Oprah Winfrey is one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in the world. She’s also one of the busiest.
Between running the Oprah Winfrey Network, publishing the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, and producing new TV series, she does not have time to waste in meetings.
“[I] really, really, really try to avoid meetings,” Winfrey told J.J. McCorvey in an interview for Fast Company. She prefers that her staff instead send her detailed emails.
To make her point, the 61-year-old mogul shared a funny story about how she persuaded Coretta Scott King not to set up a meeting with her. The late wife of Martin Luther King, Jr. called about flying from LA to meet with Winfrey to ask for help with a project. Fast Company reports:
“And I go, ‘Mrs. King, you should just tell me whatever it is on the phone and save yourself the flight,’ ” Winfrey says.
“ ’Whatever it is, I’m going to be more inclined to do it if you just ask me on the phone. Because if you come all the way here, if I don’t want to do it, I’m still not gonna do it. And then you would have wasted your time, and I’m going to feel bad, and you’re going to feel bad.’
I spent 20 minutes trying to convince her not to come.”
Ultimately, King did not fly out to meet her, and Winfrey did help her out.
Other executives have developed their own brutally efficient meeting strategies. The late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs kept meetings as small as possible, throwing people out of the room if necessary. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg brings a notebook with discussion points and action items to each meeting, crossing them off one by one; when all are met, the meeting is over.
On the other end of the spectrum, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella values communication among his top executives so highly that they meet for four hours every Friday and for eight hours once a month.
Whether in or out of meetings, Winfrey is mindful of how she spends her time.
“There is a finite amount of time and energy in every day,” she told McCorvey. “So what is really important? What do you really want to do?”
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