Late last year, Elon Musk sent an email to all staff at Tesla with his 6 rules for greater productivity. Naturally, it leaked…
So, would taking advice from the world’s richest man work for your business?
In summary, the rules are:
- Avoid large meetings
- Ditch frequent meetings
- Leave a meeting if you’re not contributing
- Forget the chain of command
- Be clear, not clever
- Use common sense
Let’s explore these, see what’s behind them and whether they could supercharge your business productivity.
The first three items all revolve around meetings, and there’s a good reason for this – meetings take up a lot of time in the average business.
In fact, research from 2019 (so, before the pandemic) put a cost to business of ineffective meetings in the US alone at $399 billion a year. And with Fortune finding that professionals were in meetings for 21.5 hours during an average week in October 2021, up around 50% from 14.2 hours in February 2020, there’s little doubt that the cost has ballooned to well over $500 billion a year!
In other words, professionals are spending half their work week in meetings.
What impact is this having on your business?
And remember, the time spent in meetings is only part of the productivity loss – interruptions to workflow can cost 20-30 minutes per person per interruption on top of this…
- Avoid large meetings – having more people in a meeting than are absolutely necessary to achieve the goals of the meeting not only wastes the time of more people, costing you further in terms of productivity, but the larger the meeting, the less open the discussions and, frequently, many people are unable to contribute, too, due to time constraints.
Action: restrict invitations to meetings strictly to those people that can contribute to the meeting and are required to achieve the goal of the meeting. The only exception to this would be an “all hands” information session where the leadership is providing information to all staff, but these should be kept as short as practical.
- Ditch frequent meetings – these are the sort of meetings that fill so many executive calendars, the regular scheduled updates with teams, or team members. They’re unnecessary! Most of this sort of information can, and should, be given by email or other electronic messaging. Meetings should really only be called when there are issues that require active discussion and a decision is needed on the point(s) raised.
Action: start with a clean calendar. Remove those repeat meetings (they just take up time) and schedule meetings for specific purposes.
- Leave a meeting if you’re not contributing – don’t waste your time or that of others. If you don’t have a contribution to make (unless the meeting is an informational one that’s necessary) make your apologies and leave. Less people means better discussions for those that remain and, arguably, a shorter time needed to reach a decision.
Action: ensure your team understands that they can leave a meeting (or turn down a meeting request / invitation) if they are not going to be an active part of the decision-making process in that meeting.
- Forget the chain of command – this is not to say that everyone can make decisions that should be made by the CEO, CFO, or whoever. It’s more about the inter-departmental bureaucracy that so often happens, and the larger the organisation the more this happens. Somebody wants to discuss something with a colleague from another division and the message has to go via layers of management up, across and down to the colleague.
Speaking directly will ensure the information is not distorted somehow by going through too many people, will be a lot quicker, and will avoid wasting the time of all the “message carriers” up and down the divisions. Or, as Musk says, “if, in order to get something done between departments, an individual contributor has to talk to a manager, who talks to a director, who talks to a VP, who talks to another VP, who talks to a director, who talks to a manager, who talks to someone doing the actual work, then super dumb things will happen.”
Action: make it clear that people need to optimise their communications to ensure the most direct path and involve the fewest number of people necessary to get a particular task done.
- Be clear, not clever – nobody likes a smart-alec. Speak and write plainly, avoiding unnecessary long words, acronyms, jargon and other possibly exclusionary language. Keep sentences short and to the point. If a word, or phrase, would need explaining to the average person, don’t use it – this adds complexity, time and increases the potential for error through misunderstanding. Keeping your language crisp and accurate will save everyone’s time.
Action: when in doubt, ask yourself what sort of language Churchill might have used. Arguably one of the greatest orators of the past century, he was renowned for his ability to use simple, everyday language to make his points – points that resonate to this day.
- Use common sense – I often wonder why it is called ‘common’ sense as it so often seems uncommon. When it comes to getting things done, follow your gut – the company rule book is often out of date, so if a rule doesn’t make sense, apply to this situation, or enable you to get the job done, ignore it – provided, of course, the route you do take is ethical.
Action: what needs to be followed is principles, rather than rules, word by word. Rules, like plans, change as things develop. Principles do no. Make sure your team understands this.
We could do worse than follow the advice of the world’s richest man – somebody who has thrived by doing things others thought impossible: popularising electric vehicles, developing reusable rocket launch systems, and so on.
Look at your business. See how many of these points you can apply and supercharge your business with great improvements in productivity and morale, too, as a result.
Following a career spanning nearly 50 years in the technology industry across three continents, with three decades in CxO roles leading significant, sustained growth in revenue and profitability, I now work with successful owner-led businesses to further enhance their growth, profitability and business value.
If you’d like to discuss your business strategy, culture, goals, or anything else related to your business, book a confidential, free 30-minute call with me here.
I’d be delighted to talk with you.
If you’d like to learn more, these related posts might be of interest:
- How Meetings Can Be Hurting Your Business, and How to Fix This
- Time Management for Busy Executives
- Why Am I So Busy But Can’t Seem to Get Anything Done?
- Looking at Time Differently To Boost Productivity
- Why Delegation is a Critical Leadership Skill and How to Do So Effectively.
- The Power of Accountability in Business Success
- The Power of Accountable Leadership
- Are You Running Your Business or Leading It?
- OKR – Measuring What Matters
- “Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.” – Josh Billings
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