This week, the chief executives of Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Google were grilled by the US House Judiciary Committee. Members of both major American political parties have clamored for the four Big Tech firms to be investigated for violation of antitrust legislation. The four executives—Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Sundar Pichai of Google—are some of the most powerful men in the world. They rarely have to sit and be questioned by others.
Political and business commentators were curious to see how each of these CEOs would behave under intense questioning. Would they try to placate lawmakers’ concerns? Or would they dig in their heels and fight back? Research suggests that the executives of the Big Four would do well to express vulnerability, which builds empathy with conversation partners. And that was indeed their strategy: the CEOs each acknowledged past mistakes and concerns about the future. Each attempted to show that the culture of their company is healthy and open, rather than secretive and unfair.
Jeff Bezos in particular was quizzed about Amazon’s relationship with third-party sellers, which several committee members characterized as deeply fraught. Rep. McBath played recorded testimony from business owners who described a system in which communication channels with Amazon were inadequate or even hostile. More than half of Amazon’s sales revenue now involves third-party sellers. Amazon mediates these transactions smoothly for customers, but Wednesday’s hearing suggests that the company still has more work to do behind the scenes.
How can large companies foster better collaborative environments? One method is for leaders to show vulnerability. The Culture Code examines that and other ways to encourage terrific teamwork. For more ideas on how to build a great group quickly, check out our Instaread on The Culture Code.