Leadership Summit 2010 | Bill Hybels and Jack Welch – Leader to Leader

Posted on August 5, 2010


“My main job was developing talent. I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people. Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too.”

SESSION 7b [very scattered notes and highlights]
RESOURCE: http://www.welchway.com/Home.aspx

When I think of Jack Welch, I think of four things: Authenticity, Energy, Candor, Differentiation.

AUTHENTICITY: You have to be yourself, comfortable in your own shoes. People can see through a phony in a minute. People can also see that you’re someone you can count on. In business, people take on a persona that is not really themselves. They feel like they have to conform to some sort of image. That’s just not true.

ENERGY: I use “energy” and “energize.” You’ve got to energize people, excite them, bring them on board. Energizing them is hot hyping them, it’s getting them to “feel” the vision, where you’re going. Unless the leader feels the fire, it’s impossible to pass it on.

Draw out the people in the room to make you smarter. That’s why you want to hire smarter people.

The crazy thing with insecure people is that they hire dopes.

CANDOR: We fought desperately to get what people really felt on the table. There are huge advantage, and less paperwork. When it comes to meetings, we don’t have to debate about what we’re going to talk about. We know what we’re going to talk about! We’re going to talk about what we think, what we feel.

DIFFERENTIATION: There’s a ranking of staff; the top 20%, then the vital 70%, and then the 10% back end, lowest performers, etc. Establishing this culture of differentiation, was the best way to lead. Some would say this is a heartless way to treat them. Do you think sports teams differentiate? Do the teams with the best players win? Is winning good? But you can’t have differentiation without candor. You have to have an appraisal system. If you get candor, differentiation, and an appraisal system, that’s really what you want. I don’t know of any leader that can go to work and not know where everybody stands.

In every organization, differentiation is done. (It’s not always recognized as such). Now, in most places, people try to fix the bottom. Don’t waste your time with them.

So what are top people like? “A’s” They’re energized, good people, high values, a gene that says, “I love to see people grow. I love to reward people.” They get a kick out of giving a big fat raise, bonus; they get a kick out of promoting people. They have “generosity of spirit.” They lack envy; they celebrate people. It calls the very best out of people.

What about the vital 70% “B’s.” Hard working, but just not as gifted. Regarding the top of the 70 rather than the bottom of the 70; you run the risk of losing the bottom 25th percentile.

This differentiation is a “snap shot” of time. Here’s what I believe in as a leader. I give them a piece of paper that says, here’s what I liked, and here’s what you can do to improve. That way we were always on the same page. AND don’t write a new appraisal, write over the old one with a red pen.

Regarding the bottom 10%, not a team player, low energy, cynic, negative, the wet-blanket. These are the kinds of people that manifest this behavior consistently.

Regarding “Disrupters,” these are people who I may listen to every now and then, they jump out at you with a challenge. But they’re different from “Boss-Haters.”

You can’t shut down the noise from someone who is noisy. It’s the person that whispers over the back. These are the cynics. Hall-way whisperer is deadly.

You have to do everything to stop the meeting after the meeting.

If you’re in the top 20, you can’t give them enough.

The other side: Who are you to tell me that I’m in the 20, 70 or 10? I can’t disagree with that. But I don’t know what a better way to build a better team than this. I’m sure there’s a lot of bias and unfairness, people holding grudges, etc., and all those things are bad. How else do you get an organization to stand and get them to move forward?

Ignoring difference in performance is silly.

If you don’t differentiate compensation, you lose your best people. They chose this career for the rewards. Same in church. They had a choice. The outcomes that come from those choices. You have to find out a different form of currency. You choose non-profit, and you better deliver in non-profit.

Non-profit doesn’t mean non-performance.

Go, act, do it. Don’t ponder it. How many of you wish you had waited longer? It doesn’t happen.

I want people to have the self-confidence in their gut to do things when they have the answer.

One of the jobs of a leader is to make guys like me feel 6’4” with hair. …constantly giving more confidence in people.

BATON PASS: How do we do this? We started about 8 years before I was going to retire. 22 candidates. We had obvious choices, the possibles, and the long-shots, and the last 3, 8 years later, were all long-shots. That is a classic example of making a choice 5 years in advance. At any one snap-shot moment you might make a different choice. It proves the fallibility of the whole thing. You never know how they’re going to behave … hiring is hard, succession is brutal. You need a rigorous process, include as many people as possible, and don’t be surprised if the long-shots don’t surprise you.

CELEBRATIONS: The hardest thing you could get to happen, is to have managers to spend money for celebrations for small victories. It re-energizes the group. It’s inherent in any budget that is made: it’s “slush.”

I have always been a huge proponent of candor. But since retiring from GE, I have come to realize that I understand its rarity. In fact, I would call lack of candor the biggest dirty little secret in business.

Now, when I say “lack of candor” here, I am talking about how too many people — too often — instinctively don’t express themselves with frankness. They don’t communicate straightforwardly or put forth ideas looking to stimulate real debate. Instead they withhold comments or criticism. They keep their mouths shut in order to make people feel better or to avoid conflict, and they sugarcoat bad news in order to maintain appearances.

Let’s look at how candor leads to winning. First and foremost, candor gets more people in the conversation, and when you get more people in the conversation, you get idea rich. By that I mean many more ideas get surfaced, discussed, pulled apart, and improved.

Second, candor generates speed. When ideas are in everyone’s face, they can be debated rapidly, expanded and enhanced, and acted upon. That approach — surface, debate, improve, decide — isn’t just an advantage, it’s a necessity.

Third, candor cuts costs — lots — although you’ll never be able to put a precise number on it. Just think of how it eliminates meaningless meetings and reports that confirm what everyone already knows.

Given the advantages of candor, you have to wonder, why don’t we have more of it? Well, the problem starts young. The facts are, we are socialized from childhood to soften bad news or to make nice about awkward subjects. That is true in every culture and in every country. It doesn’t make any difference if you are in Iceland or Portugal, you don’t insult your mother’s cooking or call your best friend fat.

Even though candor is vital to winning, it is hard and time-consuming to instill in any group, no matter what size. Still, it can be done. To get candor, you reward it, prasie it, and talk about it. You make public heroes out of people who demonstrate it. Most of all, you yourself demonstrate it in an exuberant and even exaggerated way — even when you’re not the boss. It’s impossible to imagine a world where everyone goes around saying what they really think all the time. But even if we get halfway there, lack of candor won’t be the biggest dirty little secret in business anymore. It will be its biggest change for the better.

Taken from Winning by Jack Welch with Suzy Welch.

— VIA —

If the brutally honest, down-to-earth, focused, yet compassionate character of Welch could be bottled, and supplemented with a pill of his simple, matter-of-fact yet brilliant wisdom, I buy a life-time supply. A joy to listen to, a joy to read, and a joy to put his thinking into practice.