Just a Great Way to Learn

How to Deal With a Put Down in a Question and Answer Session

16 Feb 2017

Our admiration for Steve Jobs, the founder and CEO of Apple, isn't just confined to the way he masterminded his company into becoming a multi-billion dollar business, incredible though that was.

It's also in the way that he demonstrated all of the skills of an outstanding leader and communicator.

One example of his genius is his performance on stage when responding to a derogatory question in a presentation recorded in the 1990's and now posted on YouTube.

You'll be able to watch the video extract at the bottom of the blog. But first, the setting.

Jobs is in the middle of doing a question-and-answer session when he takes a question from a man in the audience who tells Jobs that he, Jobs, doesn't know what he is talking about and, specifically criticises Jobs for not supporting the OpenDoc software framework. The questioner also demands to know what Jobs has personally been doing for the past seven years.

For most of us, it would be enough to stay calm and not walk away. For Jobs, it is the opportunity to turn the tables and deliver a masterclass in leadership.

What you need to do is to watch the video carefully to spot what Jobs does to put the questioner in his place.

His actions include the following:

  1. taking the time to reply so that he commands the room
  2. telling the questioner he is right... "in some areas"
  3. not rising to the insult
  4. ignoring the question that is not relevant (ie what Jobs had been doing for the past 7 years)
  5. moving the issue to something more important and much harder to accomplish (building a multi-billion dollar business)
  6. putting the customer first (not the technology)
  7. admitting that he's probably made that mistake more often than anyone else present
  8. coming to the defence of the hard-working team that is bringing Apple's vision to life (and he names some of them)
  9. letting the past go and focusing on the future
  10. re-iterating his belief that the company will realise his vision.

If you are in a leadership position and communicate with others in large presentations or in small conversations, there are many lessons that you can take from this video.

We think it's pure genius. Here it is. (Apologies only for the slightly dated and grainy look)


Attribution: The YouTube video was posted by Mike Cane. To see the video on YouTube, right click the video and select Copy Video URL. The top picture is taken from flickr.com on a Creative Commons licence here.