Updated: Mar 26
"The best “selling” you can do is to create business value, let your successes speak for themselves"
This is the best advice former Microsoft number 2 has for IT managers just starting out, advice that has served him well in his own career that has spanned 38 years with 5 different companies.
In today’s blog, we’re looking at the leadership skills of Microsoft’s former COO Brian Kevin Turner.
Whether it was working at Walmart as a cashier, or the chief information officer, or as the highest paid executive at Microsoft, B. Kevin Turner would think outside the box with his unique approach to leadership and learning. Up until May of this year, Kevin was president and CEO of Core Scientific, an artificial intelligence and blockchain company. Under Kevin's leadership, Core Scientific became the largest blockchain hosting and digital mining company in North America.
According to B. Kevin Turner, a good IT manager is a good business person first and a good technologist second. When your CV comes across the desk of a CEO, they want to know 4 things. How do you save me time? How do you save me money, how do you make me more productive, and how do you help me grow my business? Kevin knows a thing or two about growth, going from cashier to corporate vice president at Walmart in just 7 years. Since then, Kevin has been no stranger to leadership, holding the role as CIO at Walmart before moving on to the COO position at Microsoft, throughout these years, Kevin truly let his success speak for itself.
Here's some things Kevin looks for in his IT managers and proteges.
When you're first starting out, don't go shouting your victories from the rooftops for everyone to hear. Do this by letting your wins speak for themselves and consistently meeting or exceeding your goals. By doing this you have the ability to set yourself apart from the rest.
Make your customers and developers your heroes by focusing on their needs as well as the needs of the company and people will begin to see the value you bring to the table. Plus, Kevin also says that utilizing technology in business is no longer simply about the cost of operation, it has swiftly evolved into something that if used right, allows companies to work smarter than their competition.
TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK
Kevin Turner believes that a manager's job is to lead, and to lead successfully, managers should not feel the crushing weight of the world (or business) on their shoulders. Managers are not the company's atlas and shouldn't have to carry the entire team on their back.
Part of being a good manager and leader is having the ability to delegate tasks to the right people in order to get things done. By putting the right people in the right positions and having them focus on the right task your team will accomplish more in a day than you could in a month. In short, nothing of significance is ever done alone and team work really does make the dream work.
BE SOMEONE YOU WOULD WANT TO WORK FOR
When Kevin is interviewing a potential manager, the key question he asks himself is if that person is someone that he would enjoy working for. If Kevin doesn't see himself being able to work for the person trying to get the job, he will say no to the hire. A lot of people don't realize that the manager is the person who sets the tone, in management roles it is important to have a good attitude, set clear expectations and be a person that your team looks up to.
Being a good leader is about being able to put yourself in the shoes of the people who are under you who have less experience. These people often look to you for guidance and education in areas that they know nothing about, this helps your team evolve and become better at what they do and your attitude as a leader sets the tone for that evolution.
Realistically, nobody wants to work for someone with a bad attitude, or someone that is arrogant and belittles their employees, making them feel like lesser versions of themselves. An important thing to remember is that as a leader, the entire morale of your team is a direct result of your attitude, support and training. Do what Kevin says and be someone you would want to work for, not someone you dread seeing in the office Monday morning.
One of the biggest tips Kevin gives the people under him is to just be yourself and to not try to be someone that you are not. People need mentors and someone they can learn from, especially in business, as a leader you must come to the understanding that people will pick up 80 percent of your good habits and 100 percent of your bad ones. As a leader, it is important that you internalize and build an understanding of all your best qualities and then project them outward onto the team of individuals that are working under you, the same way that our mentors helped shape our futures and pass on the qualities that made them successful. As a leader, it is your job to realize that everyone has something unique to offer, and you should strive to be the spark that inspires everyone on your team to shoot for the stars and be the best person that they can be.
YOUR EDUCATION IS NEVER COMPLETE
As a leader, you are never done learning. Especially as you rise through the ranks and hit different levels of your career. In business, one of the most important lessons to be learned is coming to the understanding that what worked well for you at one level, probably won’t work at the next level. This is where innovation and education come into play - having the ability to look at yourself and the goals you need to achieve, and then understand how to execute said goals is key in this evolution.
You need to be able to take a step back, look and say "OK, what made me a success before isn't going to work at this level and I need to leave those traits behind, step out of my comfort zone and try something new."
When it comes to revising your outlook on success and learning something new, humility is a must.
DON'T BE AFRAID TO MAKE CHANGES
As someone in a leadership role, it is important to remember that sometimes you need to make changes. If something, or someone isn't up to par or firing on all cylinders it may be time to change them out for someone that is more capable. While nobody likes to be the leader that has to approach a team member and give them the bad news that they are being replaced due to lack of performance, at the end of the day, the growth and success of the business is your top priority. This can be accomplished by having some type of metric system in place to measure the performance of your team members. However, not all metrics are created equal, use different metrics for different areas and establish a rating system. Kevin uses a stop light system with green being perfect, yellow signaling a need for improvement and red showing a need for a change. A good leader will have a sound understanding of the different areas that their team members should be proficient in, using their industry knowledge as a benchmark to gauge performance in these different areas and make changes if need be. "Don't ride a horse too long if it's not going to get you to where you need to get to. Change it out"
And there you have it, B. Kevin Turners tips to leadership and management---- while there may seem like a lot to take away, most people who find themselves in leadership and management roles could stand to learn something from Kevin. Whether it's about creating value by letting your success speak for yourself and using technology to outsmart your competition, understanding that team work makes the dream work and nothing worth doing is worth doing alone, or by looking at yourself and making sure that you are someone that you would want to work for Kevin's tips offer a unique perspective to leadership and offer perspective on how to grow both yourself and your business with care.
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