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Apple's Top 7 Leaders Share Their Approach to Feedback

August 5, 2018
3 Min Read
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Learn how 5 of Apple’s top leaders use feedback to achieve business success.

Apple recently became the first American company worth over $1 trillion, further cementing their place as one of the most successful businesses in history. We’re curious (and we bet you are too!) about the secrets to Apple’s leadership that led to is success. Feedback is key, of course. How do the top Apple leaders approach feedback? How do they use it to be more effective in their role? Read on to find out.

Tim Cook: CEO of Apple

Tim Cook was at the helm as Apple’s ascended to the $1 trillion market cap. Before he became CEO in 2011, he worked under the leadership of Steve Jobs and regularly received his feedback. Here is Tim’s advice on the importance of approaching feedback in an active manner:

“It’s incumbent to not just listen to points of view but to actually solicit them. If you’re not, you quickly become insular and live in the echo chamber."

Apple has more than 123,000 full-time employees across 500 retail stores in 24 countries. Tim is regularly in the public eye and hey, everyone has an opinion on what Apple should and should not be doing. So how does Tim Cook know who to listen to and how to tune out the noise? Tim said he can no longer listen to everyone but has a system for prioritizing what’s most important:

“I weight the feedback that is most thoughtful. That doesn’t mean polite—I don’t mind people saying I’m ugly or whatever. It’s just, what level of thought is it?”

Jimmy Iovine: Special Adviser to Tim Cook

Jimmy Iovine was one of several music executives that Apple acquired when the company bought Beats in 2014 for $3 billion. A legend in the music industry, Iovine has produced albums for some of the biggest recording artists, including John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Eminem, and Dr Dre. Jimmy Iovine’s advice on being open to feedback:

“I'm interested in listening to the people who walk in the door. If your ego and your accomplishments stop you from listening, then they've taught you nothing. There are geniuses, savants; I'm not one of them. I work hard, I see where popular culture's going to move, but I've gotta keep having information pumped into me. I look under every rock.”

Angela Ahrendts: SVP of Retail

Angela Ahrendts is the most senior businesswoman at Apple. She joined Apple in 2014 following eight successful years as the Burberry CEO where she saved the brand from almost certain demise. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Angela ranks 13th on Forbes’ list of most powerful women in world. Angela’s provides succinct advice on workplace feedback: “Listen.” Her advice for the greatest mistake a leader can make only takes two words: “Not listening.”

“Just listen, just learn, just feel... You’ll be better off in the long run. The biggest mistake a leader can make is not listening, not feeling, not using your team.”

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, the man who needs no introduction but deserves one nonetheless. Perhaps most well-known as the co-founder of Apple and Pixar, Steve Jobs also orchestrated one of the greatest professional comebacks in history. He was fired from Apple in 1985 and rejoined in 1997 when the company was facing imminent bankruptcy. Many books have been written about his business acumen, and a big part of it was his approach to soliciting feedback and providing it effectively to his team.

His thoughts on creating a company culture of valuing feedback:

“Don’t make feedback an optional question, make it a demand…”

How Steve delivered feedback to help his employees:

“The most important thing I think you can do for someone who’s really good and who’s really being counted on is to point out to them when they’re not — when their work isn’t good enough. And to do it very clearly and to articulate why … and to get them back on track.”
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