3 Professional Habits I Learned Working For Jeffrey Katzenberg



I had no job, I knew no one and I had a dream when I moved to Los Angeles. I wanted to work in movies. I wanted to understand film and television. In New York I got a small taste of media working in magazines. A few years out of college I was off to my next adventure!

It was my third month of pounding the pavement that lead me to DreamWorks Animation. I’ll tell you more on how that happened in another post. To be honest, DreamWorks Animation wasn’t even on my radar. I didn’t think or know what value I could bring there, but they knew and I’m glad they did. If you don’t know who Jeffrey Katzenberg is, then Google him. I’ll give you a summary which won’t do justice because he’s made leaps and bounds very few people ever have or ever will in the movie business. Katzenberg co-founded DreamWorks Animation SKG alongside with his friends Steven Spielberg (I bet you know that name), AND David Geffen another power player. Katzenberg remained CEO and co-founder while the other two eventually went their separate ways. I started off at DreamWorks Animation in recruiting and then eventually joined the outreach team. Because I was in Human Resources, these positions gave me access what was happening in Katzenberg’s world.

Here are 3 things I learned from Jeffrey Katzenburg:

1. Be transparent.

I learned this from him the first week on the job. He sent out a daily blog at the end of each work night with a run down of his day. I can’t begin to tell you how fascinating it was to get a peak into his schedule, his thoughts, and his business actions based on his meetings. The Jeffrey Katzenberg blog was a brilliant idea. I imagine it was also therapeutic for him, as writing can be for many people in high level positions. Heck, writing is therapeutic for me and I’m nowhere near his position yet. His blog allowed everyone in the company to feel united. It made us feel like we had an inside scoop. We actually did because the blog is a private blog only accessed internally. It’s the company culture of trust that has enabled the blog to be a hit. Imagine your boss giving you a run-down via email each day with his or her thoughts on every meeting. It was like getting an inside memo from the President of the United States! That’s what it felt like because Katzenberg knows just about everyone, including the President. For someone like me wanting to start my own company, it was a gold mine into creating the ultimate company culture.

2. Why have one breakfast when you can have 3!

I learned that in order to be a Hollywood mogul you have to be good at managing your time. He starts his day with at least two breakfast meetings. I think he wrote the book Never Eat Alone before there was even a book on such things. I couldn’t believe it. If you want to get the most of out your time, be ahead of the curve. This man functions on 4 or 5 hours of sleep. I’m functioning on 6hrs, and most of us function on 8.

Each breakfast for him had a purpose and agenda. I learned breakfast is not an on-the-run meal, but a time to do business with everyone else who gets up before the crack of dawn. I’ve put this into practice by scheduling two breakfast meetings before noon, and finding myself having a dinner and then a “dessert” meeting. You may not need to have so many meetings yet, but managing your time is always valuable. How you start to look at meals will change your perspective on being efficient with your time.

3. Respond to EVERY email promptly.

I can’t tell you how valuable this lesson was for me. When we look at busy people, you can’t imagine that they would check or read every single email. Katzenberg has proved me wrong. I remember the first time I emailed him directly based on some feedback. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I do remember how promptly he responded. It was less than five minutes. I gasped at the quick reply because I expected a few hours, days or no reply at all. He taught me the power of replying right away and pushing it on to the necessary parties. You may be too busy to think about replying to every email, but you’re not. Replying to every email is something I’m still working on, but it’s a valuable lesson to learn when we give so many excuses for not being able to get back to someone on time. Our generation literally holds email in our hands with smartphones. We no longer have to be at a computer to access this information. For longer emails, I now reply “I got your email and will respond in depth as soon as I can.” Of course we will have multiple things going on each day, but a quick reply will save and encourage a habit of being organized. Thank you Katzenberg for teaching me to reply promptly.

What 3 things have you learned from someone influential? Would love to hear your comments below!

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One Response to 3 Professional Habits I Learned Working For Jeffrey Katzenberg

  1. Rick December 15, 2018 at 2:19 pm #

    Like you, i pretty much (try to) model myself on Jeffrey Katzenberg. I have read much on the subject of his insane work ethic. A few questions for you:

    1) Everyone knows this guy can grind, but he can’t be switched on ALL the time right?

    2) What are his hours like? Michael Eisner’s book mentioned he starts at 6am and rarely leaves before 10pm.

    3) How does he motivate his employees to work just as hard as him?

    Thanks Jeff

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