Thursday, October 25

From Public Speaking Class to CEO of Google (Schmidt)

Eric Emerson Schmidt, Ph.D (born 1955 in Washington, D.C.) is Chairman and CEO of Google Inc and a member of the Board of Directors of Apple Inc. In contrast to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, he has a strong (formal) educational background, including a PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) from the University of California, Berkeley (1982). Schmidt started of his working career as research staff for Xerox. In 1983, Schmidt joined Sun Microsystems as software manager. At Sun he led the development of Java, Sun's platform-independent programming technology (Microsoft or Dot NET's arch-rival?), and defined Sun's Internet software strategy. He later became chief technology officer and corporate executive officer. From 1997 to 2001, Schmidt was CEO of Novell. In 2001, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin (with the assistance of executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles, Inc.) recruited Eric Schmidt to run their company under the influence of venture capitalists John Doerr and Michael Moritz (Source).

Interestingly, Schmidt beat out 50 other contenders (It would be thrilling to know their selection and evaluation methods!) to become chairman and eventually CEO of Google. Importantly, he pioneered the company’s 70-20-10 model: Google employees are expected to spend 70 percent of their time on the core search and advertising businesses, 20 percent on related activities, and 10 percent on new projects (Source).

Also, Schmidt is one of the few people who have become a billionaire (estimated wealth of US$ 6.2 Billion) based on stock options received as an employee in a corporation of which neither he nor a relative was the founder (Source). Yeah, Steve Ballmer is another one of those few!

While searching for something else yesterday evening (Great discoveries often happen by accident!), I discovered this interesting YouTube video entitled: Eric Schmidt Public Speaking Class. Based on watching the video and reading the comments, I assume Schmidt is about 33 years old (1988) here, and is the general manager at Sun Microsystems. He basically wants to improve his public speaking skills, and be able to communicate better to larger audiences (Yes, as he goes up in rank, he is facing larger audiences. So better prepare!). Based on some of the given clues (video, search tags, comments and buzzer!) this seems to be a Toastmasters session. Yes, Eric Schmidt was/is a Toastmaster (I assume). Also, you will have fun watching him being grilled (by his own staff?) and evaluated by the small audience (I assume based on the noise. The camera is mostly focused on him, obviously!). Here we go:

Actually, the main reason for sharing with you this video is not really to show you an example of excellent public speaking. If that was the case, I would rather show you a Martin Luther King ("I have a dream..."), or Ed Tate (2000 World Champion of Public Speaking) speech. Actually, if you want to improve your public speaking skills, these two public speaking champions (in their own way!) would certainly give you some ideas and inspiration.

Hmm, let's get back on track! The real juice of this video to me, is not how he speaks, but what he says about management, leadership, innovation and organizational growth. Let's recap some of the juice.

Here is a summarized version of what Eric Schmidt said with a bit of creative flavor.

Where there is no conflict, there is no life.
-Niccolo Machiavelli

"The most important quality of a manager is his ability to lead people. Leadership comes from within, and is not something one can easily teach. It is about getting your staff excited, motivated and inspired to action. I have discovered that it is much more important to be a good leader, than actually understand what you are doing. If you are a good leader you can hire people that can teach you things.

From my experience the most successful companies are the ones where there is enormous conflict. Conflict does not mean killing one another, but instead means there is a process by which there is a disagreement. It is okay to have different points of views and disagree, because tolerance for multiple opinions and people often leads to the right decision through some kind of process.

It is really the only way to deal with the high rate of change (and continuous and disruptive innovation!) we find in the technology industry. Nothing in school prepares you for this... that was the thing that really annoyed me the most... In fact if you look in the computer industry, every one of the successful companies is run by a real tough guy, somewhere high up in the management chain, who has established a tone of conflict. A professional constructive conflict tone!

The benefits that you get from conflict from the standpoint of the company, is the ability to compete, innovate, grow and make lot of money."

"...With decades of corporate experience, Schmidt brings a grown-up approach to the Page-and-Brin show. When the two know-it-alls' are locked in heated argument, it’s up to Schmidt to lead them to agreement so that the company can present a united front to employees and Wall Street. (Source) "

So you see, his early understanding, experience and ability to facilitate 'Creative Disagreements' (A term he used during the video) has certainly helped him to succeed at Google and spark more innovation and success. Schmidt plays today a critical role in "building the corporate infrastructure needed to maintain Google's rapid growth as a company and on ensuring that quality remains high while product development cycle times are kept to a minimum. (Source)"

Overall, I am pretty sure I missed out on some of the juice from the video (and perhaps added a bit!), so you better watch the video to catch the rest (and correct me where I went wrong!). Also, I am reasonably sure that Eric Schmidt's ideas about management, leadership, innovation and organizational growth has evolved since this video (19 years ago!), so you might want to 'Google' some of his latest videos or articles to keep yourself updated.

Finally, I hope by watching this video you realize that having weaknesses or knowing about your weaknesses is actually a strength, if you deal with them. Eric Schmidt knew that he was not a good public speaker or communicator, but he also knew that if he worked on these weaknesses he would improve... (and the rest is history, still in the making!). So, there is still hope (and stay away from dope!) for people like us to succeed (in whatever we aspire to be!). We just got to keep on trying, and never give up. Hmm, I beginning to sound like a motivation speaker, so I better stop here.

Anyway, have fun learning something from this video. This video could also be an excellent trigger for class/online discussions :)

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