Mar 14

One of Steve Jobs’ greatest talents: caring

Before iPhone, there was another tool Steve Jobs used to great effect.

It’s always fun to read stories about people’s chance encounters with Steve Jobs.

A recent one came from an anonymous person who “had a friend” who had such an encounter.

Okay, it does sound a bit suspicious. We all know there’s a lot of fantasy out there. However, I find this story to be perfectly plausible — mainly because it’s quite consistent with the everyday Steve behavior I witnessed myself.

As this story goes, the “friend” — who worked for a talent agency — hung up on Steve Jobs twice because he thought he was being pranked. But in fact it was Steve, calling to force a change in Justin Long’s schedule so he could shoot some new Mac vs. PC ads.

That simple phone call (or several calls, in this case) illuminates a side of Steve that most people don’t think about. That is: he cared.

That was certainly true in his relationship with his ad agency. Of course, he expected us to be responsible and not come running to him to solve every little problem. But he was very willing to step in if asked. In fact, he would sometimes volunteer before being asked.

He knew that his voice had a little more weight than ours (a “little”?), and that sometimes it takes that kind of pressure to get results.

Trust me, this isn’t normal behavior for a CEO — at least when it comes to marketing.

With all the roadblocks agencies come up against when conceiving and creating campaigns, it’s rare for a CEO to be so willing to use his influence to make problems go away. In fact, it’s rare for a CEO to even be aware of what the agency is doing until well after the time compromises have been forced.

Most CEOs — even in smaller companies — are insulated from day-to-day detail, because they have far more important things on their minds.

It’s safe to say that Steve Jobs had a lot on his mind, being CEO of both Apple and Pixar at the time, yet he was eminently capable of picking up a phone. That was hugely helpful when we were negotiating with celebrity talent or needing to approach important people.

Obviously, he wasn’t doing it for us. He was doing it for Apple. He was doing it to get what he wanted, which was the best possible advertising. If something was standing in the way of a great idea, why on earth would he not get involved?

Thanks to Steve’s willingness to call, we were able to do things we couldn’t have done otherwise.

Back then, he didn’t have an iPhone. But his desk phone worked pretty well.

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  • I’m so glad you brought up this subject – caring. It is the one quality of Steve that hardly ever gets mentioned or talked about. And yet to me is so obvious.

  • SSpindler

    I recently re-watched Johnny Ives speech at Apple’s campus after Steve’s death. Johnny also emphasized how much he cared.

  • Katerina

    It’s the small things that matter :)