Over on the Inc blog there is an article titled 20 Executives Share Lessons They Wish They Could Have Told Their Younger Selves.  I share my top 4 from the full list, in the order that I think they are important.

The most relevant for me was number 9, not for the “decide issues quickly” but for “figure out what typically slows down your decision making and find ways to work around it”.  I took some time to reflect…

What slows down my own (business) decision making?

…this is a brain dump of thoughts that come to me now…

  1. Fear of being wrong
  2. Fear of a better idea coming up tomorrow when we have already committed to this course
  3. Feeling like I have to figure out all the implementation details now rather than allow them to be decided when they become necessary.
  4. Feeling like I need to have a really good explanation of my decision that will impress others and have them see me as a “decisive visionary leader”
  5. Feeling like I have to be 100% sure
  6. Feeling like I should speak to a few more people and get their inputs first
  7. Worrying that I have messed up similar decisions in the past (particularly people decisions)
  8. Not seeing the costs of delaying the decision (both financial, and that it then hangs on my mind while I wait to actually commit to a decision)
  9. Not being systematic about the approach to taking decisions
  10. Not distinguishing between small decisions and big decisions and having a clearly different process for each
  11. Not trusting myself to figure out how to make it work down the road
  12. Not stopping to clarify exactly why the decision is important and how it relates to my vision and purpose

What slows down your decision making?

Here’s the four lessons from the article that I found most valuable and important to me right now.  Numbers are from the Inc Article, Bold text is my own addition…

9. Maximize your time.

“The fastest way to maximize your time is to decide issues quickly. If you need to speed up your decision making, figure out what typically slows down your decision making and find ways to work around it. Pass responsibilities down as far as your people are comfortable. This is another way of speeding up your decision making, by giving others power to decide. You’ll often find that this motivates your employees, building their confidence and enthusiasm, and over time they will gradually accept more responsibility. Clarify your company’s vision, so everyone on the team intuitively understands when projects should be prioritized.”

Jesse Robbins, founder and CEO of Orion Labs, an enterprise voice platform which secured $18.25 million last fall to expand its next-generation of services to the broader speech and voice recognition market, on track to be worth $18.3 billion by 2023

If you want to explore more about taking better decisions quickly, you could continue reading How to Choose in Life Decisions and Agonizing over Decisions.

1. You don’t have to be strong all the time.

“It’s OK to be vulnerable. In high school and college, I spent a lot of time learning to be mentally strong, which can be a good thing, since resilience will wear down mountains given time. However, you don’t have to be strong all the time. Tell people when you don’t know, and when you’re worried. You’d be amazing how much help you’ll get, and how much of a connection that creates.”

Mike Tuchen, CEO of Talend, a provider of cloud and big data integration solutions which saw its stock rise nearly 60 percent over the past year

If you want to explore more about leading as a real human being, you could continue reading Freedom is not Fun and 17 Personal Habits for a Fulfilling Life.

3. You need people who question your beliefs.

“CEOs need people around them who are going to question their fundamental beliefs. These people should test and push, so CEOs are forced to question the decisions that they’re making and plan for the inevitable ups and downs that building a company will bring. If you surround yourself with coaches, prodders, and different thinkers, you will create a feedback loop that will fundamentally change your view of the world and make you a better leader.”

Gordon Ritter, founder and general partner of Emergence Capital, an enterprise cloud venture firm which was recently named Venture Capital Firm of the Year by the National Venture Capital Association

If you want to explore more about getting good feedback for your growth, you could continue reading Accepting Feedback and Managing Oneself.  

You should also check out Entrepreneurs Organisation, Young Presidents Organisation or Vistage as these organisations will help you find a group of peers who can challenge your beliefs and inspire you to be the best that you can.

18. Speak up.

“The one thing I wish my younger self knew was how to find a balance between acting smart and expressing achievements without hesitation. Stereotypes of women’s behavior can dominate perceptions, and as a woman in a male-dominated, STEM-related field, I’ve learned how to take a seat at the table and deliver my message so that it’s heard and respected.”

Chris Mackey, CEO of MackeyRMS, a research management platform for investment professionals that has taken no outside capital/funding, with clients on its platform managing over $1 trillion in assets

If you want to explore more about speaking up, you could continue begin my free 10 week program Speaking as a Leader and Five and a half reasons why you should start a blog today.

I’ve published two videos this week.  Both of these videos were inspired by Jeff Bezos’ letter to shareholders from last week.  (The text of the letter is available below).

2 Jeff Bezos Inspired Videos

  • The first: why do we fail to achieve our goals?
  • The second: how do we create high standards?

if you are reading this via email and don’t see the videos, watch them on the blog here: Jeff Bezos on High Standards and Why you don’t achieve your goals

Jeff Bezos on Why We Fail to Achieve our Goals

Jeff Bezos on Setting High Standards

The Most Read Post of All Time…  on Amazon:

If you liked this post, you will also like my all-time most read post Amazon Staff Meetings: They Banned Powerpoint.

Amazon’s Letter to Shareholders

You can read the letter as filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission here: https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1018724/000119312518121161/d456916dex991.htm

or here is the full text for your enjoyment…

EX-99.1 2 d456916dex991.htm EX-99.1

LOGO

  Exhibit 99.1  

To our shareowners:

The American Customer Satisfaction Index recently announced the results of its annual survey, and for the 8th year in a row customers ranked Amazon #1. The United Kingdom has a similar index, The U.K. Customer Satisfaction Index, put out by the Institute of Customer Service. For the 5th time in a row Amazon U.K. ranked #1 in that survey. Amazon was also just named the #1 business on LinkedIn’s 2018 Top Companies list, which ranks the most sought after places to work for professionals in the United States. And just a few weeks ago, Harris Poll released its annual Reputation Quotient, which surveys over 25,000 consumers on a broad range of topics from workplace environment to social responsibility to products and services, and for the 3rd year in a row Amazon ranked #1.

Congratulations and thank you to the now over 560,000 Amazonians who come to work every day with unrelenting customer obsession, ingenuity, and commitment to operational excellence. And on behalf of Amazonians everywhere, I want to extend a huge thank you to customers. It’s incredibly energizing for us to see your responses to these surveys.

One thing I love about customers is that they are divinely discontent. Their expectations are never static – they go up. It’s human nature. We didn’t ascend from our hunter-gatherer days by being satisfied. People have a voracious appetite for a better way, and yesterday’s ‘wow’ quickly becomes today’s ‘ordinary’. I see that cycle of improvement happening at a faster rate than ever before. It may be because customers have such easy access to more information than ever before – in only a few seconds and with a couple taps on their phones, customers can read reviews, compare prices from multiple retailers, see whether something’s in stock, find out how fast it will ship or be available for pick-up, and more. These examples are from retail, but I sense that the same customer empowerment phenomenon is happening broadly across everything we do at Amazon and most other industries as well. You cannot rest on your laurels in this world. Customers won’t have it.

How do you stay ahead of ever-rising customer expectations? There’s no single way to do it – it’s a combination of many things. But high standards (widely deployed and at all levels of detail) are certainly a big part of it. We’ve had some successes over the years in our quest to meet the high expectations of customers. We’ve also had billions of dollars’ worth of failures along the way. With those experiences as backdrop, I’d like to share with you the essentials of what we’ve learned (so far) about high standards inside an organization.

Intrinsic or Teachable?

First, there’s a foundational question: are high standards intrinsic or teachable? If you take me on your basketball team, you can teach me many things, but you can’t teach me to be taller. Do we first and foremost need to select for “high standards” people? If so, this letter would need to be mostly about hiring practices, but I don’t think so. I believe high standards are teachable. In fact, people are pretty good at learning high standards simply through exposure. High standards are contagious. Bring a new person onto a high standards team, and they’ll quickly adapt. The opposite is also true. If low standards prevail, those too will quickly spread. And though exposure works well to teach high standards, I believe you can accelerate that rate of learning by articulating a few core principles of high standards, which I hope to share in this letter.

Universal or Domain Specific?

Another important question is whether high standards are universal or domain specific. In other words, if you have high standards in one area, do you automatically have high standards elsewhere? I believe high standards are domain specific, and that you have to learn high standards separately in every arena of interest. When I started Amazon, I had high standards on inventing, on customer care, and (thankfully) on hiring. But I didn’t have high standards on operational process: how to keep fixed problems fixed, how to eliminate defects at the root, how to inspect processes, and much more. I had to learn and develop high standards on all of that (my colleagues were my tutors).

 


Understanding this point is important because it keeps you humble. You can consider yourself a person of high standards in general and still have debilitating blind spots. There can be whole arenas of endeavor where you may not even know that your standards are low or non-existent, and certainly not world class. It’s critical to be open to that likelihood.

Recognition and Scope

What do you need to achieve high standards in a particular domain area? First, you have to be able to recognize what good looks like in that domain. Second, you must have realistic expectations for how hard it should be (how much work it will take) to achieve that result – the scope.

Let me give you two examples. One is a sort of toy illustration but it makes the point clearly, and another is a real one that comes up at Amazon all the time.

Perfect Handstands

A close friend recently decided to learn to do a perfect free-standing handstand. No leaning against a wall. Not for just a few seconds. Instagram good. She decided to start her journey by taking a handstand workshop at her yoga studio. She then practiced for a while but wasn’t getting the results she wanted. So, she hired a handstand coach. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but evidently this is an actual thing that exists. In the very first lesson, the coach gave her some wonderful advice. “Most people,” he said, “think that if they work hard, they should be able to master a handstand in about two weeks. The reality is that it takes about six months of daily practice. If you think you should be able to do it in two weeks, you’re just going to end up quitting.” Unrealistic beliefs on scope – often hidden and undiscussed – kill high standards. To achieve high standards yourself or as part of a team, you need to form and proactively communicate realistic beliefs about how hard something is going to be – something this coach understood well.

Six-Page Narratives

We don’t do PowerPoint (or any other slide-oriented) presentations at Amazon. Instead, we write narratively structuredsix-page memos. We silently read one at the beginning of each meeting in a kind of “study hall.” Not surprisingly, the quality of these memos varies widely. Some have the clarity of angels singing. They are brilliant and thoughtful and set up the meeting for high-quality discussion. Sometimes they come in at the other end of the spectrum.

In the handstand example, it’s pretty straightforward to recognize high standards. It wouldn’t be difficult to lay out in detail the requirements of a well-executed handstand, and then you’re either doing it or you’re not. The writing example is very different. The difference between a great memo and an average one is much squishier. It would be extremely hard to write down the detailed requirements that make up a great memo. Nevertheless, I find that much of the time, readers react to great memos very similarly. They know it when they see it. The standard is there, and it is real, even if it’s not easily describable.

Here’s what we’ve figured out. Often, when a memo isn’t great, it’s not the writer’s inability to recognize the high standard, but instead a wrong expectation on scope: they mistakenly believe a high-standards, six-page memo can be written in one or two days or even a few hours, when really it might take a week or more! They’re trying to perfect a handstand in just two weeks, and we’re not coaching them right. The great memos are written and re-written, shared with colleagues who are asked to improve the work, set aside for a couple of days, and then edited again with a fresh mind. They simply can’t be done in a day or two. The key point here is that you can improve results through the simple act of teaching scope – that a great memo probably should take a week or more.

Skill

Beyond recognizing the standard and having realistic expectations on scope, how about skill? Surely to write a world class memo, you have to be an extremely skilled writer? Is it another required element? In my view, not so much, at least not for the individual in the context of teams. The football coach doesn’t need to be able to throw, and a film director doesn’t need to be able to act. But they both do need to recognize high standards for those things and teach realistic expectations on scope. Even in the example of writing a six-page memo, that’s


teamwork. Someone on the team needs to have the skill, but it doesn’t have to be you. (As a side note, by tradition at Amazon, authors’ names never appear on the memos – the memo is from the whole team.)

Benefits of High Standards

Building a culture of high standards is well worth the effort, and there are many benefits. Naturally and most obviously, you’re going to build better products and services for customers – this would be reason enough! Perhaps a little less obvious: people are drawn to high standards – they help with recruiting and retention. More subtle: a culture of high standards is protective of all the “invisible” but crucial work that goes on in every company. I’m talking about the work that no one sees. The work that gets done when no one is watching. In a high standards culture, doing that work well is its own reward – it’s part of what it means to be a professional.

And finally, high standards are fun! Once you’ve tasted high standards, there’s no going back.

So, the four elements of high standards as we see it: they are teachable, they are domain specific, you must recognize them, and you must explicitly coach realistic scope. For us, these work at all levels of detail. Everything from writing memos to whole new, clean-sheet business initiatives. We hope they help you too.

Insist on the Highest Standards

Leaders have relentlessly high standards – many people may think these standards are unreasonably high.

— from the Amazon Leadership Principles

Recent Milestones

The high standards our leaders strive for have served us well. And while I certainly can’t do a handstand myself, I’m extremely proud to share some of the milestones we hit last year, each of which represents the fruition of many years of collective effort. We take none of them for granted.

 

Prime – 13 years post-launch, we have exceeded 100 million paid Prime members globally. In 2017 Amazon shipped more than five billion items with Prime worldwide, and more new members joined Prime than in any previous year – both worldwide and in the U.S. Members in the U.S. now receive unlimited free two-day shipping on over 100 million different items. We expanded Prime to Mexico, Singapore, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, and introduced Business Prime Shipping in the U.S. and Germany. We keep making Prime shipping faster as well, with Prime Free Same-Day and Prime Free One-Day delivery now in more than 8,000 cities and towns. Prime Now is available in more than 50 cities worldwide across nine countries. Prime Day 2017 was our biggest global shopping event ever (until surpassed by Cyber Monday), with more new Prime members joining Prime than any other day in our history.

 

AWS – It’s exciting to see Amazon Web Services, a $20 billion revenue run rate business, accelerate its already healthy growth. AWS has also accelerated its pace of innovation – especially in new areas such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, and serverless computing. In 2017, AWS announced more than 1,400 significant services and features, including Amazon SageMaker, which radically changes the accessibility and ease of use for everyday developers to build sophisticated machine learning models. Tens of thousands of customers are also using a broad range of AWS machine learning services, with active users increasing more than 250 percent in the last year, spurred by the broad adoption of Amazon SageMaker. And in November, we held our sixth re:Invent conference with more than 40,000 attendees and over 60,000 streaming participants.

 

Marketplace – In 2017, for the first time in our history, more than half of the units sold on Amazon worldwide were from our third-party sellers, including small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Over 300,000 U.S.-based SMBs started selling on Amazon in 2017, and Fulfillment by Amazon shipped billions of items for SMBs worldwide. Customers ordered more than 40 million items from SMBs worldwide during Prime Day 2017, growing their sales by more than 60 percent over Prime Day 2016. Our Global Selling program (enabling SMBs to sell products across national borders) grew by over 50% in 2017 and cross-border ecommerce by SMBs now represents more than 25% of total third-party sales.

Alexa – Customer embrace of Alexa continues, with Alexa-enabled devices among the best-selling items across all of Amazon. We’re seeing extremely strong adoption by other companies and developers that want to create their own experiences with Alexa. There are now more than 30,000 skills for Alexa from outside developers, and customers can control more than 4,000 smart home devices from 1,200 unique brands with Alexa. The foundations of Alexa continue to get smarter every day too. We’ve developed and implemented an on-devicefingerprinting technique, which keeps your device from waking up when it hears an Alexa commercial on TV. (This technology ensured that our Alexa Super Bowl commercial didn’t wake up millions of devices.) Far-fieldspeech recognition (already very good) has improved by 15% over the last year; and in the U.S., U.K., and Germany, we’ve improved Alexa’s spoken language understanding by more than 25% over the last 12 months through enhancements in Alexa’s machine learning components and the use of semi-supervised learning techniques. (These semi-supervised learning techniques reduced the amount of labeled data needed to achieve the same accuracy improvement by 40 times!) Finally, we’ve dramatically reduced the amount of time required to teach Alexa new languages by using machine translation and transfer learning techniques, which allows us to serve customers in more countries (like India and Japan).

 

Amazon devices – 2017 was our best year yet for hardware sales. Customers bought tens of millions of Echo devices, and Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick with Alexa were the best-selling products across all of Amazon – across all categories and all manufacturers. Customers bought twice as many Fire TV Sticks and Kids Edition Fire Tablets this holiday season versus last year. 2017 marked the release of our all-new Echo with an improved design, better sound, and a lower price; Echo Plus with a built-in smart home hub; and Echo Spot, which is compact and beautiful with a circular screen. We released our next generation Fire TV, featuring 4K Ultra HD and HDR; and the Fire HD 10 Tablet, with 1080p Full HD display. And we celebrated the 10th anniversary of Kindle by releasing the all-new Kindle Oasis, our most advanced reader ever. It’s waterproof – take it in the bathtub – with a bigger 7” high-resolution 300 ppi display and has built-in audio so you can also listen to your books with Audible.

 

Prime Video – Prime Video continues to drive Prime member adoption and retention. In the last year we made Prime Video even better for customers by adding new, award-winning Prime Originals to the service, like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, winner of two Critics’ Choice Awards and two Golden Globes, and the Oscar-nominated movie The Big Sick. We’ve expanded our slate of programming across the globe, launching new seasons of Bosch and Sneaky Pete from the U.S., The Grand Tour from the U.K., and You Are Wanted from Germany, while adding new Sentosha shows from Japan, along with Breathe and the award-winning Inside Edge from India. Also this year, we expanded our Prime Channels offerings, adding CBS All Access in the U.S. and launching Channels in the U.K. and Germany. We debuted NFL Thursday Night Football on Prime Video, with more than 18 million total viewers over 11 games. In 2017, Prime Video Direct secured subscription video rights for more than 3,000 feature films and committed over $18 million in royalties to independent filmmakers and other rights holders. Looking forward, we’re also excited about our upcoming Prime Original series pipeline, which includes Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan starring John Krasinski; King Lear, starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson; The Romanoffs, executive produced by Matt Weiner; Carnival Row starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne; Good Omens starring Jon Hamm; and Homecoming, executive produced by Sam Esmail and starring Julia Roberts in her first television series. We acquired the global television rights for a multi-season production of The Lord of the Rings, as well as Cortés, a miniseries based on the epic saga of Hernán Cortés from executive producer Steven Spielberg, starring Javier Bardem, and we look forward to beginning work on those shows this year.

 

Amazon Music – Amazon Music continues to grow fast and now has tens of millions of paid customers. Amazon Music Unlimited, our on-demand, ad-free offering, expanded to more than 30 new countries in 2017, and membership has more than doubled over the past six months.

 

Fashion – Amazon has become the destination for tens of millions of customers to shop for fashion. In 2017, we introduced our first fashion-oriented Prime benefit, Prime Wardrobe – a new service that brings the fitting room directly to the homes of Prime members so they can try on the latest styles before they buy. We introduced Nike and UGG on Amazon along with new celebrity collections by Drew Barrymore and Dwyane Wade, as well as dozens of new private brands, like Goodthreads and


Core10. We’re also continuing to enable thousands of designers and artists to offer their exclusive designs and prints on demand through Merch by Amazon. We finished 2017 with the launch of our interactive shopping experience with Calvin Klein, including pop-up shops, on-site product customization, and fitting rooms with Alexa-controlled lighting, music, and more.

 

Whole Foods – When we closed our acquisition of Whole Foods Market last year, we announced our commitment to making high-quality, natural and organic food available for everyone, then immediately lowered prices on a selection of best-selling grocery staples, including avocados, organic brown eggs, and responsibly-farmed salmon. We followed this with a second round of price reductions in November, and our Prime member exclusive promotion broke Whole Foods’ all-time record for turkeys sold during the Thanksgiving season. In February, we introduced free two-hour delivery on orders over $35 for Prime members in select cities, followed by additional cities in March and April, and plan continued expansion across the U.S. throughout this year. We also expanded the benefits of the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card, enabling Prime members to get 5% back when shopping at Whole Foods Market. Beyond that, customers can purchase Whole Foods’ private label products like 365 Everyday Value on Amazon, purchase Echo and other Amazon devices in over a hundred Whole Foods stores, and pick-up or return Amazon packages at Amazon Lockers in hundreds of Whole Foods stores. We’ve also begun the technical work needed to recognize Prime members at the point of sale and look forward to offering more Prime benefits to Whole Foods shoppers once that work is completed.

 

Amazon Go – Amazon Go, a new kind of store with no checkout required, opened to the public in January in Seattle. Since opening, we’ve been thrilled to hear many customers refer to their shopping experience as “magical.” What makes the magic possible is a custom-built combination of computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning, which come together to create Just Walk Out shopping. With JWO, customers are able to grab their favorite breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, and grocery essentials more conveniently than ever before. Some of our top-selling items are not surprising – caffeinated beverages and water are popular – but our customers also love the Chicken Banh Mi sandwich, chocolate chip cookies, cut fruit, gummy bears, and our Amazon Meal Kits.

 

Treasure Truck – Treasure Truck expanded from a single truck in Seattle to a fleet of 35 trucks across 25 U.S. cities and 12 U.K. cities. Our bubble-blowing, music-pumping trucks fulfilled hundreds of thousands of orders, from porterhouse steaks to the latest Nintendo releases. Throughout the year, Treasure Truck also partnered with local communities to lift spirits and help those in need, including donating and delivering hundreds of car seats, thousands of toys, tens of thousands of socks, and many other essentials to community members needing relief, from those displaced by Hurricane Harvey, to the homeless, to kids needing holiday cheer.

 

India – Amazon.in is the fastest growing marketplace in India, and the most visited site on both desktop and mobile, according to comScore and SimilarWeb. The Amazon.in mobile shopping app was also the most downloaded shopping app in India in 2017, according to App Annie. Prime added more members in India in its first year than any previous geography in Amazon’s history. Prime selection in India now includes more than 40 million local products from third-party sellers, and Prime Video is investing in India original video content in a big way, including two recent premiers and over a dozen new shows in production.

 

Sustainability – We are committed to minimizing carbon emissions by optimizing our transportation network, improving product packaging, and enhancing energy efficiency in our operations, and we have a long-term goal to power our global infrastructure using 100% renewable energy. We recently launched Amazon Wind Farm Texas, our largest wind farm yet, which generates more than 1,000,000 megawatt hours of clean energy annually from over 100 turbines. We have plans to host solar energy systems at 50 fulfillment centers by 2020, and have launched 24 wind and solar projects across the U.S. with more than 29 additional projects to come. Together, Amazon’s renewable energy projects now produce enough clean energy to power over 330,000 homes annually. In 2017 we celebrated the 10-year anniversary of Frustration-Free Packaging, the first of a suite of sustainable packaging initiatives that have eliminated more than 244,000 tons of packaging materials over the past 10 years. In addition, in 2017 alone our programs significantly reduced packaging waste, eliminating the


equivalent of 305 million shipping boxes. And across the world, Amazon is contracting with our service providers to launch our first low-pollution last-mile fleet. Already today, a portion of our European delivery fleet is comprised of low-pollution electric and natural gas vans and cars, and we have over 40 electric scooters and e-cargo bikes that complete local urban deliveries.

 

Empowering Small Business – Millions of small and medium-sized businesses worldwide now sell their products through Amazon to reach new customers around the globe. SMBs selling on Amazon come from every state in the U.S., and from more than 130 different countries around the world. More than 140,000 SMBs surpassed $100,000 in sales on Amazon in 2017, and over a thousand independent authors surpassed $100,000 in royalties in 2017 through Kindle Direct Publishing.

 

Investment & Job Creation – Since 2011, we have invested over $150 billion worldwide in our fulfillment networks, transportation capabilities, and technology infrastructure, including AWS data centers. Amazon has created over 1.7 million direct and indirect jobs around the world. In 2017 alone, we directly created more than 130,000 new Amazon jobs, not including acquisitions, bringing our global employee base to over 560,000. Our new jobs cover a wide range of professions, from artificial intelligence scientists to packaging specialists to fulfillment center associates. In addition to these direct hires, we estimate that Amazon Marketplace has created 900,000 more jobs worldwide, and that Amazon’s investments have created an additional 260,000 jobs in areas like construction, logistics, and other professional services.

 

Career Choice – One employee program we’re particularly proud of is Amazon Career Choice. For hourly associates with more than one year of tenure, we pre-pay 95% of tuition, fees, and textbooks (up to $12,000) for certificates and associate degrees in high-demand occupations such as aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, machine tool technologies, medical lab technologies, and nursing. We fund education in areas that are in high demand and do so regardless of whether those skills are relevant to a career at Amazon. Globally more than 16,000 associates (including more than 12,000 in the U.S.) have joined Career Choice since the program launched in 2012. Career Choice is live in ten countries and expanding to South Africa, Costa Rica, and Slovakia later this year. Commercial truck driving, healthcare, and information technology are the program’s most popular fields of study. We’ve built 39 Career Choice classrooms so far, and we locate them behind glass walls in high traffic areas inside our fulfillment centers so associates can be inspired by seeing their peers pursue new skills.

The credit for these milestones is deserved by many. Amazon is 560,000 employees. It’s also 2 million sellers, hundreds of thousands of authors, millions of AWS developers, and hundreds of millions of divinely discontent customers around the world who push to make us better each and every day.

Path Ahead

This year marks the 20th anniversary of our first shareholder letter, and our core values and approach remain unchanged. We continue to aspire to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, and we recognize this to be no small or easy challenge. We know there is much we can do better, and we find tremendous energy in the many challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

A huge thank you to each and every customer for allowing us to serve you, to our shareowners for your support, and to Amazonians everywhere for your ingenuity, your passion, and your high standards.

As always, I attach a copy of our original 1997 letter. It remains Day 1.

Sincerely,

 

LOGO

Jeffrey P. Bezos

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Amazon.com, Inc.

Often when people approach me to improve their communication skills, they are looking for tips and tricks to improve their charisma. It is much more powerful to work over the long term to develop your character as a leader.

Character is formed over many, many years as you work to remove the pieces that are not part of who you want to be. Character is chiselled out of the rock, slowly removing all the dirt and excess before revealing the statue below.

  • Charisma is “compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others”. (on wikipedia)
  • Character is “an individual’s stable moral qualities. The concept of character can imply a variety of attributes including the existence or lack of virtues such as empathy, courage, fortitude, honesty, and loyalty, or of good behaviors or habits.” (on wikipedia)

This is a guest post from Ecatherine Matnadze, who serves as the Vistage Spain In-house Leadership Coach - working with me and the leadership team in clarifying goals and staying disciplined in our actions.

When a change plan fails, it is more often than not due to the human dynamics inside the organisation.  It doesn’t matter whether your plan is “good” or “bad”, it matters that you work to build a coalition of support amongst those that will be affected by your plan.

Most leaders can come up with a goal and with a plan. It’s the relationships that make things happen or not.

The 5 Types of People in Any Change Initiative

  1. Committed Supporters,
  2. Compliant Supporters,
  3. Neutral Parties,
  4. Antagonists, and
  5. Active Resisters.

1. Committed Supporters

Committed supporters are people who will go out of their way to help an idea happen. A committed supporter is someone who will take personal risk to make this happen. There is an old story about a pig and a chicken going to a picnic. The chicken brings eggs; the pig brings bacon. The chicken is compliant; the pig is committed.

We want to know who the committed supporters are. Why do they support this idea? How can we leverage them? How can we get them to influence others?

There aren’t going to be a lot of committed supporters in most organisations. But if you can find them, they can be enormously helpful.

2. Compliant Supporters

These are the chickens who come to the picnic with eggs. They’re helpful. They’re supportive. Who are they? Why do they support this? How can we use their support to get things done?

Maybe we can turn them into committed supporters. Maybe we can build the relationship a little bit more so they’ll go from bringing the eggs to bringing the bacon.

3. Neutral Parties

There’s a lot of people who just sit back and watch and wait. They don’t take any risks, they’re not sure, or they’re just neutral. And again, we want to identify them – if we can get more of them on our side, we can get a lot more momentum for our idea.

Who are they? Why are they neutral? And what reasons can we use to influence them to turn them into a supporter?

4. Antagonists

Now we’re moving to the people who are negative. Antagonists are not willing to take personal risk to stop the idea, but they might feel moderately threatened by it; they might not understand it; they might not like it. Sometimes they’re very vocal against it, but they’re still not willing to do anything.

The best you can do with the antagonists is to get them to be neutral. At least get them not to speak out against the idea in meetings. Would you go and talk to them? Maybe you redeploy them somewhere where they don’t have an impact on this idea.

5. Active Resisters

These are the nemeses, the saboteurs. Active resisters feel personally threatened by the idea and will do anything to resist.

It’s very rare that they’re irrational, unless you have done something that’s caused a personal enmity. Usually they have other incentives and it’s a matter of will, of really working hard to get them on your side. Sometimes it’s a matter of changing the way they’re rewarded. Maybe someone with power can talk to them and say, listen, this is moving forward, I need you out of the way.

Sometimes the best you can do with active resisters is to isolate them – maybe they have to move to a different department, or leave the organisation.

You don’t need Everyone to Support you…

It’s said that in any major initiative at most you’re going to get about one-third on your side as committed and/or compliant supporters. Few want to change, and most people are in a state of inertia. It’s okay for people to be negative, you just don’t want so many of them that it’s going to make it impossible the initiative to succeed. You don’t need everybody to support you. The key is finding the right number of people.

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Ecatherine Matnadze is Certified Executive and Team coach, focusing on coaching top leaders and their executive teams. Having worked as a CEO herself, she understands the demands placed on high-achieving leaders, and helps them balance business results with personal well-being.

Ecatherine is based in Barcelona, Spain. She works with Spanish- and English- speaking clients, both locally and internationally. You should connect and follow her posts on LinkedIn.

I spoke with one of my mentors in Madrid this week.  We spoke about success in business.

What is business success?

  • What price is worth paying?
  • What are the ingredients of achieving success?
  • Is Business Success due to Great Decisions, or is it due to Excellent Implementation?

I share his answer in this video.

PS 99.9% of business (and life) success is due to Commitment, rather than Brilliant Ideas or Decisions

I was reading about how the Washington Post has changed since it’s purchase by Jeff Bezos.  One of the quotes in the article struck a chord with me:

“not to fix broken things, like IT will do at a company, but build the future”.

Jeff Bezos brought in Jarrod Dicker to run technology development at the Post – a division that is called R.E.D. (Research, Experimentation and Development) and told him that he was “not to fix broken things, like IT will do at a company, but build the future”.  (Read more at The Drum)

Leadership should take this as a mantra – work on what is important for the future of the enterprise, not what is broken in today’s version of the enterprise.  Accenture had a similar mantra when I was working as a consultant back in the 1990’s “Don’t pave the cow path”.

We were told that the worst IT implementation is one that just automates the processes of pre-computer work.  The best is to design the processes and technology for what the customers really want to achieve with their interactions with the company.

 

What is the activity that you could do for €10 that would give you the most happiness over 1 hour? for €100? for €1000? for €10,000?

This video is from Dublin. My dad makes an appearance. Some scenes from the Ireland vs Argentina rugby, and from Trinity College and at UCD Smurfit Business Schools where I was teaching during the week.

The Wise Man and the Bowl of Lentils

If you liked this post, you will like Happiness, It is about the quality of your Relationships and The 14 Habits of Highly Miserable People.

What would you do with €10/$10?

What is the activity that you could do for €10 that would give you the most happiness over 1 hour? for €100? for €1000? for €10,000?

In the 1960s, while consulting for a British factory, Elliott Jaques had a controversial insight: Employees at different levels of the company had different time horizons

Line workers focused on tasks that could be completed in a single shift; managers devoted their energies to tasks requiring six months or more to complete; Senior leaders and the CEO were pursuing goals over the span of several years.

Jacques’ Time Span of Discretion

Jaques said that just as humans differ in intelligence, we differ in our ability to handle timespans.

Each of us has a time horizon we are comfortable with, what Jaques called our “Time span of discretion”.  This term defines the timespan of the longest task this individual can successfully undertake.

Organisations recognise this: workers are paid hourly, managers annually, and senior executives compensated with stock options.

The following chart shows the type of work found at each Time Horizon:

Complexity Description of Capability Organisational Role
Most Complex
8
Construct and pursue world wide strategic plans in the largest of the world’s corporations.
Super Corporation CEO
7
Construct and pursue world wide strategic plans. Place businesses in the world.
Corporate CEO
6
Lead the accumulated impact of multiple business units.
Corporate EVP
5
Optimize the function of a single business unit or corporate support staff.
Business Unit President
4
Manage multiple, interdependent serial projects. Balance resources among a number of departments.
General Manager
3
Plan and carry out sequential projects while considering contingencies and alternatives.
Regional Manager or
Manager of Managers
2
Accumulate bits of information to diagnose and anticipate problems. Proactivity appears. Trends are noticed.
First Line Manager Supervisor
Least complex
1
Follow predefined procedures. When an obstacle is encountered, seek help. No anticipation of problems is expected.
Shop Floor Operator
Clerk/Cashier
Teller

The Challenge: 100 Year Problems in a 4 Year System

Our current leadership promotional systems require you first to be successful at annual or 4 year timespans before you can move into the positions that allow you to set 50 or 100 year strategy.  Politicians have 4 years to deliver an impact (and 12 months to run a campaign).  Divisional managers have 1-3 years to deliver an impact if they are to be considered for 20-50 year strategic decision roles.

Climate change and Peace between warring nations are so difficult to resolve because we have a political system that elects 4 year thinkers when we really need 20 to 50 year thinkers in office.

PS What’s your time horizon?  Let me know in the comments below 😉