CompanyNovember 7, 2022

Interview with Microsoft’s Former Principal Legal Counsel: Lessons in Fair Play From Business to Baseball

Chet Kapoor
Chet KapoorChairman & CEO
Interview with Microsoft’s Former Principal Legal Counsel: Lessons in Fair Play From Business to Baseball

Bill Neukom was just out of law school back in 1979 when he got the opportunity to represent a 12-person software startup run by entrepreneur Bill Gates. It was the start of an incredible run for Neukom, who would  become Microsoft's top lawyer for over two decades. 

After leaving the software giant in 2001, Neukom  joined the San Francisco Giants as managing general partner and now runs his own company called World Justice Project, which is committed to promoting the rule of law throughout the world. From law to business to baseball, Neukom has always had a passion for fair play. On the Inspired Execution podcast, he shares learnings and leadership lessons from his impressive career.


Use more of your brain more of the time

Neukom summarizes his experience with Microsoft as “a whole lot of on-the-job training” Most impactful were the principles, instincts, and priorities instilled into the culture by Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates. 

“Bill was famous for saying to all of us, ‘You should use more of your brain more of the time.’ He'd say, ‘Don't go hire some expert. Go read a book and become an expert yourself. And then come back to me and give me an approach, a strategy to go forward.’” Neukom shared.

I thought this was an awesome takeaway: When you take initiative and apply yourself to solve important problems, you can make a real impact at the company you work for – no matter what your title or position is.

Win the at-bat

Neukom has admired the game of baseball since he was a child, so when he had a chance to join the management team for the San Francisco Giants, he was eager to do so. However, Neukom was surprised to learn how many similarities business and baseball have. Themes like meritocracy, authenticity, and positive coaching showed up again and again. 

Whether you’re running a company or managing a baseball team, each member of the team has to show up every day, ready to practice and work hard together. This is how you win championships. 

Neukom told me about a saying from his time at the Giants: “First, you have to win the at-bat. Whether you're pitching and defending or you're batting, win the at-bat. Then, win the inning. Win the game. Win the series. That’s how you get into the playoffs.” 

Winning teams focus on tackling each next step of the journey, building up small wins toward the ultimate goal. It’s important to plan for the future, but you have to be diligent each day, week, quarter and year in order to foster sustainable growth.

Tune in now

Listen to the full episode with Bill Neukom to learn tips for positive coaching, the importance of psychological compensation, and what his company World Justice Project is doing to promote functional, safe communities. 

Next time, we have Cruise’s Head of AI/ML – Hussein Mehanna – to discuss building AI-native teams and the future of autonomous vehicles. Thanks so much for listening!

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