A Partnership That Works – Face to Face

By Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, Ph.D.

An unlikely pair that works.  Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg, COO and CEO of Facebook, respectively are profiled in an intriguing piece by Miguel Helft in the 10/3 edition of the NY Times. I do believe these two have at least four key elements that are found in well oiled relationships with the boss.

Respect for differences. Sandberg is an extrovert. Zuckerberg is a clear introvert. A lot of people choose to hire people who look exactly like them,” Mr. Zuckerberg says. “Here we just value balance a lot more.”

Loyalty – Ms. Sandberg defends her boss against his critics. She says he is warm underneath that reserved exterior.“He is shy and introverted and he often does not seem very warm to people who don’t know him, but he is warm,” Ms. Sandberg says of Mr. Zuckerberg, her voice rising with empathy. “He really cares about the people who work here.”

Coaching – They support each other by offering honest and direct feedback. They are not afraid to push back on decisions (ex. Ms. Sandberg disagreed with the details of Zuckerberg’s philanthropic effort) and provide emotional support. “At a technology conference this summer, for instance, Mr. Zuckerberg flopped during an onstage interview. He gave rambling answers to questions about Facebook’s privacy policies, became visibly nervous and started sweating profusely. After the interview, Ms. Sandberg encouraged him not to beat himself up over it, but to focus on parts of the interview that went well so he could do better next time….”

Frequent and Regular Meetings – In their Monday morning and Friday afternoon face to face meetings, they address strategy, personnel, deals and each other, according to the article. There is just no getting around sitting down face to face (resisting a pun here).   I am relieved to see these two leaders modeling good ‘ole conversation.


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