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A leaf out of the book of Jack Welch, ex CEO of General Electric

I’ve been reading the auto-biography of Jack Welch, ex-Chairman and CEO of GE (find it here at Fishpond) over the break and it’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse of life at the top in one of the biggest corporations in the world.

In New Zealand we tend to think of GE most when it comes to finance products, jet engines and maybe fridges (if you are, have the cash to buy one) – but they have an amazing array of business from whitewater to media (they own NBC network) to power generation. With 310,000 employees globally they are a massive employer and spend over US$1 billion on training alone!

Jack Welch is often touted as the World’s Greatest CEO, mainly for his turnaround of GE from the early eighties and his “unique” call-it-as-you-see-it style. Critics dismiss him by stating that GE has such strong leadership and a diverse business base that even a dimwit could run the business and it would still be successful.

Whatever your view you can’t deny the man has grit – here are a few small insights from Jack’s World with some ideas on how they could be applied:

  1. Rewrite your agenda – “We want to be a company that is constantly renewing itself, shedding the past, adapting to change”.
    I’ve never been a fan or adopter of planning years ahead. Everything changes – competitors, markets, the economy and technology. Have long-term goals but be flexible and willing to change them. Develop options for change within the business and examine other alternatives if the market shifts in an unexpected direction.
  2. Spark others to perform – “Giving people self-confidence is by far the most important thing I can do”.
    Make sure everyone knows that the best ideas win. At Intergen we regularly run internal competitions for individuals to come up with crazy concepts based on the new technologies. They do get an award but most importantly it’s recognition within their peers that is the spark. Don’t just stop there though; let people know you’ll implement their ideas and they’ll be more motivated to express them. The greatest satisfaction I get from my role is looking at individual development in the team.
  3. Live speed – “Speed is everything. It is the indispensable ingredient in competitiveness”.
    Don’t sit on decisions. Communicate faster. Forget email and pick up the phone. Outwit your competitors by acting quicker. Incorporate speed into processes and your thinking. The way Intergen engages with our clients and the agility we bring is one of the key reasons they keep doing business with us.

Posted by: Shaun Donaghey | 14 January 2008

Tags: Leadership

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