What Buff Bezos Does to Keep People in Check

I’ve told you before, but I’m not the only one. Buff Bezos of Amazog (and, methinks, richest man alive on the planet right now) does it too.

I’m sure you’ve seen at least a few of his photos where he looks like a psycho robot. Seriously, he does look like a maniac, and no surprises there – that’s usually what it takes to build a gazillion-dollar company. Especially a company that’s virtually never made a profit.

But I digress.

Don’t read the news, but when I see the Bezos roboface sloshing around, I can’t help myself clicking on the link (lesson in there!). Over the years, I’ve encountered the same narrative about his executive meetings over and over.

I don’t know if the stories are true – maybe it’s just very good PR – but I know what Bezos does works. Because he does what I’ve been doing.

Now, put yourself in the situation. You have a bunch of richly overpaid executives sitting in the room. Amazog is Bezos’s company, so they aren’t exactly angling to undermine him or unseat him (he is welded to that seat), but the stakes are pretty high anyway. To say the least, with those multimillion-dollar salaries, there’s a lot of harse to cover for each of the people in the room.

How do you get them to give you the information you need to run your company? How do you make sure they aren’t sitting on important data that could make their department look bad? How do you know they are telling you what works and not what serves their pet project or agenda?

It’s not easy.

Now, you can sure be a tyrannical baws, and keep people on their toes with fear, but that can only get you so far. And it can make it a lot more difficult for people to be direct and honest with you.

I don’t want that, and you probably won’t either. I’ve not heard even a whimper that Bezos does anything like it. Instead, he does something that could be genuinely terrifying to people who have something to hide.

Supposedly, he starts every meeting with time for reading. He literally makes sure everyone has read the memo (there is an actual memo!). That way he can get useful input instead of uninformed boolsheat from someone who has not read the memo. Or maybe a reporting executive leads people through the memo – “gives a presentation” – to make sure everybody is on the same page figuratively as well.

See yourself in that conference room at such a moment.

Your department fracked up massively with some PR time bomb. Or missed sales estimates by a huge margin. Or whatever other mediocrity may befall your corporate sluggery. You just spent the last half-hour delivering the news to everyone in the room. And now that you’re done, what does Bozo do?


Absolutely nothing.

Bozo the clown just sits there and says nothing. He lets the deafening silence in the room interrogate the suspects for him.

Maybe he will finally ask a question before you jump out the 30th-floor window. Maybe not. But first he will surely take his time saying nothing.

There are many ways to benefit from the dynamics of the situation, but I will give you the most important ones. Which you can use in most everyday situations.

I know I do.

If you don’t shut up and stop telling people your mind is made up on X and Y, how do you expect them to give you anything authentic? Especially when the news is bad.

Do as Bezos do. Shut up and listen and let people hang themselves on their own insecurities.

The point isn’t to make someone look bad. Obviously.

It’s to get something authentic.

And as long as you’re judging about, you will get none of it.

When you’re in a social situation where the fractured culture expects you to provide some sort of judgement or validation, simply don’t. I’ve made a habit of it, and there are no words that could impress people more than that.

Don’t believe me.

Just stop opining on everything for a few days.

In negotiation, it gives you power over most inexperienced adversaries. Easily, 75% of extroverts and 100% of people with weak egos will submit to you.

But there’s more. And something you won’t get from the media reports.

This type of behavior affects the company culture – or the culture of whatever people you’re dealing with – profoundly and long-term.

When you remove your opinions and evaluations from your communication, you remove a lot of reminders to people that they’re constantly being judged. People get such reminders aplenty every day. Like those notifications on your dumbphone that you can’t turn off.

When people are no longer prompted to focus on judgements and opinions and validation, they can actually catch a break – to use their brains constructively, not to shield their egos.

What “constructively” means depends on what you do with that liberated attention: ask questions, request help or just have some damn fun together. You have to direct it, because most have never learnt how to direct their attention themselves.

When you withhold judgement, you condition people to detach from theirs, especially the self-judgements that hold most people back (“fear of success”, anyone?). This is incredibly powerful. Even when you’re not around dumbphone monkeys who circle-jump through validation loops all day long.

By changing the way you behave with others and ditching your own judgy-opiniony attitude, you can radically change the culture of the people round you. Family, friends, teams, whatever. Forgoing positive judgements is just as important as with the negative. Most are boolsheat anyway.

You can also go the extra mile of ignoring other people’s judgments on yourself. When someone compliments you, politely shrug it off. See how people treat you differently.

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