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INNOVATE

Steve Jobs Put Guy Kawasaki on the Spot With This Tough Question and His Response Was Perfect

It always pays to be honest.

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BY Tommy Mello - 25 Oct 2018

guy kawasaki tough question

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

How honest are you, in your professional life?

I'll admit, it's hard to be honest and upfront 100 percent of the time. But it always pays to be honest -- and that's something Guy Kawasaki learnt in his encounter with Steve Jobs back when he was still working at Apple.

One day, Steve Jobs showed up at Guy Kawasaki's cubicle, and with him was a man that Guy didn't know. Without introducing them, Steve Jobs asked: "What do you think of a company called Knoware?"

Guy didn't hold back -- he said that the company's products were mediocre, boring, and simplistic, and they weren't useful to Macintosh in any way. After he was done, Steve said to Guy, "I want you to meet the CEO of Knoware, Archie McGill."

Obviously, that was a bit of an awkward situation, but Guy successfully passed Steve Job's IQ test. Thinking back, here's what Guy realized: if he had recognized Archie McGill and had simply gone easy on Knoware because he didn't know what Steve Jobs was up to, it would have been a "career-limiting or ending" move for him.

Guy Kawasaki's Takeaways

Now, Guy Kawasaki says he had three takeaways from this experience. First, he realized that telling the truth is a test of both character and intelligence. As he puts it, you need strength to tell the truth and intelligence, and to recognize what is true.

Guy Kawasaki's second takeaway was that people yearn for the truth. You probably already know this, but entrepreneurs generally have very thick skins, and we aren't delicate little snowflakes. The next time a fellow entrepreneur is asking you for feedback, resist your impulse to gloss over the bad stuff -- they want to hear what you dislike about their product, so that they can improve it.

Finally, Guy Kawasaki's last takeaway was that there's only one truth, so it's easier to be consistent if you're honest. If you tell lie after lie everyday, those lies will catch up to you eventually.

How to Empower Your Employees to Tell the Truth

In the example we just discussed, Guy Kawasaki wasn't afraid to tell the truth -- but that's because he's outspoken and confident in his own views. So here's the question: how do you encourage your meeker, quieter team members to own their opinions, and tell the truth as well?

To do this, I maintain an open-door policy, and let all my team members know that they can always speak to me as and when they like. When you show your team that you're receptive to feedback, it gives them the confidence to speak up.

On top of that, I also put into place a system that incentivizes feedback. How this works is simple: employees can submit as much feedback as they want, and we look through all these submissions at the regularly. If we do change something or implement something after hearing someone's feedback, I reward them with a gift card and praise them in front of the rest of the team.


The saying honesty is the best policy might be a cliche, but it's true. At the end of the day, you won't be able to grow your company effectively if you've got a team of people who are afraid to be honest with you. So start encouraging your employees to speak up, and to tell the truth!

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