Top Ten CEO Quotes on People Management 2015

Back in January, I posted a snappy article on performance management. It wasn’t full of the latest research, complicated metrics or breaking news, but it certainly inspired a lot of you. Which got me thinking, we don’t always need cutting-edge data to instigate a change. Sometimes, we just need an inspirational word from someone worth listening to.

When you’re looking for an inspiring approach to people management, the tech companies are a good place to start. In a year when Netflix’s culture document went viral, Google was once again crowned the no. 1 place to work, and Intel’s OKR strategy infiltrated Accenture (one of the biggest companies in the world), it became pretty obvious that these guys are leading the way. So what can we learn about people management from the CEOs presiding over these HR whirlwinds?

Marissa Mayer

1. “Work for someone who believes in you, because when they believe in you, they’ll invest in you.”
– Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO, knows the importance of investing in individuals.


Mark Zuckerberg

2. “Unless I feel like I’m working on the most important problem that I can help with, then I’m not going to feel good about how I’m spending my time.”
– For Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, it’s all about managing to strengths.


Larry Page

3. “We don’t have as many managers as we should, but we would rather have too few than too many.”
– Larry Page, founding CEO of Google, isn’t a fan of micro-managing.


James Spenceley

4. “If there’s someone really good who has excellent industry experience, we like working with them, [they have] common sense and fit our values, we just hire them, because the biggest thing is having smart people who work well together.”
– Vocus Communications CEO James Spenceley focuses on hiring the right personality types.


Taso Du Val

5. “Teaching your employees something new creates an instant connection, and they will respect you for it.”
– For Taso Du Val, CEO of freelancer networking site Toptal, it’s all about continued development and on-the-job learning.


Brian Chesky

6. “You gotta build a team that is so talented, they almost make you uncomfortable.”
– Brian Chesky, CEO of AirBnB, focuses on talent.


Eytan Lenko

7. “The key thing is really aligning everybody so they all understand where you’re going.”
– Eytan Lenko, CEO of Aussie company Outware, knows that a clear vision is important.


Ginni Rometty

8. “I’m a big believer in lessons learned. Constantly with the team we go over, why? Why? Why? … The only bad mistake is a mistake you don’t learn from.”
– For Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, on-the-job-training takes many forms.


Brad Smith

9. “Millennials … are more socially and globally connected … than any prior generation. And they don’t question; they just learn.”
– Intuit’s CEO Brad Smith recognises that younger workers have different learning and development expectations.


Reed Hastings

10. “At most companies, average performers get an average pay rise. At Netflix, they get a generous severance package.”
– Netflix is known for bucking silicon valley’s people management trends. What do you think of CEO Reed Hastings attitude to performance management?

49 best quotes on feedback

Great feedback is a critical element of best-practice performance management. This week, I’m sharing some of my favourite quotes on feedback – from Winston Churchill to Elon Musk, there’s some powerful thinking here on the how and why of giving better feedback.

At Cognology, as we design our product suite that allows hundreds of thousands of employees to give and receive feedback more effectively, these quotes inspire me every day.

They’re also great to read before giving feedback to your team (you’ll always find some advice appropriate to the situation you’re facing).

Have you got a favourite quote on feedback that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments below – I’ll make sure it’s included.

49 quotes on the power of feedback

Bill Gates quotes on feedback

1. “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”
– Bill Gates

2. “Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.”
– Frank A. Clark

3. “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”
– Ken Blanchard

4. “Feedback is a gift. Ideas are the currency of our next success. Let
people see you value both feedback and ideas.”
– Jim Trinka and Les Wallace

5. “Mistakes should be examined, learned from, and discarded; not dwelled upon and stored.”
– Tim Fargo

6. “What is the shortest word in the English language that contains the letters: abcdef? Answer: feedback. Don’t forget that feedback is one of the essential elements of good communication.”
– Anonymous

7. “There is no failure. Only feedback.”
– Robert Allen

8. “Make feedback normal. Not a performance review.”
– Ed Batista

9. “No matter how good you think you are as a leader, my goodness, the people around you will have all kinds of ideas for how you can get better. So for me, the most fundamental thing about leadership is to have the humility to continue to get feedback and to try to get better – because your job is to try to help everybody else get better.”
– Jim Yong Kim

10. “True intuitive expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes.”
– Daniel Kahneman

Elon Musk quotes on feedback

11. “I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.”
– Elon Musk

12. “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
– George Bernard Shaw

13. “Examine what is said and not who speaks.”
– African proverb

14. “Employees who report receiving recognition and praise within the last seven days show increased productivity, get higher scores from customers, and have better safety records. They’re just more engaged at work.”
– Tom Rath

15. “There are two things people want more than sex and money… recognition and praise.”
– Mary Kay Ash

16. “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”
– Winston Churchill

17. “To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”
– Elbert Hubbard

18. “Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”
– Yehuda Berg

Tony Robbins quotes on feedback

19. “To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”
– Tony Robbins

20. “Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.”
– Paul J. Meyer

21. “Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.”
– Buddha

22. “Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.”
– Jim Rohn

23. “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.”
– Winston Churchill

24. “The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.”
– Sydney J. Harris

25. “Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.”
– Brian Tracy

26. “I’m a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they’re interested in.”
– Bill Gates

27. “Why did God give me two ears and one mouth? So that I will hear more and talk less.”
– Leo Rosten

28. “Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery.”
– Joyce Brothers

29. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
– John Quincy Adams

30. “Unlike a drop of water which loses its identity when it joins the ocean, man does not lose his being in the society in which he lives. Man’s life is independent. He is born not for the development of the society alone, but for the development of his self.”
– B. R. Ambedkar

31. “All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.”
– Albert Einstein

Bruce Lee quotes on feedback

32. “Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.”
– Bruce Lee

33. “The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.”
– Harvey S. Firestone

34. “Constant development is the law of life, and a man who always tries to maintain his dogmas in order to appear consistent drives himself into a false position.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

35. “Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection.”
– Kim Collins

36. “Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.”
– Tom Peters

37. “Never be afraid to fail. Failure is only a stepping stone to improvement. Never be overconfident because that will block your improvement.”
– Tony Jaa

38. “He who busies himself with things other than improvement of his own self becomes perplexed in darkness and entangled in ruin. His evil spirits immerse him deep in vices and make his bad actions seem handsome.”
– Ali ibn Abi Talib

39. “The improvement of understanding is for two ends: first, our own increase of knowledge; secondly, to enable us to deliver that knowledge to others.”
– John Locke

40. “There is always space for improvement, no matter how long you’ve been in the business.”
– Oscar De La Hoya

41. “Improvement begins with I.”
– Arnold H. Glasow

42. “The pursuit of perfection often impedes improvement.”
– George Will

43. “To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.”
– Marilyn vos Savant

44. “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.”
– Margaret Fuller

45. “It is beyond a doubt that all our knowledge begins with experience.”
– Immanuel Kant

46. “Knowledge rests not upon truth alone, but upon error also.”
– Carl Jung

47. “To become more effective and fulfilled at work, people need a keen understanding of their impact on others and the extent to which they’re achieving their goals in their working relationships. Direct feedback is the most efficient way for them to gather this information and learn from it.”
– Ed Batista

48. “In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. So rather than thinking, oh, I’m going to reveal my weaknesses, you say, wow, here’s a chance to grow.”
– Carol Dweck

49. “We can’t just sit back and wait for feedback to be offered, particularly when we’re in a leadership role. If we want feedback to take root in the culture, we need to explicitly ask for it.”
– Ed Batista

Jon Windust

Jon Windust is the CEO at Cognology – Talent management software for the future of work. Over 250 Australian businesses use Cognology to power cutting-edge talent strategy. You can follow Jon on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Image Credits:

Bill Gates World Economic Forum Annual Meeting New York 2012 CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Elon Musk – The Summit 2013 By Heisenberg Media (Flickr: Elon Musk – The Summit 2013) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Tony Robbins The Twitter Conference – Tony Robbins by Brian Solis, on Flickr
Bruce Lee By Johnson Lau CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons