How habit building helps Jeff Bezos run efficient business meetings

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Tips to run your meetings more effectively like the founder and wealthiest person in the world, Jeff Bezos.

Posted by Ross on November 13th, 2017

With a net worth of $93 billion, Jeff Bezos is the wealthiest person in the world. He has amassed his value mostly through Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, which he founded in 1994. Amazon has already generated over $120 billion in Net Revenue in Q1-3 2017 and is set to record its highest ever yearly total after Q4.

Bezos was also one of the first investors in Google, with his stock worth an estimated $3.1 billion today. What’s more, inspired by his background in finance, Bezos founded Bezos Expeditions, a venture capital investment company which has invested in some of the world’s largest companies such as Uber, Airbnb, and Twitter.

How Jeff Bezos ensures his business meetings are as efficient as possible

Taking Amazon from his garage to being one of the largest companies in the world is a credit to Bezos’s excellent managerial qualities, and his innovative approach to meetings is a prime example of how he likes to do business.

Meetings are a staple within any business. Research suggests that US based companies hold up to 11 million meetings every day; that’s a lot of meetings. Ensuring that your sessions are made up of the right people, are as efficient as possible, and result in actionable outcomes takes a significant amount of effort. However, it’s a challenge that Jeff Bezos addresses by making a habit of only participating in meetings of a certain size. Bezos applies his self-described ‘two pizza rule’ to help him and his colleagues determine how many people should attend each meeting: If two pizzas aren't enough to feed everyone in the room, then there are too many people.

This is an excellent technique which puts employees of Amazon into the habit of only creating meetings that consist of people to whom the topic of discussion is relevant while also limiting the number of people so that there can be a flowing discussion that allows everyone in the room to get involved.

An additional habit that Bezos encourages all new employees to adopt is the practice of beginning a meeting with a memo reading. Before the meeting, a memo of up to six pages will be drafted with Bezos then asking all attendees to read through this document in silence at the start of the meeting. It serves two principal purposes,

  1. It ensures everyone is aligned regarding discussion points for the meeting, and
  2. It ensures you have the undivided attention of everyone at the meeting once it begins

How to form habits like Jeff Bezos to ensure your meetings are as efficient as possible

In actuality, pizza is not served at every meeting at Amazon HQ, but the analogy acts as a straightforward comparison for his employees when they’re planning meetings. This combined with the implementation of a culture around thoughtful preparation are the keys to productive meetings. To begin building a habit of carrying out this strategy you could try the following subtasks.

1. Only accept and create meeting invitations for up to 5-6 people

There will always be team meetings with more significant numbers, but ultimately the meetings where you discuss critical components that impact your day-to-day job and projects will include fewer people. Getting into a habit of only having sessions with “pizza-sized teams” is an excellent way to become comfortable when meeting with that number of people.

In meetings with large numbers of attendees, it’s easy to shy away from discussion topics and miss out on important points raised. In order to start actively engaging in smaller meetings, you might want to:

“Only schedule meetings with up to six colleagues at a time”

Ultimately, the number of people who are in your meeting will fluctuate based on the topic of conversation, your profession, and numerous other factors. The purpose of setting a cap on the number of guests to the meeting is simply to help you build a habit of optimizing your own time, and your colleagues time.

2. Spend time preparing for every meeting you have in advance

Taking the time to review discussion points and critical aspects of a meeting is one thing but actively addressing the matter by preparing a memo or notes is another important prerequisite. By using Bezos’ memo reading as an example, you can create your habit around note taking and meeting preparation, and begin to:

“Write down 3-5 bullet points of preparation before each meeting.”

By starting small (with less than a six-page memo) you’re able to limit the focus points for discussion while also presenting the rest of the group with written notes in order to bring them up to speed with anything they should know in advance. These bullet points could just be the agenda or the questions/context that is required to make a decision in the meeting.

3. Ensure you leave each meeting with a set of actionable takeaways

Even if you manage to get into a habit of holding smaller meetings, and are able to routinely create memos in advance of the meetings, it might all be a waste if you aren’t able to build a habit of taking action on what is discussed. You can try to make a habit of leaving meetings with a set of actionable takeaways by:

“Defining at least 1-3 next steps from each meeting”

By making a note of points that require your action, and then reviewing these points with the other meeting attendees puts you in a position whereby you are more likely to follow through with issues or ideas that were discussed. This is another reason that Bezos implements the two pizza rule at Amazon: although meetings contain fewer people, each attendee leaves the meeting knowing exactly what they have to do to ensure the matters discussed during the meeting come to fruition.

All of the suggested habits throughout the above article can be copied into the Evolution 2 habit tracker. Just sign-up for your account here and start tracking your habit-building progress today.

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