Why Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg has a business case for T-shirts

Zuckerberg at last week’s Q&A – in his dependable grey t-shirt
His Q&A last week revealed some unlikely lessons for leaders.
Facebook staff are treated every Friday to a Q&A session with founder Mark Zuckerberg. And last week, that privilege was extended to Facebook users, with a small crowd gathering to volley questions at Zuckerberg and his leadership team. Holding court for just over an hour, Zuckerberg’s answers covered everything from the film The Social Network – and how hurtful some of it was – to the firm’s plans for solar-powered internet drones.
The session didn’t offer anything revelationary, but Zuckerberg’s comments gave, as per usual, insight into how he runs Facebook and thinks about business. Here, City A.M. looks at three lessons the 30 year-old chief executive hammered home.

DECLUTTER, AND USE TIME WISELY

Time waits for no man, and Zuckerberg evidently realised that a while back. He was joined on stage by the firm’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, who joked that one of her major contributions to Facebook was going “around telling people that Mark actually has more than one T-shirt, which people found to be very reassuring.” Zuckerberg reportedly wears his famous grey t-shirt every day (something The Social Network did get right), and during the Q&A session, he shed light on why, when you’re in his shoes, that makes sense: “I feel like I’m not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous... so that way I can dedicate all of my energy towards just building the best products and services. I really want to clear my life so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.”

APPRECIATE THOSE AROUND YOU

That Zuckerberg has stuck with his company since its inception has made him almost as famous as Facebook itself. But last week, he was keen to impress that a successful company is never just one person – you need to have brilliant people around you and, vitally, acknowledge how important they are. “When I was getting started, I didn’t want to build a company and I didn’t know anything about building companies... The thing that got me through it and, I think, gets a lot of people through is the people around them... Companies that have more founders are actually more likely to have a successful outcome.” With his leadership team on stage with him, he added that you could never do anything like setting up Facebook on your own.

BE HONEST ABOUT FAILURE

Arguably, it’s pretty easy to iron out blips – and be honest about them – if you’re leading a company with the clout of Facebook. Zuckerberg explained to the audience how a design for a new News Feed, which was far more spaced out and had bigger images, completely missed the mark with users. It worked well for Facebook employees, who use 25-inch monitors, he said, but just didn’t for virtually everyone else. “It was very aesthetically pleasing. It turned out, however, that the people who used this just did not like it. It gave us a blind spot to the computers most people are using in the world.” But Zuckerberg was also upfront over how he and his team dealt with the situation: “we kind of ate our pride,” he said.

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