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Boss should all the time talk last in meetings


In the event you ever end up taking a gathering with Jeff Bezos, don’t expect the billionaire Amazon founder to talk first.

Before Bezos stepped down as Amazon’s CEO in 2021, he made a practice of letting his employees speak first. Now, his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez — the founding father of Santa Monica, California-based aerial filming company Black Ops Aviation — says it’s some of the vital business lessons she’s picked up from him because the pair began dating a number of years ago.

“Living with Jeff is like having a master class every single day. What he’s really taught me lots about is management,” Sanchez, a former television news anchor who made guest appearances on ABC’s “The View,” recently told The Wall Street Journal.

There is a reason Bezos thinks managers should all the time speak last in business meetings, for instance.

“I hold lots of meetings, and I’d talk first in a gathering, and [Bezos] goes, ‘No, no, no. You are the boss. You talk last. You let everyone else talk, in order that they do not get swayed by your opinion,'” Sanchez said.

In a 2018 speech, Bezos said reshaping his company’s approach to meetings was “probably the neatest thing we ever did” at Amazon.

First, Bezos did away with PowerPoint presentations. As a substitute, he kicked off each meeting with roughly half-hour of silence, so attendees could read an in depth memo covering the planned discussion topics. Then, employees would offer their very own thoughts on the memo before Bezos did to protect against subordinates mimicking his viewpoint to attain points with him.

The silent reading period created “the context for what’s going to then be discussion,” Bezos said.

It is also a technique to ensure that attendees actually read the memo, he added. Simply sending it via email is not enough: “Executives will bluff their way through the meeting as in the event that they’ve read the memo, because we’re busy, and so you’ve to truly carve out the time for the memo to get read,” he said.

The memo also helps keep the meeting from veering off topic, Sanchez added — especially if you happen to keep it as short as possible, without losing any key details.

“One other thing he taught me is: In the event you’re going to have a gathering, have the person running the meeting write a document about what you are going to discuss and why. And it will probably’t be greater than six pages,” Sanchez said.

Similarly, Bezos recommends keeping the meetings themselves as short as possible once the reading period is over, Sanchez said: “Keep meetings under an hour, if you happen to can.”

Multiple studies have found that spending an excessive amount of time in meetings — whether or not they’re hour-plus marathons or back-to-back shorter sprints — can increase your stress levels and distract you out of your work.

Bezos’ meeting method is favored by other tech executives, too. Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, for instance, likes to begin meetings with attendees reading notes from a Google Doc for 10 minutes, he tweeted in 2018.

“This practice makes time for everybody to get on same page, allows us to work from many locations, and gets to truth/critical pondering faster,” Dorsey wrote.

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