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That’s what it was like working for Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos

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That’s what it was like working for Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos

How do successful billionaires tick?
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The lives and workings of billionaires fascinate those who want to understand their success.

Former colleagues talked about working with Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Sara Blakely.

They shared the lessons they learned from the four well-known billionaires.

We’re currently testing machine translations of articles by our US colleagues at Insider. This article has been automatically translated and checked by a real editor. We welcome feedback at the end of the article.

The lives and work routines of billionaires fascinate those who want to understand their success. Their eccentricities and rules of life have been the subject of books, podcasts, and countless articles.

Your close associates know these fascinating personalities well. Here, people who have worked with Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Sara Blakely share what it was like.

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Bill Gates tested his interlocutors with this question

Chris Williams will never forget how billionaire Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates “slapped” him when they first met in 1992.

After buying their company, Gates asked Williams and his colleagues why their product was better than Microsoft’s rival. In his eight years as a Microsoft executive, he regularly met Gates one-on-one, Williams learned that Gates’ questions were a way of exposing people. He kept pushing until the person being interviewed either admitted they didn’t know or started making things up.

“It was hard being in those rooms a lot of times and not picking up some of that ability,” Williams wrote for Business Insider, adding, “Over time, I was able to recognize the face of someone who, it seemed, would rather die than to say, ‘I don’t know, but I’ll find out and get back to you.'”

Williams also recalled Gates’ ability to take in “miles of data and dozens of opinions about the right path” at a meeting and instantly identify what’s important and what needs to be done.

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Jeff Bezos insisted on a “deliberately inefficient” meeting

Colin Bryar, a former Amazon vice president and Bezos’ chief of staff, listed 13 insights he gained in the 12 years he worked closely with him.

These included the importance of responding quickly to trends, doubling down on initiatives that bear fruit to minimize risk, and accepting that “getting a team on the same page is a lot of work.”

On the last point, Bryar described how Bezos held a four-hour weekly meeting with his direct staff, rather than having one-on-one meetings with each of them. They all attended, regardless of whether the agenda affected their responsibilities. Bezos wanted them to learn each other’s jobs so they could work together as a team “when the inevitable crisis hits,” Bryar wrote.

He added, “I’ve seen a lot of dysfunctional leadership teams just not used to working together, and something like an intentionally inefficient weekly meeting to bring them together would help.”

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The ‘girl next door’ – Sara Blakely – was a ‘creative genius’

Lisa Magazine and Kenya Graham were personal executive assistants to Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, a clothing company. Magazine described Blakely as “the girl next door,” but also as “one of the most creative geniuses I’ve ever met.” She told the Reach podcast that she was the 13th Spanx employee when the company was still in one windowless basement in an Atlanta hotel.

She and Graham planned Blakely’s day and managed every aspect of her life, making Blakely “feel like a million bucks” when she walked into a meeting. “There were so many times that Lisa and I would go to the house, print out Sara’s calendar and sit down with her husband’s assistants and housekeeping staff,” Graham said. The two also often worked on calendars together, emailing and texting each other to make sure they were on the same page.

After Blakely the Keynote beim Nordic Business Forum 2019, organizers told her her team was the most prepared group they had ever worked with, according to the magazine.

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Elon Musk could be “funny” — but he was also quick to fire people

In his early days at Tesla, Carl Medlock attended a meeting where someone disagreed with Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Medlock, then Tesla’s regional manager, says he never saw the employee again. Musk is “not one for back talk — he’ll just let you go,” Medlock told The Iced Coffee Hour podcast

“If Elon gets up at the end of a meeting and says, ‘This is the direction we’re going,’ then you better get out of your chair and start walking in that direction,” Medlock continued.

Still, Musk can be “funny” to get involved with, and “for someone who’s not in the auto industry, he asked Medlock some very good questions when he last interviewed for the role.”

Medlock said he has never seen his boss converse or joke with employees.

“He would talk to you if he needed to talk to you, but he wasn’t just fooling around with people,” Medlock said. Even in meetings, Musk didn’t waste time chatting and got straight to the point.

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