Microsoft president reveals what a ‘successful CHRO’ looks like


Kevin Peesker is no stranger to transformational leadership. At the helm of Microsoft Canada since 2017, Peekser’s 28-plus years of experience in technology has taken him to over 70 countries. Formerly the president of Dell EMC Canada, Peesker is an icon in the in the industry – and his commitment to customers is unprecedented.

HRDC: Microsoft is famous for its collaborative culture – what’s the secret to your success?
Kevin Peesker: I joined Microsoft four years into Satya Nadella’s tenure as CEO, and it was clear to me from the start that our company culture started with him and his leadership team but was viewed as coming to life through the ownership of each member of Microsoft globally. From day one, Satya asked every employee at Microsoft to approach their work with a growth mindset. He believed that the only way we could be truly successful is to be a ‘learn-it-all’ culture instead of a ‘know-it-all’ culture. By doing so, he freed everyone to be curious and to tackle challenges – whether they’re solving a customer’s problem or solving global challenges like climate and accessibility – by breaking down silos and tapping into the collective wisdom of their peers. When this unleashing of human potential is aligned to a powerful mission – to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more – you have a team galvanized with shared purpose.

I think of enabling culture as being similar to requiring air to breathe. A core piece to the culture puzzle has been providing Microsoft employees with technology that empowers them to create and collaborate, not only across teams but across offices and time zones. At Microsoft, we’re reimagining modern workplace technology to better serve the people in it. We developed Teams as a hub for teamwork that brings together conversations, meetings, files and apps into a single app so everyone on the team has access to the information they need to do their best work wherever and whenever they’re most productive.

Before our customers use the latest software releases, we drink our own champagne and push the tech to our people. There is often a pushback on inflicting change in an organization, but in today’s transforming world, change and adaption must be a core muscle of culture. I was at a meeting recently where Satya mentioned, “You don’t get fit by watching other people go to the gym.” When it comes to culture, it is a participation sport!

HRDC: How would you describe your leadership style?
KP: It is an absolute honour to lead the incredibly capable and talented team at Microsoft Canada. I grew up in a smaller city in Western Canada in a highly egalitarian environment where every person was recognized for the value they bring to the community. Being respectful of others, truly appreciating their contributions, being humble and confident to take risks – that was my upbringing, which I do consciously endeavour to ingrain in the way I show up.

Being in the tech industry for just under 30 years across five continents has shaped a leadership requirement to be agile, resilient, empowering and enthusiastic. When I joined Microsoft on day one, it was shared with me that an expectation of leaders and team members in the company is to create clarity, generate energy and deliver results. It took me 30 seconds to internalize and figure out – wow, that is so crisp and real, I love it, I can do that, and hey, I can use that template every single day as a leader in this incredibly fast-paced, somewhat complex industry.

Technology is accelerating at a rate that was once unimaginable. I do feel all leaders, regardless of industry, must be agile and willing to quickly change course to compete. For some, the uncertainty is unnerving, but it also creates tremendous opportunity – not only for Microsoft, but also for our partners and our customers. Our job as leaders is to create clarity.

When it comes to generating energy, deep in my core, my energy comes from being grateful – grateful to have been born in a country like Canada, grateful for a great education, for the learning from others, for my family and friends. I’m thrilled to get up and at it each morning!


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