Being an accessible exec is a double-edged sword, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels said at a panel held by ff Venture Capital at Austin tech conference SXSW last weekend.
He’s tried to make himself very accessible to other Amazon employees, but has found an unexpected negative side-effect.
“I sometimes say things — just stupid, little remarks — and expect people to just ignore them,” he says.
“They will not. They will not. Every little thing you say is something that will stick in people’s heads.”
Another panelist, Livefyre CEO Jordan Kretchmer, said that he’s made a “benign comment that pissed off the whole sales team.” Coleman said that once at a happy hour he joked about taking the company in a completely new direction, and then an employee asked him seriously what the next steps would be the following day.
It’s a common problem. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner recently posted about this exact same issue and shared his solution. Every offhand comment he made would turn into a “massively disruptive fire drill,” so he now has a system that helps make it clear what he actually expects when offering feedback.
He designates any feedback he gives into one of three categories: one person’s opinion, strong suggestion, or mandate. Weiner, either in conversation or over email, will make the distinction about what kind of statement he’s making to stay on the same page and avoid confusion.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
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