November 2: A scene from a 2003 Amazon S-Team Meeting
“The answer to that question begins with a number!” - Jeff Bezos
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Source: The Amazon Way (introduction)
Published: June 2021
A scene from a 2003 Amazon S-Team Meeting
Setting: a conference room in Amazon’s Seattle Headquarters in 2003 during an S-Team (senior executives) meeting about the third-party marketplace business.
Context: Jeff Bezos is frustrated. He doesn’t think that Amazon is moving quickly to add Merchants (aka third-party sellers). Speaking to John Rossman, the Director of Merchant Integration, he asks a deceptively simple question:
Jeff: “How many merchants have launched since the first of the year?”
John: “Well, you see, as of right now—” but before he finishes, Jeff interrupts.
Jeff: “The answer to that question begins with a number!”
John: After taking a big gulp, “Six, but—”
Jeff: Pouncing like a lion tearing into the soft underbelly of its kill, says, “That is the most pathetic answer I have ever heard!”
Over the next five minutes, Jeff goes on a rant. Using the Leadership Principles, he describes the shortcomings of John’s work. John is “pinned to his chair as if by the force of hurricane winds.”
When the rant ends, Jeff simply gets up and leaves the room without another word—just like that, the S-Team meeting has ended.
“He likes you,” an S-Team executive explains to John with a pat on the shoulder. “Jeff wouldn’t take the time to embarrass you like that if he didn’t.”
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I found today's Fact of the Day to be an interesting allegory. Hopefully it reminds us all how important it is to always treat our colleagues, regardless of role and level, with respect and dignity. Phycological safety has been shown to have a very strong correlation with team performance and seems to me to be central to our philosophies of "willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time" and "making bold bets".
Reflecting on this as prompted me to think about our two newest LPs.
Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer
Leaders work every day to create a safer, more productive, higher performing, more diverse, and more just work environment. They lead with empathy, have fun at work, and make it easy for others to have fun. Leaders ask themselves: Are my fellow employees growing? Are they empowered? Are they ready for what’s next? Leaders have a vision for and commitment to their employees’ personal success, whether that be at Amazon or elsewhere.
Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility
We started in a garage, but we’re not there anymore. We are big, we impact the world, and we are far from perfect. We must be humble and thoughtful about even the secondary effects of our actions. Our local communities, planet, and future generations need us to be better every day. We must begin each day with a determination to make better, do better, and be better for our customers, our employees, our partners, and the world at large. And we must end every day knowing we can do even more tomorrow. Leaders create more than they consume and always leave things better than how they found them.
Have a great day, let's all look out for our friends, family, and colleagues and and leave things better than we found them.
What a terrible example of leadership.