Let’s be honest, we’ve all bought a book on management styles, googled the 7 top tips of an effective Manager or looked to TED Talks for an insight on how to be a better leader because Management is extremely difficult. It seems management theories haven’t changed for the last 50 years even though the working world continues to evolve every day.
So, what actually makes an effective Manager? Do we micro-manage or give employees freedom? Do we offer salary incentives or perks and benefits to retain employees? Should we be their friend or rule with an iron fist?
Now ask yourself honestly, what kind of a Manager are you? Micro-manager? Hands off? Do you run frequent meetings or 1:1s? Or do you wait for employee to come to you? Now what kind of Manager do you want to be? Do you want to see results, have a team all working towards the same goal and maximise productivity?
Well, acclaimed entrepreneur and the worlds second richest person Elon Musk has yet again answered all our prayers with an email that defines the rules of management and corporate culture. His 11 techniques to improve productivity perfectly outline a unique perspective on what it takes to be an effective Manager, no frills, no glitter, just straight to the point.
Before we uncover the holy grail of management techniques, what is it about Elon Musk that makes him one of the greatest visionaries of our time? He has founded or been heavily involved in some of the most innovative companies like Tesla, SpaceX, PayPal, SolarCity and Neuralink. Many who have worked close to Musk say he’s kept a hand in the day-to-day operations of every company he leads.
Musk has crafted a persona that positions him to be both intimidatingly aspirational and personally accountable. He is a unique case of an entrepreneur who both internally and externally champions his brand.
So, here are the 11 bullet points outlined in the email that I know you’re all eagerly waiting for:
- Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time. Please get of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short.
- Also get rid of frequent meetings, unless you are dealing with an extremely urgent matter. Meeting frequency should drop rapidly once the urgent matter is resolved.
- Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value. It is not rude to leave; it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time.
- Don’t use acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software or processes at Tesla. In general, anything that requires an explanation inhibits communication. We don’t want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function at Tesla.
- 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.
- A major source of issues is poor communication between depts. The way to solve this is allow free flow of information between all levels. If, in order to get something done between depts, an individual contributor has to talk to their manager, who talks to a director, who talks to a VP, who talks to another VP, who talks to a director, who talks to a manager, who talks to someone doing the actual work, then super dumb things will happen. It must be ok for people to talk directly and just make the right thing happen.
- In general, always pick common sense as your guide. If following a “company rule” is obviously ridiculous in a particular situation, such that it would make for a great Dilbert cartoon, then the rule should change.
It's clear that Musk is not a fan of meetings, hierarchy, bureaucracy or any system that impedes immediate communication. He prefers people apply common sense to the task at hand, and if employees don't meet his expectations, he can be ruthless.
Ultimately, the main theme of Musks’ email is productivity and efficiency. He has no tolerance for laziness and excuses. His management style challenges convention and older ways of getting things done.
Many would agree that frequent distractions are the biggest productivity killer. Studies have found that it takes around 25 minutes to fully return to the original task after an interruption. Meetings seperate your employees from their duties entirely, and if meetings are a frequent norm to your business you are potentially wasting hours of productivity.
Musk also touches on the importance of communication, suggesting that it can make or break a company. Productivity thrives on good back-and-forth, so if there is a question that needs answering or a problem that needs resolving then you should be able to approach heads of departments or even CEO’s.
This email is jam-packed with lessons and takeaways you can apply to your own practices, in some form or another. Musk brings some real wisdom to the way you should perceive management and what it means to be an effective leader and while there is a lot to learn from Musk it is important to bring your own personality and flare to your management style.