Elon Musk on meetings: 7 tips to maximize productivity

Love him or hate him, Elon Musk has strong opinions! And one of the business practices he loves to talk about are meetings, and how to have productive meetings.

Elon Musk’s meeting rules, and why they matter

Elon Musk’s business practices are notorious. He focuses on innovation, efficiency, and ambitious goal-setting. He leads hands-on, often working directly with teams to solve complex problems, creating an environment where groundbreaking advancements are the norm.

And he has applied this same approach to meetings too, for good reason. TED research shows that executives spend an average of 23 hours a week in meetings. As a result meetings are time-consuming and expensive for any business.

Meetings are the cross-roads of business productivity. Run them well, and you can drive the ground breaking advancements that Musk expects.

7 meeting tips that Elon swears by

1. Keep meetings short and to the point

Meetings drain the energy of an organization. Long, time consuming meetings set the cultural context, waste time, and impact the way people work through-out the rest of their working day. Short, sharp meetings that are on point are more productive, and create a work culture that is fast and on point too.

2. Avoid large meetings

In meetings, there is one person at a time talking. And it’s only that one person who is generating ideas and creating business value. Everyone else is listening.

Get rid of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short.

Elon Musk

The larger the audience, the more diverse the interests. It’s harder to ensure that there’s value in the meeting for everyone. Keep meetings small.

3. Ditch frequent meetings

Meetings are not a substitute for work. They’re not something that should be scheduled or frequent. Do the work. Focus on the work. Then, if you need to meet, call a meeting.

Get rid of frequent meetings, unless you are dealing with an extremely urgent matter.

Elon Musk

Frequent, scheduled meetings suck the life blood out of an organization.

4. Walk out if you’re not adding value

It’s not rude to walk out of a meeting. It’s rude to stay and offer no value (or be expected to stay, and waste your time).

Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value.

Elon Musk

This is a great example of establishing your own ground rules for effective meetings. Make sure everyone in your organization knows what’s expected.

5. Avoid acronyms and technical jargon

This is not specific to meetings, but it shows up at it’s worst in meetings. Use simple language that is commonly understood. Don’t over complicate.

We don’t want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function.

Elon Musk

This is an extract from his 2018 leaked email, which is the source of many of these meeting strategies and tips.

6. Use direct communication

Here Elon is talking about communication across the organization. Rather than report your concerns up through your management, speak directly to the person you need to speak with to get the work done.

Communication should travel via the shortest path necessary to get the job done, not through the “chain of command”. Any manager who attempts to enforce chain of command communication will soon find themselves working elsewhere.

Elon Musk

7. Focus on Problem-Solving, Not Discussing

Elon Musk is right to recognize that too many meetings are discussion forums, rather than having a clear focus on problem-solving.

There are only a few good reasons for having meetings: generating ideas and solving problems are two of the best. And to solve problems, the meeting requires a clear statement of the problem, and the right structure and facilitation to keep focused on problem-solving.

Elon Musk’s meeting strategies, vs the competition

Elon is a competitive guy, so let’s see how his meeting strategies stack up to the competition’s.

You’ll see some common themes, and some new ideas:

Mark Zuckerberg’s meeting tips

  • Set Clear Goals: Ensure every meeting has a specific purpose and objectives to achieve. Learn more.
  • Keep Meetings Small: Limit the number of participants to ensure more focused discussions. Read about it.
  • Encourage Open Dialogue: Create an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas. Explore the practice.
  • Data-Driven Discussions: Base conversations and decisions on data and evidence. See how.

These tips help Facebook maintain productive and outcome-focused meetings.

Satya Nadella’s meeting tips

Satya Nadella’s meeting tips focus on fostering collaboration and driving meaningful outcomes:

  • Clarity of Purpose: Ensure every meeting has a clear objective and desired outcome. Learn more.
  • Inclusivity: Create an inclusive environment where everyone feels empowered to contribute. Read about it.
  • Focus on Outcomes: Prioritize actionable insights and decisions over lengthy discussions. Explore the practice.
  • Leverage Technology: Use digital tools to enhance collaboration and efficiency. See how.

Jeff Bezos’ meeting productivity guidelines

Jeff Bezos’ meeting tips are almost as famous as Elon’s (especially the ‘two-pizza rule’!):

  • Two-Pizza Rule: Ensure meetings are small enough that two pizzas can feed the entire group. Learn more.
  • No PowerPoint: Use narrative memos instead of slide presentations to encourage critical thinking. Read about it.
  • Silent Start: Begin meetings by silently reading the prepared memos, fostering in-depth understanding. Explore the practice.
  • High Standards: Maintain high standards for preparation and participation to ensure productive discussions. See how.

Google’s meeting strategies

Google’s meeting tips include the well know ’10-minute meeting’ rule:

  • Set Clear Agendas: Define the purpose and desired outcomes to keep discussions focused. Learn more.
  • Time Management: Keep meetings short and concise to maintain energy and focus. Read Google’s guide.
  • Encourage Participation: Ensure all attendees contribute, fostering diverse viewpoints. Explore strategies.
  • Follow-Up Actions: Assign clear responsibilities to ensure decisions lead to tangible results. See follow-up tips.

How to benefit from these meeting productivity tips

What’s the best way to benefit from all these meeting productivity tips, strategies, and tools? Simple, develop your own distinctive ground rules for effective meetings.

Create rules that are unique and relevant to the challenges that you’re facing. Test them out. Practice them, and refine them.

Make sure everyone in your organization knows what’s expected. And build a meeting culture that’s unique and effective for you.

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