A part of Steve Jobs’ legend is his mercurial nature. Jobs was known to fly off the handle when things at Apple went astray or not to his high standard. Tim Cook was Jobs’ lieutenant for years, his COO, his confidant. Jobs would lose it in Tim’s presence often. Apple folklore states Tim just stood there, often saying nothing, with a look of distant boredom on his face whenever Jobs launched into a Jobsian tirade. Tim waited until Jobs was done, and then they worked together on what they were going to do about the situation. Tim didn’t react, didn’t get defensive, didn’t yell back at Steve, didn’t cry, didn’t go gossip about what just happened. He took it, knowing he’d seen this before, and knowing that it was a brief, emotionally charged moment for the boss, and that he’d be over it soon, and that they’d work out the solution together. Tim Cook held the line. That’s one of the many reasons why he’s CEO today. Tim thought, How would my best self respond to this? Over and over and over again despite emotionally difficult situations.
When you hear organizational gossip, how do you respond? When you hear industry gossip, how do you respond? When a colleague wants to gossip with you about another colleague, how do you respond? Some things are better left unsaid. Gossip, while a default behavior, doesn’t help. It might feel good, but so does eating six glazed donuts to satiate an afternoon sugar craving. Making discretion the better part of valor wins the day. The easiest thing in the world is to gossip. The hard line to hold is quelling it.
Look at how much gossip Apple has to quell or otherwise not respond to surrounding the company. As one of the most watched and most successful businesses in history, everyone wants to know its workings and its machinations. What are they working on now? What are they machining? Where are they doing this? What will the next iPhone look like? What chips are they using? Why? And this is just about its products, we haven’t gotten to its people yet. What does Tim Cook say about this? How about Phil? Let’s scrutinize their quarterly conference call. Apple, its people and its products, may be one of the largest unwitting gossip generators on the planet. It gets the masses chattering, everyone from Main Street to Wall Street. Even your grandma.
We enjoy speculating, pontificating, questioning what might happen. It’s in our blood. We love to predict things even if we have no business doing so. Unfortunately, the media also loves megaphoning predictions and speculating about everything from the iPhone to football. This creates a storm of gossip that people get to tune into. Every day it is the same media speculation. This fits perfectly for the media because we enjoy speculating about passionate topics so much. If football is your passion, ESPN will give you discussion, arguments, and speculation all day long, even on an otherwise boring Tuesday. If financial markets are your passion, CNBC will load you up with discussion, arguments, and financial gossip all day long, even on an otherwise boring Tuesday. If cat fights are your passion, BRAVO will serve you arguments, gossip, and cat fighting all day long and into the night. To some people, who didn’t apologize to who and now they have a grudge over the whole thing is captivating.
It is good to make people wait for awhile. Time and space are debatable and subjective. Despite people wanting answers immediately, it creates a false sense of emergency on their end. We teach people how to treat us by the way we act and react to their emotional states. We actually have more control over peoples’ reactions than we think. We must think, How would my best self respond to this? Over and over and over. Even when others around us are emotional basket cases. To achieve a higher emotional level and to set the proper example and expectation, we must do better. So, make them wait awhile. Give them some time to think it over.