Satya Nadella giving advice

Satya Nadella’s Best Business Advice

4 min read • Mar 06, 2021 • Derek Miller

Satya Nadella has been CEO of Microsoft since 2014, the year that he succeeded Steve Ballmer. Before stepping into the role, Nadella served as executive vice president of Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise group. He’s been part of the Microsoft family since 1992, and over these past 28 years, he’s learned a significant amount about the company while watching the tech industry boom.

Nadella’s insights don’t just relate to the tech sector or computers, though. He often offers business insights and tidbits from his own life when asked about managing such an influential company. Here are a few key quotes by Nadella from the past few years that you can apply to your business—even if it’s smaller than Microsoft. 

Listen More. Talk Less.

A key piece of advice that Nadella shared during an interview with the Wall Street Journal: listen more, talk less, and be decisive when the time comes. These 3 pieces should work together to guide managers in how they lead. 

Listening is an unsung skill in leadership—the focus is too often on hearing what others have to say rather than actively listening and digesting the information. Nadella encourages people to constantly gather information and admit what they don’t know. You don’t have to be an expert in everything—instead, you should surround yourself with people who know what they’re talking about.  

While listening is valuable, the third part of Nadella’s advice is key: be decisive when the time comes. Waffling over a decision won’t do any good, and your team will get frustrated if you leave them in limbo or change your mind from 1 decision to the next. Use the information you have to make a clear decision and explain your choices. While the people around you work to provide information, they still look to you for guidance and direction on what to do next.

Nadella’s advice is a humble approach to leadership. It cautions executives away from thinking too highly of themselves while also building them up with the right tools for delegation and burnout prevention. Heavy is the head that wears the crown—but you have team members eager to share that burden and help you.  

Focus on Building Up Talented People, Not Technology

Microsoft is often considered a technology company because it sells everything from consumer hardware products to B2B software tools. However, if you ask Nadella about the organization, he likely won’t focus on the latest hot item or invention, but rather the people developing it and their innovative minds. 

“The technologies will all be passed in time, but the people, what you did, how you behave…that’s the relationship that I think you seek out while being true to yourself, and what makes you happy,” Nadella said at a Stanford University Graduate School of Business speech in October 2019. 

A company that focuses just on its products may have a few good ideas and meet its production deadlines, but its focus on the future will be minimal. However, a team with a culture of innovation and support will be ready to jump ahead to what’s next. 

Nadella credits Doug Burgum, the current governor of North Dakota and Nadella’s former Microsoft Business Solutions colleague, with helping him focus on the people aspect of leadership, not necessarily the technology arms race found in the workplace today.   

Balance and Breaks Are Both Important

The competitive world of startups and Silicon Valley tends to glorify overworking yourself. There are countless think pieces on the web about CEOs waking up at 4am and pulling 60-hour weeks in order to become the best in their field. 

However, Nadella is a fan of working smarter. As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the country, he focused on helping remote workers differentiate between their personal lives and workspaces—a challenge when they’re housed in the same area.  

“In this abundance of computer-mediated work, what is scarce is how you allocate your attention,” Nadella says. “So it’s being more thoughtful about it. The days when I get it right, I know I have a better sense of well-being.”

Nadella promotes the “virtual commute” feature on Microsoft Teams, which builds in time to transition into the workplace. This could involve an employee taking a 10-minute walk to relax or setting aside time to chat with coworkers, connecting as humans first and employees second. 

Your products will play a role in your company’s success—you need to create something that audiences love and want to buy. However, your success also lies in how you interact with your team members. 

How do you empower your employees to innovate? How do your team members work with your customers? By following Nadella’s advice to put people first, you can surround yourself with creative and hardworking innovators who want to help your business grow. 


Featured Image: OFFICIAL LEWEB PHOTOS, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Derek Miller

Derek Miller is the CMO of Smack Apparel, the content guru at, the co-founder of Lofty Llama, and a marketing consultant for small businesses. He specializes in entrepreneurship, small business, and digital marketing, and his work has been featured in sites like Entrepreneur, GoDaddy,, and StartupCamp.