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Mark Zuckerberg Turns It On

Posted by Chris Holman on Jul 12, 2011 10:13:00 AM


For having the reputation of a “27-year-old multi-billionaire geeky tech guy”, Mark Zuckerberg also seems to have a high degree of emotional intelligence and self-awareness, and can turn on the charm when he needs to.

Pretty fascinating article in yesterday’s NY Times entitled, “Taking a Walk with Mark Zuckerberg”. It describes the process, experienced by a select few “rockstar” recruits to Facebook.

Sometime during the recruitment courtship, Zuckerberg surprises the candidate with an invitation to join him on a walk. (How does one say “No” to this?) At this point, Zuckerberg escorts his somewhat startled guest across the parking lot at Facebook headquarters (see picture) on 1601 S. California Ave. in Palo Alto CA, where they amble along a wooded trail until they reach a Silicon Valley lookout that has a pretty spectacular view of the environs below.

With a sweep of the arm, Zuckerberg discusses the technological history of the area, points out Apple’s headquarters…Hewlett-Packard’s…and the other biggies…and remarks that Facebook will eventually be bigger than all of them…and “If you joined us, you could be part of it all.”

One recipient of this dramatic gesture said, “The entire experience was totally surreal. I really felt like I was on a date.”

Speaking of rockstar recruitment conquests by Mark Zuckerberg, there’s an equally fascinating profile of Sheryl Sandberg, by Ken Auletta in the latest edition of The New Yorker.

Mark met Sheryl at the Christmas party of a mutual friend in 2007. He approached her and introduced himself. They chatted for about an hour by the door. At the time, Sandberg was Google’s 38-year-old VP for global online sales and operations and managed 4000 employees. Facebook was a company without any revenue.

For Zuckerberg, the meeting with Sandberg was wonderfully serendipitous. He knew that he was ill prepared to run Facebook on a day-to-day basis. By fortunate coincidence, Sandberg was ready for a change too. Over a six-week period, Sheryl and Mark met for dinner 1-2 times a week at Sheryl’s 6-bedroom home. Sandberg, who is not a night owl, often had to usher Zuckerberg (who is a night owl) out the door at close to midnight. “It was like dating,” says Sandberg’s husband Dave Goldberg (CEO-Survey Monkey). They spent long hours asking each other questions like, “What do you believe?” “What do you care about?” “What’s the mission?”

To Zuckerberg’s complete credit, he recognized that Sandberg was a perfect fit for Facebook. Says Zuckerberg, “There are people who are really good managers, people who can manage a big organization. And then there are people who are very analytic or focused on strategy. Those types don’t usually tend to be in the same person. I would put myself much more in the latter camp.”

Mark offered Sheryl the COO spot in February 2008. Within days she was asking questions, and listening, to her new Facebook colleagues…walking up to hundreds of people’s desks and introducing herself by saying, “Hi, I’m Sheryl Sandberg.”

Today, Sandberg meets with Zuckerberg twice weekly, Monday morning and Friday afternoon. Her workstation is a few feet away from Zuckerberg’s in a cavernous room, and also connected to three other senior executives, the VP of product, the chief engineer, and the C.T.O. Says Zuckerberg of Sandberg, “She handles things I don’t want to. All that stuff that in other companies I might have to do. And she’s much better at it.”

Given that the I.P.O. buzz on Facebook is now in the $100 billion range, which would most likely make Sandberg an instant billionaire, and Zuckerberg’s 24% stake continues to grow like topsy, this has been a fortuitous pairing.

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Topics: Leadership