Steve Jobs used just three sentences to turn people’s doubt into determination

A week before the Macintosh was confirmed to ship in early January 1984, the developers told Jobs they needed 2 more weeks. The main programmers of the Macintosh realized that they could not make it on time. They decide they need two more weeks.


They told Jobs about the deadline. They suggested shipping the first Macintosh computers with a scaled-down demo version of the Macintosh’s code that could be updated soon. But Jobs didn’t give them time. Instead he told them 3 sentences that turned their doubt into determination.


Three sentences

Walter Isaacson describes what happened next in his 2011 biography ‘Steve Jobs’.


Jobs was in New York City at the time, and he arranged to speak with developers on a Sunday conference call. He listened to them and then simply said no.


Isaacson writes: “There was a pause. Jobs didn’t get angry, instead he spoke in a cool, gentle tone. He told them they were really great. He knew they could do it. He declared, ‘There is no turning back for us.’


Jobs then spoke three sentences in rapid succession.


“You’ve been working on this thing for months now, a few more weeks won’t make that much of a difference.”


“You can get over it.”


“I’m going to send the code with your name on it starting Monday next week.”


According to Isaacson, after hearing those three sentences, the development team realized they had no choice. Their software must be completed. So they worked all night long for a week.


A week later, the programmers finished work early in the morning. Jobs arrived at 8:30 a.m. to sign off, and the programmers left the office for the first time in a week.


I know this is past history now. Literally four decades ago. But it’s important to quickly assess why what Jobs had to say reorganized his employees’ doubts and turned all doubt into determination.

According to Isaacson it has three components:


First, he reframed his experience. This first sentence made the coders feel the time crunch. Instead of emphasizing how little time was left, they emphasized how much time had passed and what they had accomplished.


Second, Jobs rearranged their emotions. Frankly, what he said helped programmers put more emphasis on function than emotion.


Finally, he rearranges the results. The programmers came to the meeting with the idea that the timeline would be altered to accommodate their abilities. But Jobs tells them about his plan to send the code. Their names were written on it. Whether it was ready or not, they were motivated to complete the task within the time limit to the best of their ability.


Being liked vs being a leader


Not that it will work for everyone or in all situations. But sometimes leadership doesn’t mean love, it means leadership.


As a leader, if you can set an important goal to justify your team’s time and effort, you have no choice but to motivate them if you really believe in them and if you think they can achieve more than they think

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