That touches on another distinction you make, between what you call a “caring CEO” and a micromanager. Where do you draw the line?
You micromanage on key specific things. Being a great leader is choosing those battles, not fighting all of them. Make sure it’s mission-driven.
In the chapter about quitting, you advocate leaving when things aren’t going well. You quit Apple three times.
The third time was the real one.
But you did quit twice before that, retracting your resignations when Jobs addressed your concerns. Aren’t you pitching a tactical form of workplace drama to get what you want?
If you’ve tried everything, and you really care about what you do, quitting is the only thing left to do. You have to go, “I am not going to sit here and do what I feel is wrong. Am I going to come in and be pissed every day about this? What’s bad for my health is going to be bad for the team. I’m leaving.”
After you quit Apple, you started Nest. You built a great company and sold it for $3 billion. Was that an “I’ll show you” move?
I wanted to show myself. This was a thing where I thought, “I love my story. I love my idea. No one’s doing it. I think it needs to exist.” One thing I learned is to have a cofounder with me, and it was great to do it with Matt Rogers.
You write about the importance of storytelling. That was interesting for a management book.
Not very many people get the storytelling right. An elevator pitch is not a story. It’s just the introduction. The story is about the customer journey.
A lot of companies and even VC firms are hiring journalists to tell their stories. Is what they produce credible?
No, because it’s just bringing marketing to write a story after the fact. It’s like putting perfume on a pig. It doesn’t fundamentally change how the product is being built, and how decisions are being made.
A couple of years ago, you were quoted on the negative effects of digital devices and included yourself in asking, “What have we done?” Are you still troubled by how much the devices you helped build dominate our attention?
Yes. It’s better than it was, with things like Screen Time. But we’re only 50 percent of the way to solving the problem. And it’s a big 50 percent.
What do you do in your own habits?
I turn off notifications for everything. In social settings, I make sure my phone is not on the table or in my pocket.
When people build things, should they be designing to anticipate problems like that? Or concentrate on finishing the product and deal with consequences later?
You have to deal with it upfront. I avoid investing in social mobile things. But, hypothetically, if I did, I would be saying, we are going to have screen time limits, we’re going to have parental controls. Build it in from the beginning. It’s actually a marketing feather in your cap to say that you’ve been addressing these needs from the beginning.