What Ecommerce Retailers Can Learn from New Microsoft CEO

You’ve got to be a huge company for an internal email to be publicly released and promoted by your PR agency. Microsoft qualifies as a huge company. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising that the arrival of a new CEO yesterday was seen as a PR opportunity, and dutifully spun by Microsoft’s long-time PR firm, Waggener Edstrom.

Waggener promoted “Satya Nadella Email to Employees on First Day as CEO” to both employees and the world. It’s been picked up by a lot of media, despite the fact that it doesn’t really say anything surprising, other than the usual “We’re Almost Great But We Have to be Better” entreaties to employees and Wall Street.

That stuff is completely forgettable. What Nadella (or more likely a Microsoft staff writer) penned that is very relevant to ecommerce retailers is the last quarter of his letter, which begins with “…we need to believe in the impossible and remove the improbable.”

Nadella continues (emphasis added):

“This starts with clarity of purpose and sense of mission that will lead us to imagine the impossible and deliver it. We need to prioritize innovation that is centered on our core value of empowering users and organizations to “do more.” We have picked a set of high-value activities as part of our One Microsoft strategy. And with every service and device launch going forward we need to bring more innovation to bear around these scenarios.

Next, every one of us needs to do our best work, lead and help drive cultural change. We sometimes underestimate what we each can do to make things happen and overestimate what others need to do to move us forward. We must change this.”

It’s already the first week of February so it’s likely some of your New Year’s Resolutions may have already faded into  history. If you’re on this list, take heed of the following and make some changes:

1. A Clarity of Purpose and Sense of Mission

Nadella is saying that the company needs to return to what set Microsoft on its course of computing world domination. A sense of purpose that what you’re doing is more than your paycheck.

Ask yourself: What’s the purpose of your ecommerce operation? Do you have one. You can read about FastPivot’s mission here).

2. Do A Few Things Well

In the middle, he talks about identifying and selecting a “a set of high-value activities.” Ask yourself: What are the three most valuable activities each of your employees do (or could do) to help your company do better? (And by “better,” I don’t automatically mean grow revenue. “Better” means whatever is most relevant in 2014).

Note: If you don’t have any employees, be honest with the person you’re looking at while brushing your teeth.

3. Don’t Worry About Underestimating or Overestimating

Either way, it’s guesswork, isn’t it? An estimate is a guess. At best, it’s an experienced guess. What Nadella is really saying is that individuals 1. commonly devalue their ability to individually contribute to the whole, and 2. too frequently fail to move forward because they think that worthwhile change is only possible through mobilizing the work of many.

Your Ecommerce Business

Are you convinced that ecommerce retailers can learn from the new Microsoft CEO? (At least his letter didn’t reference harnessing the power of the sun or the Seattle Seahawks defense). Nadella’s trying to inspire tens of thousands of employees. You need to inspire far fewer.

Here is a recipe so you can do just that in the next 30 days:

  • Believe in the impossible
  • Remove the improbable
  • Do what you’ve been thinking about doing for the last 12 months
  • Make it happen
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