Run Meetings as Efficiently as Elon Musk

10.01.2019

Kloeckner is a fairly lean organization even with more than 2,300 employees. Our leanness doesn’t allow us to be inefficient with numerous projects occurring daily. Therefore, we need to run meetings as effective as possible. Unproductive meetings cost U.S. companies an estimated $37 billion each year; sidetracking everyone’s energy and waste valuable worker time, dissipating initiative and lowering productivity.

In our environment, we are learning that it’s beneficial to constantly learn best practices. Today, we share one of the most well-known technology entrepreneur, investor, and engineer, Elon Musk’s approach to running a meeting. We might not always agree with all of his philosophy’s but he definitely offers some helpful insights. In case you are not familiar with Elon, here is an overview of his career:

  • Founder, CEO, Lead Designer of SpaceX
  • CEO, Product Architect of Tesla, Inc.
  • Co-founder of Neuralink
  • Founder of The Boring Company
  • Co-founder of Zip2
  • Founder of X.com (now PayPal)
  • Co-founder of OpenAI

Elon’s fiercely driven personal style has elevated the practice of efficient meetings to a science by following these key practices:

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!

Say that three times fast! Now, this may be stating the obvious but you’d be surprised. There’s no point in scheduling meetings until each participant has their contribution well-researched beyond any doubt. Proactive preparation should be the whole basis for gathering face to face, rather than just fulfilling some pre-established routine meeting schedule. The sheer force of Elon Musk’s personality makes it very difficult for an employee who isn’t prepared to answer a follow-up. You should feel like every person contributed to the meeting and steps were taken forward in completing the initiative at hand.

Get Down to the Basics

Elon Musk famously articulates a model of “First Principles.” – It is his core belief and mentioned in many of his interviews. He explains in an interview with Innormind, “It is important to reason with first principles rather than an analogy. Normally we conduct our lives by reasoning by analogy. We do this because it’s like something else that has been done or like something someone else is doing. The first principle files things down to fundamental truths, so I say ‘what do we know is true’ and reason up from there. That takes a lot more mental energy.

This term refers to his reliance on basic truths and facts rather than on comparisons to what’s already been done. When Musk holds meetings, he expects his team to break down a topic into its molecular facts and then present those in a coherent way. He relies on his team to not only think outside the box but to deconstruct and analyze the whole way the box is put together.

Keep the Long-Term Vision in Sight

The path to success may be littered with roadblocks and even failures along the way, and team members can get discouraged if they don’t feel connected to a vision of eventual success. Musk’s company SpaceX had three failed launches of its Falcon 1 rocket, and the team was feeling deeply disheartened. Musk’s response was as follows: “For my part, I will never give up, and I mean never.” His clear determination helped renew the team’s focus on finding solutions. One SpaceX employee commented on the power of Musk’s statement: “I think most of us would have followed him into the gates of hell carrying suntan oil after that. It was the most impressive display of leadership that I have ever witnessed. Within moments the energy of the building went from despair and defeat to a massive buzz of determination as people began to focus on moving forward instead of looking back.”

If you are the one leading the meeting or a participant, you must keep an optimistic attitude throughout the whole process.

You Only Get What You Are Putting In

“No matter how hard you work, someone else is working harder.” This is a SpaceX expression that was shared at meetings to keep everyone moving. And a Tesla employee comments “If you believe that a task should take a year, then Elon wants it done in a week.” Musk’s intense level of expectations may not be comfortable, but all his employees know that he models the same dedication that he requires from his staff.

Energy Levels and Intensities

Many managers recognize that Musk’s driven, intense style of running meetings isn’t necessarily one that they want to match though. While you may be able to improve the efficiency of your meetings by adopting one or another of Musk’s techniques, you might find that trying to copy his full approach could have a negative outcome. Choose your own style of managing and energy level, but make sure it is one you want to be mirrored by your peeps, even if it’s not at 100%

Making Your Meetings Build Productivity

Typifying his demanding style of leadership, Musk commented once that “Meetings are what happens when people aren’t working.” Clearly his intense demands that workers put in whatever time is necessary for preparation represent his efforts to maximize the effectiveness of the meetings he can’t avoid.

CBS MoneyWatch reports that “73 percent of professionals admit to doing unrelated work in meetings and 39 percent even dozed off in meetings.” Yikes! With statistics like that it’s easy to understand Elon’s intense demands from his employees.

Melika Nouri
Melika Nouri is the Marketing & Communications Manager at Kloeckner Metals. Melika holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Marketing from Kennesaw State University. She previously worked in the technology industry at Hewlett Packard Enterprise as part of their global MarCom team but is very eager to take on steel!
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