Jack Welch, in this short video from 2015, expounds on what is the role of a leader.
This was the advice given by the legendary Jack Welch to 4,300 aspiring startup founders and CEO’s last week at TiECON, the largest entrepreneurship conference in Silicon Valley. Welch was speaking with his co-author and wife, Suzy Welch, to promote their new book, “The Real Life MBA,” the proceeds of which will go towards inner city scholarships.
While Welch is best known as former CEO of General Electric GE -0.99%, one of the largest and most innovative companies in the world, his advice about leadership resonated with the startup crowd. Welch himself never went down the startup path, but he was a great intrapreneur, having built GE’s Plastics and Chemical Divisions into $1 billion units. He is a cultivator of talent like no other in American history. According to Vivek Paul, a former CEO of Wipro and protégé of Welch, there are 50 CEO’s of large American companies who worked directly for Jack Welch at some point.
- Chief Meaning Officer – “To let everyone in the place know: where you are going, why you are going there, and – most importantly – what’s in it for them to get there with you?”
- Chief Declutterer – Get rid of the hurdles or bottlenecks so that your people can act and get what needs to be done, done.
- Chief Celebrator Of Others – “You’ve got to have a generosity gene. It’s got to be in your body… You’ve got to enjoy people’s success. You got to love people’s success. You’ve got to get in their skin and really be excited as hell for them! You’ve got a love to give raises, you’ve got to be turned on giving bonuses… it’s got to make you feel great!”
- Chief Fun Officer – “Find all kinds of ways to win. There are small victories all the time and celebrate every one of them… find a way to make little victories big
victories. And if you get a lot of little victories, you’ll get a big victory when you add them all together. But think of the job that way: work is fun, and your job is to make it fun, if you’re a leader. Don’t be some grinding horse’s ass!”
I especially like what he said at the end of the video – which, to me, sums up the privilege, honour and responsibility of what it means to be a leader:
So, in my view you’ve got a huge responsibility. Most of you – God gave you a job where you are responsible for people’s lives. It’s a big deal! You got families you’re responsible for. Make it a big success for them! You’ve got one of the luxuries of life: to impact people’s lives. Grab it, squeeze it, and take advantage of it.
Sometimes, when I’m driving in the lead of a convoy, I get chided for being a bad leader.
It’s neither because I don’t know the route nor that I’m driving I’m driving dangerously.
it’s because I am not mindful about the people following behind me.
Sometimes, I cross traffic lights right on amber; leaving everybody else stuck at the red light behind me. Other times, I drive a little too fast that the last few cars struggle to keep up.
You get the picture.
It’s the same with leadership.
We’re bad leaders when we are not mindful of the people following us; when we don’t bring them along.
It’s not that we lack the vision (we know where we’re going).
It’s not that we lack the skill (we can drive ahead and possess the right experience to navigate the journey ahead).
It’s not even because people don’t want to follow us (after all, people have allowed us to be “in the front” and are willingly lined up to follow).
We are bad leaders when we go ahead without ensuring that people are able to follow us.
We leave them confused, lost, and frustrated.
Good leaders help ensure that people can follow where they are leading.
At the end of my first day at Microsoft, I received a wonderful “Welcome aboard” note from my manager Danny Ong (whom I am now privileged to call a friend, and whose influence in my life continues far beyond the time we spent working together). I’ve since adapted it for my own use. I hope it encourages my own new team members in the same way I was encouraged when I first started working with Danny.
Welcome aboard and thank you for saying yes to this adventure!
As you are new to [company] and this team, plus you and I are working closely together in this context for the first time, I’d like to share some principles I will try to live by to support you, and set you up for success with the team:
- My #1 priority is your happiness and productivity at work. If there’s anything I can do to make you happier and more efficient – tell me right away. This isn’t mere idealism – it’s also good business, since happy people are more productive.
- I will not burden you with unnecessary rules and regulations. You’re are an adult – I trust you to use your best judgment at all times.
- You have my full permission to screw up, as long as you own up to it, apologize to those affected and learn from it.
- Please tell me immediately when I screw up, so I can own up to it, apologize and learn from it.
- If I get it right occasionally, I’d love to hear about it from you, too J
- Please make sure you proactively identify people who are doing great work and praise them to the heavens. I will do this as much as humanly possible, but I can’t do it alone.
- I will always have time for you. My calendar is open to you and you will see that it is often completely full. However, if you need to speak to me I will re-arrange it to accommodate you.
- I am interested in you as an employee AND as a human being. I care about your private life and about your – and your family’s – health and well-being.
- I expect you to take responsibility for your personal and professional development. I will support you fully with helping you to achieve your goals, but the commitment must come from you.
- Finally, I expect you to take responsibility for your own well-being at work. If you can do something today to make yourself, a co-worker or me a little happier at work – do it !
I’m looking forward to your success!
I’ve had the privilege of having a front row seat in one of the most long drawn, contentiously fought mergers in Corporate Malaysia to date – the merger-acquisition of EON Capital by Hong Leong Bank.
During this time, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is:
The first word in “Merger” is “Me”.
If you’re leading change management and internal communications like I was (I led the branding and communications function for the integration process), you’ll be best served by building your strategy around answering these two questions:
- What will happen to me?
- What’s in it for me?
Unless you address these two questions, you won’t get anywhere with your audiences.
I saw this story via my LinkedIn profile today and was totally amazed by what I read.
These were the parts that really got to me, emphases mine:
At the mention of Whoops, a handful of team members would stand up and one-by-one retell the story of a mistake, big or small. It might have been a mishandled customer case, a forgotten internal data analysis or causing a car accident on the way to work. Often, the team’s managers and directors contributed anecdotes. Once or twice, an employee’s Whoops mistake cost Google millions of dollars. After hearing all the yarns, the team voted on the worst mistake and Whoops would be thrown from one side of the room to the other, finding the “winner” of the competition who would put the monkey in his or her cubicle for the week.
Then Duke the dog was summoned. In contrast to Whoops’ self-reported monkeywrench mistakes, Duke stories are retold by someone else and the dog is a reward for service to the team that went above and beyond the call of duty. Several Googlers would stand and tell a story of a teammate’s dedication: how a colleague alerted them of a problem in a customer’s account, or stayed late that week to process unusually high customer spoort volumes, or released an internal tool that might have increased our productivity dramatically. Again, the team would vote on the stories and Duke would be bestowed on the winner. Then, the all hands meeting adjourned.
Despite their childlike simplicity, Duke and Whoops, were incredibly effective management tools. Whoops created a culture of honesty and transparency, where mistakes were shared in an environment of openness, trust and support. With Whoops, Kim created a culture that valued learning and camraderie over pride.
Duke celebrated our internal successes. Each week, we wanted to win Duke because we knew whatever effort we contributed at the very least would be celebrated before our teammates and Duke, prominently displayed on in our cubicle would remind our teammates and start conversations. That knowledge made us all work harder.
To the individual, it mattered who won Duke and Whoops. But sharing all of the stories, building a community based on shared experience and trust, was far more important and beneficial to the team. The dog and the monkey were tools to weave a fabric of shared experience and create a culture of strong values.
Can you imagine your company creating a culture that truly values honesty and transparency? Where mistakes are shared with openness, trust and support; where learning and camaraderie is valued over pride?
I am a firm believer that one of the most overlooked and undervalued things in an organization is its internal culture. Leaders and managers are too often focused on immediate gains and easy-to-report KPIs, leaving internal culture to the HR department, or worse, a part-time special interest group. Leaders must realize that their main job is leading people to achieve success and greatness – which then translates to results.
Maybe this is why Google continues its momentum as the world’s #2 brand, with its stock price hitting the $1,000 mark.