Extractive summaries of and key takeaways from the articles curated from TOP TEN BUSINESS MAGAZINES to promote informed business decision-making | Week 294 | April 28-May 4, 2023
The top 3 lessons Bill Gates taught this former Microsoft VP
By Eleanor Pringle | Fortune | May 2, 2023
It was more than 30 years ago when Chris Williams first found himself in the room with Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Gates had just purchased Fox Software, a producer of database management systems, for $170 million. In 1992 Williams, who had worked at Fox Software as a developer and director of marketing, was one of a handful invited to Microsoft’s office, to meet with Gates and discuss the business he had just bought. The aim of the meeting, Williams said it became apparent, was for Gates to understand how the product he had purchased—Fox Pro—worked faster than existing Microsoft rival, Cirrus. Williams observed the following three features of Gates which according to Williams become sharp over time.
- Get to the details. Gates fired question after question at the engineer before him, Williams said, getting to such a level of detail that they discussed the movement of single bits and the size of the Intel 80386 instruction cache. It was only then that Gates seemed satisfied, bringing the meeting to an end. “In the years that passed, I saw Bill do this same kind of exercise time and again,” Williams said. “He was always curious, always wanted to understand, always drilling for more detail. As a younger man this drilling was aggressive and harsh. As he got older, his passion for detail never left, just his method for getting there mellowed.”
- ‘Smell the odor’ According to Williams, Gates isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. The man is known for speaking his mind—often sharing his thoughts on his website, Gates Notes. This year alone the tech titan has shut down a proposal to temporarily ban the development of advanced large language models like ChatGPT, saying the plan wouldn’t solve any of the issues the public is now facing because of the technology.
- Get to the point. Having left Microsoft in 2000, Williams said one major lesson still stands out to him: Cut through the noise and get to the crux of the issue. Williams explained. “The staff would have miles of data and dozens of opinions on the correct path. They would say, ‘We’re struggling to decide if we should do X and build this, or head toward Y and build that.’ “Within seconds Bill had absorbed it all. Somehow, someway, he found the two or three variables that mattered. He would blurt out, ‘Don’t you see, this and that are what matters, it’s so clear you should do X.’” Williams points out, as Gates was “virtually always right.”
2 key takeaways from the article
- In 1992 Williams, who had worked at Fox Software as a developer and director of marketing, was one of a handful invited to Microsoft’s office to meet with Gates and discuss the business he had just bought. Speaking on LinkedIn, Williams remembered how Gates had little time for pleasantries in their initial meeting: He wanted to “see what he’d bought.”
- In this meeting, Gates taught three important lessons. These are: attention to the details, speak up your mind, and cut through the noise and get to the crux of the issue. And according to Williams these attributes of Gates have become sharp over time.
Topics: Decision making, Leadership