June, 2008

  • Steve Clayton

    Thanks Bill



    Taken last summer during an awards reception in Orlando this has to be one of the highlights of my 10 years at Microsoft. The M$ bashers can say what the like - Bill changed the world and he’s off to do it again as he steps down from his full time role at Microsoft next week. It’s a little sad if I’m honest but he’ll still be working at Microsoft on key projects and I’m sure every now and then we’ll still get a company wide email from Bill. I suspect that’s the one occasion when most people in the company stop and read an email immediately – imagine the giddy excitement of  a new boy when an email like this first drops in your inbox. I can still remember it.


    For me it’s been a privilege to work here for 10 years of Bill’s reign. I never thought I’d work at Microsoft – I never even applied and was astonished and quite taken aback when a Microsoft employee suggested I ought to work there. I’m still quite surprised to be honest. The first time I applied I didn’t get in – we mutually agreed it wasn’t the right role. 6 months later I was back in Reading for interviews and Microsoft thought they were hiring another Steve. It wasn’t until after they’d made me an offer that this was realised. Too late, I’d accepted their offer to move south and become one of Bill’s gang. (long and fun story I may tell sometime here)

    Talk about a life transforming move. Not only have a got to meet Bill on a couple of occasions but travelled the world, learnt to become a half decent public speaker, lost my Liverpool accent, helped launch some amazing products (and some not so amazing), owned more computers than I can care to remember, bought my first house, sang Abba on stage in front of 3500 colleagues, won a few awards, almost got arrested in Tijuana, put Microsoft on a wine bottle, and so much more. Most of all though, I’ve met some of the most amazing, smart, fun people in the world. That sounds like a cliche I know. It is…but it’s also true.

    Anyway, thanks Bill. You built a pretty special place. I like it here so I’m going to stay a little longer. If you need any help at the foundation though, just drop me email. I’ll be sure to read it immediately :)

  • Steve Clayton

    From Geek To Leader



    The Sunday Times ran an article yesterday titled Technical staff get built into leaders that I was interviewed for.


    When Steve Clayton moved within Microsoft from a technical role helping customers understand software products to leading a team, he found the transition testing.

    “My success had been entirely down to me until that point – then it was entirely down to other people,” he said.

    While Clayton was in charge of two teams, he was selected for a high-potential programme, which gave him the support he needed.

    “It took me a while to realise some of the nuances that leadership involves, such as diplomacy and dealing with difficult situations,” said Clayton. “But being successful through other people was ultimately what I enjoyed most.”

    Six months ago, he moved back to a technical role, working on strategic thinking with a group of senior colleagues. However, Clayton expects to be back in a leadership role again in the future.


    It was about a 20 minute interview with the Steve Farrar and it really got me thinking about the changes and ways I’ve adapted as I’ve moved through recent roles in Microsoft.

    I’ve always been a bit of a techie (aka geek) and shied away from the classic route of taking a management job to climb the corporate ladder. Microsoft has always told me I don't need to become a manager to "get on" as we value what we call individual contributors or IC's. Despite that, you get to a point in your career where you realise that some management skills are a core skill if you really want to progress - inside or outside of Microsoft. For me, this coincided with a desire for a new challenge - I'd spent 7 years honing my technical skills on IE, Proxy Server, Site Server, Exchange, Windows Mobile and more. I wanted a new challenge to see if I could lead a team and help them be successful. I ended up leading two teams with different skillsets and a wide range of talents and here are a few things I learnt along the way.


    1. Identify what motivates the individual
      What many managers figure out quite quickly is with a wide range of talents come a wide range of motivations. That was one big lesson for me - learning to motivate people is a deeply individual thing. For some it's money, for some it's recognition and for others simply a pat on the back at the right moment. Oh and they change...sometimes within moments! Learning the intricacies of your team and treating them each as an individual was a big lesson and a hugely rewarding one.

    2. Don't get hung up trying to make everyone like you
      The detail here is that it's not important that everyone likes you. I spent too much time at the start of my management career trying to get all of the team to like me. I thought liking would make them likely to follow. It was a mistake. In a team of a reasonable size I think it's very hard to get everyone to like you. There will be different values, opinions, reservations and egos. If most people like you, that's good enough - they're your core, the ones you go to for your energy. That's not to say I chose to ignore those that didn't seem to like me, I just didn't worry about getting them to change their mind and focused on getting the best out of them. Another way of saying that is like and respect can be mutually exclusive in management.

    3. Listen to your friends
      Related to the point above - I was fortunate to have friends, one in particular, who took me aside and told me when I was being an ass. The wording was quite a bit stronger than that :) They taught that change doesn't always start me with - I could drive change but it didn't necessitate me changing.  It's too easy to embody the change yourself and in doing so change your own uniqueness in a quest to force that change too quickly. I'm not sure I explained that very well but I guess I'm saying is be true to yourself and over the long term, people will respect you for it - even the ones who make it tough for you. 


    There is lots more I learnt from my management stint at Microsoft and I like to think I took more of a leadership than management approach. I am far from a polished leader or manager and made lots of mistakes along the way. I tried to learn from others and from experiences but also looked at a few books. The one I would recommend hands down above others is First, Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham. There are lots of other good books I read but this one stood out for me.

    Whether the teams I led agree with I don't know. If they ever read this, for those who feel I failed them, I'm sorry I didn't listen enough. For those who enjoyed the ride whilst I led, thanks for being great. You know who you are. 

    I suspect I will go back in to a leadership role at Microsoft at some point and will continue to learn. If you're a geek like me thinking you never want to do management, feel free to drop me a line or call. I'd be happy to share my experiences and tell you why I think it's a great thing.

  • Steve Clayton

    Great Quotes #6


    “It's never too late to be what you might have been. ” - George Eliot

    Courtesy of my friend John Caswell

  • Steve Clayton

    Fast Taxi


    Last Nurburgring post from me and then normal service resumes.

    On Sunday morning at 09:30 local time we got to board our rocketship around the ring – aka the BMW Ring Taxi. Often piloted by Sabine Schmitz, our pilot was Berndt. I have no idea who he is but boy he can drive. He asked us to let him know if he was going too fast (ha ha) or if we felt sick. Then the games began culminating in an 8 minute lap with peak speed of 240kph in the part of the track I have renamed “brown trousers”. The only surprise was how effortless our man made it look. We expected to be scared sh*tless but ended up being amazed at the skill of Berndt and the capability of the M5.

    Put simply, if you go there and you can get a taxi ticket, you should. Check the YouTube evidence.

  • Steve Clayton

    Ring Report



    Day 1 complete at The Ring. Tomorrow morning starts with a flying lap in the Ring Taxi. No breakfast tomorrow – wearing it in the M5 would be a bit embarrassing.

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