By Ryan Bologna
When it comes to running a business, many look to the biggest companies in the world when seeking guidance. While that might seem like a good idea, it’s not always the best practice — you don’t want to end up blindly operating like Mark Zuckerberg without having valid reasoning. Even the most successful CEOs make crucial mistakes and that creates a lot of opportunities for learning what not to do when running a business. There have been some recent instances where successful entrepreneurs have shot themselves in the foot when making public comments. Let’s take a look at some of those cases and see what can be learned.
First up, Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and CEO. Zuckerberg was under fire for saying, “realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here.”
To make matters even worse, Zuckerberg said this at an employee Q&A session. What a way to make everyone in attendance feel unsure of their job security. With a recession on the horizon, it’s not surprising that Zuckerberg feels this way, but there is a better way to go about it. While he might have been put on the spot at the Q&A, Zuckerberg’s comment shows a lack of empathy, a lack of trust, and a work environment where everyone is on edge.
Some may think this is a good idea because it creates pressure for employees to perform well, but that is not a good business practice. Research has shown that people perform better in their roles when they don’t feel they will be punished for every little mistake. Creating a work environment where employees feel safe in their roles encourages people to take calculated risks, speak up, and increase creativity. All of those traits are more likely to lead to market breakthroughs. If you can create this type of work environment, you will be much more likely to have a high-performing team. Judging by Zuckerberg’s comments, some things are better left unsaid.
Another example of this is Jeff Bezos at Amazon. Most people already know that Bezos and Amazon were under fire for underpaying workers during the peak of the pandemic in 2020. Investigations proved that to be true in certain cases, as the median Amazon employee made $29,007. The most important lesson to learn is from Bezos’ response to the situation.
In April 2020, Bezos boasted about how good it is to work at Amazon in a letter to shareholders by saying 40 million Americans make less than any Amazon employee. Whether or not he expected this letter to get out to the public, this was a bad look and unwise to say, especially at that time. It comes off as deflecting away from the issues that people raised and makes it seem like he has no empathy for workers. The comments likely did not help increase worker motivation and productivity.
One more case to look at is Elon Musk. With how present he is on social media and often creating headlines, it is not surprising that we can learn from Musk’s business practices. Musk is most known for being the CEO of Tesla Motors, but we will be looking at his infrastructure and tunnel construction service called The Boring Company. It can be tempting to make promises that aren’t sure things yet. Musk did that when he tweeted about getting verbal approval for a hyperloop between New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C.
Just received verbal govt approval for The Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop. NY-DC in 29 mins.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 20, 2017
That is an exciting idea, but the only problem is there is no such thing as verbal government approval in the U.S. Whether it is to employees or consumers, avoid making big promises if it is not a certainty. Musk is one of the biggest examples of why that is not a good practice. With employees, dangling false promises will just create frustration in the long-term and could cause a decrease in motivation. Keeping employees in the loop on exciting possibilities is fine, but it is important to present them in the right way. That is the same case with consumers. It is better to set clear expectations for what you can provide upfront rather than making exciting promises that lead to disappointment later on.
The success of these businessmen has been well documented, and it is understandable that people pull from their strategies. However, it is important to keep an eye out for mistakes and remember that these people are not perfect. Using this tactic will help you create a more successful business.
Photo Credit: Anthony Quintano