Jeff Bezos hadn’t yet settled on a name for his company, but he had settled on the one skill that was essential for his first job opening in 1994. Bezos was looking for a talented Unix developer to work for Cadabra, later renamed Amazon. To land the job, Bezos said:
“Top-notch communication skills are essential.”
Today, 25-years later, top-notch communication skills are so essential that when LinkedIn surveyed 4,000 hiring professionals, “leadership and communication” topped the list of must-have job requirements.
Bezos was ahead of his time. For my new book, Five Stars, I interviewed HR managers, authors, historians, entrepreneurs and CEOs. The theme that emerged was that communication skills are even more important today than they were when Amazon started.
For example, I spoke to author and tech journalist Brad Stone who wrote a book on Amazon called The Everything Story. Stone argues that successful startups today are often run by “extroverted storytellers,” entrepreneurs who can convince employees, partners, investors and customers that their vision is worth pursuing.
Remarkably, well before “Chief Storytelling Officer” was an actual title, Bezos acted as the company’s chief storyteller–and expected his employees to be skilled storytellers.
In his 2018 newsletter, Bezos revealed that PowerPoint is banned at executive meetings. Instead of looking at bullet points on a slide, executives sit around a table reading a six-page narrative–a real story with complete sentences, verbs and nouns.
Recently, I spoke to John Rossman, a former Amazon executive who participated in Bezos’s storytelling meetings. Being forced to write an idea in a complete narrative resulted in “better ideas, more clarity on the ideas, and better conversation on the ideas,” Rossman said.
Whether you’re a software engineer, coder, entrepreneur or Amazon job candidate, communication skills are essential to your success. Here are three simple ways to sharpen the essential skill that you need to stand out.