Jack Welch, of General Electric Fame, Knows How to Win and Lead (Part 2 – Conclusion)

We Have the Philosophy, Players, and the Goal… Now, How do We Win?

After a manager hires a group of individuals who believe in the mission and embody the organization’s values, he is ready to lead.  When I was employed by another organization several years ago, though, I used the few resources I had available to communicate with my colleagues and learn the organization’s values and mission.  Unfortunately, back then I was unable to speak with certainty if asked about what the entity really was “all about.”  Their mission and values were ill-defined.

While there, however, I took it upon myself to apply the first two tenets Welch presents on leadership: “before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself” (Welch, 2005, p. 61) and “when you become a leader, success is all about growing others” (Welch, 2005, p. 61).  The entire discussion on leadership in Winning is the book’s most organized and compelling section.  After presenting the two overarching rules mentioned above, Welch breaks his thoughts on leadership into eight elements that, in the end, are directly related to an understanding of corporate culture and effective communication.

The first rule, “leaders relentlessly upgrade their team, using every encounter as an opportunity to evaluate, coach, and build self-confidence,” I followed closely in my dealings with coworkers.  I made it a point to positively influence my colleagues with simple and honest expressions (a literal “pat on the back,” encouraging words, constructive criticism, etc.) meant only to help them enjoy doing their jobs a bit more.  Welch also recommends that you “make sure the right people are in the right jobs,” and I feel that HR did a fairly good job of placing the right people in the department  (Welch, 2005, p. 65).  I always complimented members who did a good job, exchanged knowledge and opinions with them, and helped a bit more when someone did not deliver for any of a myriad of reasons; as a football coach and player, I learned the value of coaching whenever possible.

Unfortunately, I was not in a position to follow through on Welch’s second instruction: set the team’s vision and make it “come alive” (Welch, 2005, p. 67).  I embodied it as best I could, but the organization did not empower me to affect or change that employer’s corporate culture.  In any case, the third rule in his list emphasizes the importance of exuding a positive attitude and how its spread to all levels of the corporate structure can “catch” an unhappy colleague and change her overall work experience for the better (Welch, 2005, p. 70).  After all, you need to be happy if you are going to win.

Fourth on Welch’s list is a leader’s need to “establish trust with candor, transparency, and credit” (Welch, 2005, p. 70).  This sounds an awful lot like coaching.  Welch asserts that “trust happens when leaders are transparent, candid, and keep their word.  It’s that simple,” (Welch, 2005, p. 71).  While employed by the entity I am referring to here, I always kept my promises and actually over-delivered on them whenever possible.  Now, candor, as Welch defines it, is difficult to maintain without sounding cold or harsh when you speak to coworkers who still do not trust you.  Therefore, it is imperative that you establish professional relationships with them and uphold your own standards of excellence.  Fifth, Welch claims, “leaders [must] have the courage to make unpopular decisions and gut calls.”  I proposed to upper management that we ought to implement a new strategy that improves communication within the department – simply not relying too much on electronic or impersonal communication and allowing for more face-to-face encounters when practical is an easy way to improve communication within a team or department.  This leads me to Welch’s sixth point.

Leaders ought to be curious and almost skeptical in order to ensure that “their questions are answered with action” (Welch, 2005, p. 73).  Welch suggests that one must be ready to ask tough questions.  A leader must be inquisitive if he expects to understand his employees’ roles and create tailor-made and appropriate paths toward the team’s ultimate vision of success.  Next, Welch explains that winners must always be willing to continue learning and take risks since he leads by example.  Managers should not “urge their people to try new things and then whack them in the head when they fail” and consequently appear to contradict themselves (Welch, 2005, p. 76).  That would severely handicap their credibility as leaders.  A leader should support such an employee by telling her that it is okay to fail and to learn from the experience.  Finally, we arrive at rule number 8: leaders must celebrate (Welch, 2005, p. 78)!  Simply put, a leader should not hesitate to throw a party after a great achievement.  Welch, though, feels that prizes and passes to special events are better since employees can enjoy them at their leisure and not necessarily with coworkers (Welch, 2005, p. 78).

Now, I will lead myself over to my living room and celebrate with some Gershwin and my fiancée.  Refreshed and renewed, I will be ready for the next article.

Cam Suarez-Bitar.

Thank you for your readership and patience.  Last night, when I arrived home at about 10:30 PM and started typing this article, I fell asleep at my desk.  That is the only reason why I did not publish it on Monday as my articles always are.  What a week…

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