Last Friday, I had the chance to attend to the America Business Forum conference, in Punta del Este, Uruguay. Beyond all the great talks, there was something that really got my attention, which I barely heard before but didn’t put enough attention: Pablo Iacoviello, Director Amazon Prime Video and General Manager of Emerging Latin America, mentioned and described how Amazon defines and also practically applies their 16 Leadership Principles.
Even though I know that each leader has its own set of personal principles, which they surely apply on every decision and interaction day to day, it was pretty interesting to hear first-hand how a list of shared principles can align different leaders, each one with their own personality and ego, to act as a single brain in one of the biggest companies in the world.
As soon as Pablo ended up his interview, I asked to myself: which are my own principles? Which fundamentals do I follow each day, guiding my own decisions and my teams? What do I ask each member on my teams to follow behind each decision?
My 10 Principles
Put always the client in the center
My first principle mimics Amazon’s first one, with a big difference. Instead of being Customer Obsessed, as Amazon states, I feel that we should put the client in the center, but must not be literally obsessed with them. Blindly hearing what the customer wants, and working reactively to it, will surely damage your value proposition.
There’s an important trade-off to reach between what the client wants, and transparently tells you, and what you can offer them, which is part of your value proposition.
Deliver results, and let them speak on your behalf
The second principle speaks about delivering results. Independently to which part of the company you are developing your career, there are always goals to achieve. Focusing on what’s actually important for the team, delivering results, and letting them speak on your behalf, is an attitude that will sooner rather than later give you the status and growth you are looking for.
I personally don’t like people that are always putting excuses of bad delivery, as well as pushing for more before they show results. Let them speak for you, and you’ll always have a powerful position to grow and negotiate.
Know your limits, focus on what you do best
The world is becoming more and more specialized. Generalists are becoming more a commodity, and a team of experts are taking over their work. Knowing our limits is key, and working on what you know your talent is, will help us achieve better results and enjoy more what you are doing.
Something that I always tell my teams is that you must always have at hand the number of any given expert on any given matter, in case you need them. And, if you focus on what you do best, you will surely be one of those numbers for someone else.
We won’t always have a good day. Most of the time, our work depends on the attitude, knowledge, or feelings of someone else. Transparency for me is key for building great teams, and being transparent when things are not coming along as expected, shows a strength that’s double valued when things are flowing.
This is taken directly from Amazon’s principles. In my personal opinion, being a leader means trust, and trust is gained most of the time by diving deep on the issues. Make sure you stay connected to every detail, audit and positively question each decision, and be skeptical when metrics and anecdotes differ.
Delivery high-quality, stay on the details
This is also taken from Amazon’s principles, but adapted to what I think it’s best. I truly believe that staying on the details makes a big difference. The extra comma in a proposal, the small delay in the UX of a website, the color of a CTA button, the packaging of a given product, etc. Everything matter, and delivery high-quality means staying on the smallest details.
If the leader is not constantly raising the bar to unreasonable high standards, teams will always find ways to lower the quality.
Listen, earn trust, act
Amazon just states: “earn trust”. For me, we should go beyond earning trust. We should listen first, act in consequence, and trust will be easier to build.
Disagree and commit
This one is taken directly from Amazon’s principles, as I truly believe it’s key when there are many leaders on a table. Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. But once the decision has been made, they should follow it and commit it as much as the disagreement they previously had. Leaders do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.
Ownership and action
This principle merges two Amazon’s. First, the ownership. Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job.”
But also, this one leads the action. Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. Instead of thinking of the “what if”, leaders should take rapid actions, and work on behalf of the company they represent.
And lastly, think big. There are no boundaries, strive to be the best employee in the work, achieve that impossible goal, and impress even the more skeptical partner. We are here to demonstrate that limits are just a mental illusion, and we can achieve more.