Microsoft's president revealed how to succeed at the company. It's quite weird

You thought you knew how it works in big tech companies? Well, have you ever thought of charting your influence?

microsofts-surface-duo-dualscreen-androi-5f1f3d057e8c350ae07dd862-1-jul-28-2020-15-24-20-poster.jpg

Be good at charting.

People remain slightly more fascinating than gadgets and widgets.

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The gap is getting closer, I know, but people still emit quite unexpected tropes and behaviors that gadgets and widgets can only mimic or reproduce.

This occasionally includes, surprisingly, senior people in tech. I sometimes fear they're so systems-minded that they see neither the wood nor the trees. Nor even the sky above. Even when they're riding a surfboard and wearing too much sunscreen.

You surely have asked yourself more than once: "I wonder what it takes to succeed at a company like Microsoft. There must be so much rancid politics there."

Well, I've been bathing in an extensively revelatory interview given by Kate Johnson, Microsoft's American president, to Adweek.

Enter the good times coach.

Johnson is an electrical engineer who became a management consultant. I refuse to hold either choice against her. Especially after reading some of her personal revelations and advice.

For example, I know that many people hire coaches to help them become, er, better versions of themselves. Or perhaps even sparkling versions of someone else entirely.

Many do it, however, when things aren't going so well. Johnson has an entirely different view: "On more than one occasion, I've hired a coach to help me up my game especially when things are going well. I find that I'm most receptive to developmental feedback when it's not a diving save, but rather a chance for continual improvement."

It's fascinating that, in a monstrous corporate environment, getting help when you're doing well might be so advantageous.

Indeed, the churlish might suggest that when Microsoft was doing well in times gone by, it could have done with some coaching on, you know, how cellphones could become useful to human beings.

So many people enjoy success and it goes straight to their heads. Or, in the case of some men, elsewhere. (I was thinking stomach, how about you?)

Yet here is someone wise enough to ask for guidance, just when so many wouldn't feel they needed it.

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Are you an influencer? Chart it.

Then again, one of her examples of expert guidance made me lie down on the floor, chant the seminal works of Sparks, and allow my eyebrows to creep around my face at their own pace.

Johnson said she'd learned "how to use a relationship map inside of your own company to chart your influence."

I look at this collection of words and marvel in the same way that I marvel at someone who can turn their ankle joints inside-out. It seems extraordinary, I don't know how you even do that, but I'm sure I don't want to try that myself.

To imagine that rising in a large, famous company may involve charting your influence is, for me, to imagine that the rest of my life will involve individually counting the world's golf balls rather than hitting them with a club.

What an extraordinary feat of, well, mental engineering to make something called a relationship map. Yet I can perfectly understand how and why, in a complex organization, such a thing might be at the very least stimulating and, at the most, helpful to your dreams of domination.

But good Lord, the effort that must be involved. And what if you conclude that your influence is merely a 2.7 when you're aiming for an 8.6?

Make it, then don't fake it.

I plowed on through Johnson's mapping of her success.

She offered this advice to those who aren't coping so well with working from home: "One effective way that I've managed to strike a balance is to drive true empathy with both my at-home and at-work constituents. It takes a lot more transparency than many of us are used to: you must let both sides see each other and you must be willing to show up as the same authentic person in both contexts."

Oh, now that surely must be easier if you hold some power, rather than if you're an employee whose authentic version of self would be: "I"ve had enough of this back-to-back Microsoft Teamsing. I'm going for a long walk and I'll be back next Tuesday."

And how do you drive empathy? I'd always hoped it was more of a self-driving thing, stimulated by one's basic humanity. Perhaps not so much at large tech companies.

Ultimately, though, some people work at these big companies for the large money they can make. And Johnson's suggestion for how to get a raise will surely have others trying it.

She believes in big box breathing.

"Breathe in for four seconds, hold for six seconds, and breath out for 8 seconds," she said. "During those 18 seconds, you'll feel calmer while your counterparty will likely fill the awkward silence by nervously speaking…and that's when you know you've won."

And there you were still remembering what Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said about women asking for raises. He told them they shouldn't bother and should merely have "faith in the system." They'd "catch up" as time went by, he said.

He did recant. I wonder if he had a coach on hand to help him get there.