his creation of a culture of empathy, collaboration, and learning that’s truly worth noting.

Nadella observed that Microsoft had to move from a “know-it-all behavior” to a culture that encourages employees to become “learn-it-alls.” He acknowledged, given the company’s prior ultra-competitive culture, the shift wasn’t easy. However, he likely could not have generated a $1 trillion (that’s a “t”) return for shareholders without creating a culture that emphasizes learning.

As the FT announcement cited, “He has promoted a new outlook for MIcrosoft workers, based on a ‘growth mindset’ that would involve constantly being open to learning and new ideas, rather than the ‘fixed mindset’ of the past.” In addition, “he worked to break down silos, instead championing a “One Microsoft” to unify the company.

RedThread Research, with whom we examined the cause-and-effect nature of culture and performance, said “culture creates an environment in which performance may thrive or stall. Culture is ubiquitous — through shared assumptions, values, and behaviors — and it has the capacity to influence frontline workers’ performance,” the customer-facing employees who, in more ways than not, are the brand ambassadors of the companies they represent.

Microsoft, under Nadella, makes clear that a kinder, gentler culture can also be performance-driven. According to RedThread, a key to creating a performance-driven culture is to have a future focus, to look for ways to constantly be improving the knowledge and skills of employees to get them ready to ably travel the road ahead and contribute to their company’s success.

There are three key elements that mark a company with a future focus:

  • Invests in developing managers’ people management skills
  • Encourages people to believe that their basic abilities can be developed
  • Encourages employees to continuously learn and develop skills

Let me underscore that this orientation also gives employees the ability to excel in the current roles while preparing for tomorrow.

Interestingly, RedTread’s findings indicate many more organizations can benefit from what Nadella calls a “growth mindset.” The study found “in growth mindset cultures, workers trust their companies more and feel a greater sense of ownership and commitment to the company.”

The study also found organizations that encourage continuous learning and development, customer-facing employees report higher engagement and much better organizational performance.

If you work to evolve your company into a culture akin to what Nadella created at Microsoft, who knows…maybe at this time next year you’re named FT’s Person of the Year.

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