Jack Welch’s book Winning offers management philosophy, best practices, and tips of avoidance through the stories of the former CEO of General Electric. This book is easy to follow and offers great explanations for many of the management challenges sure to face both today’s and tomorrow’s leaders. I found most of the concepts helpful, with my main interest falling in the section regard the human capital. A great business is nothing without a great workforce to back it.
The key issues covered in this section include developing and motivating a team, leading them to greatness, as well as hiring that team to start and letting go of those that are not working out. Throughout the chapters Welch suggested the essential skill required for a great team is to be a great leader as exemplified throughout this segment. Leading employees means so much more than overseeing tasks and directing day-to-day action. Leadership is deeper, and more people focused than task focused. A great leader will help to motivate employees, drive them to their potential and celebrate their accomplishments.
In the fifth chapter of Winning Welch focuses hard on leadership, narrowing the concept down to the main eight rule effective leaders should follow. I personally find the list a little simplistic, but I think it gives a great overview of the basic skills it takes to lead people in a positive direction. This early in my career as a leader I have found the most difficult task has been to motivate people and instill the same passion and dedication I have for the tasks I complete and the company for which I work. Jack Welch insists leaders must live the mission of the company and help the employees to do the same.
Company missions are the capstone of the strategy; they explain the underlying goal, and even purpose of the company. Employees that do not see or live by the mission will not be able to truly understand the purpose of the organization and will not be able to live up to their full potential within the ranks. Team members with an eye for the vision not only set themselves up for greater opportunity with in the company, they would also have a sense of direction which I find very helpful throughout my pursuits for my organization.
Along with inspiring employees to live the mission, they must be encouraged with their everyday tasks. Leaders need to project a positive energy into staff pursuits. As stated by Jack Welch, “an upbeat manger ends up running a team or organization filled with upbeat people (REF##)”. A positive team environment will not only improve staff morale, it will also increase efficiency to help create a more productive company. Morale is a very important element of a creative workforce as comfortable and encouraged employees will be more prone to risk taking, driving creativity.
Evaluating employees fairly and accurately is vital for staff development. The truth is, not many people have a solid employee evaluation that gives them the perspective they need to develop new behaviors and get rid of the bad. In my working experience I have yet to have a review I have felt was helpful. If my superiors had followed Welch’s advice, I would not have left the review session on the same ground I had entered with an unchanged perspective. Every review I have received has been in the company format, with company vocabulary, delivered like a eulogy and not a chance for development.
I have fallen into this trap myself before I had been exposed to the proper goal of a performance review and the best practice for establishing a good one. I worked at a movie theatre, managing a staff of around 60 employees. Every year they would have a schedule performance review, most of which consisted of a competency section where I would rate the employee on a scale of 1-5, depending on their performance in the section. After the ratings, which made up 75% of the review, we had to write on three lines any ‘additional comments’ and at the very end we would use the next three lines to state a goal for the upcoming year.
The movie theatre review would not even come close to the standards of an effective evaluation from Jack Welch. No opportunity was given or even encouraged to truly evaluate the employee. I feel focusing on rudimentary competencies does not give the employee the tools needed to choose a path for development. I agree strongly with Welch’s approach to review and his example of having only one to two pages, mostly of hand written notes about what an employee does well and what could use improvement. Although simplistic, this technique feels very valid, personal, and as fluid as it should be.
It will give employees a solid ground to make their own conclusions regarding their behavior and ways to improve their careers. Of course before you are able to review and employee, they must work for your company. Hiring is a very daunting task at times, and as said my Welch, no one hiring manager is perfect. It can be difficult to weed out the wrong people, and at times even more difficult to find the stars. Similar to his rule for Leadership, Jack Welch devised a program to find the right people which consisted of a criteria match.
This system is the “4 – Es and 1-P”. The first and second ‘Es’ stand for positive energy and the ability to energize others. Employees with positive energy should be able to do both at the same time. They have the drive to get the job done and the skills to bring the other team members along with them. The capability to energize does not solely rest on having a positive attitude, but as Welch states the best candidates understand the business and are great communicators. Having an ‘Edge’ and the skills needed to ‘Execute’ the plan are the next two guidelines for hiring.
Even if the employee can get everyone revved up, at the end of the day they still need to get the job done. Having an edge refers to the ability for the candidate to make the tough decisions, even when it is unpopular with coworkers. When candidates posses all four of the ‘Es’, the last thing you need is the ‘P’ – Passion. The way I see it, having passion for what you do will make sure you will always have the other four ‘Es’. It would not be difficult to make the hard choices, stay motivated or even motivate others when you have passion for you work.
This is the greatest one skill any employer should look for in potential employees. Nothing could make them more valuable to the company. Unfortunately even after following these principals laid out in the first couple chapters of the section, time will come when some employees will need to be let go. Welch covers three main reasons employees are asked to leave, which include firing due to non-performance, economic downturns, and lastly for integrity violations. The key to making this difficult task a little easier is to avoid surprise. If the company is in trouble, make sure the employees know where it stands constantly.
If the employee is not performing, be sure the termination is not the first time they hear of this. Be sure all staff understands the mission and values of the company so there will be an understanding a violation of ethics or integrity will not be tolerated. While all partings are difficult, the most problematic are the terminations due to poor performance. These issues are not nearly as black and white as budget cuts for example; they are very fluid and dependant on the person. Mr. Welch give three points to evade when parting is unavoidable. First, be ure the process is not moving too fast, but at the same time make sure it is not moving too slowly. An agonizing death of a job is not good for the worker, not good for the manager, and not good for the office. Be sure to use plenty of candor in the meeting, treat the employee with dignity and respect, and try to help build self confidence within the dismissed staff member. The right job for everyone is out there, it may just take a little longer for some to find it. Dismissals are only one of the challenges managers will face on any given day when helping to lead any company, large or small.
The lessons learned throughout the pages of Winning provide a great perspective into a business world that is so intimidating from the outside. I truly feel I have gained great practical knowledge from the section on leadership, from tips on hiring, building a great and motivated staff, and making sure they are able to accomplish goals set for themselves. Many people assume the basis of a successful business is based on a great mission, or perfect market, but after reviewing this text by Jack Welch I am a firm believer a strong leader and motivated team is the driving force behind great organizations.