Jack Welch – the name means more to me than the visionary leader and CEO of GE who steered his company through turbulent times into a position of global dominance and prominence. Jack Welch is a pioneering thought leader – the thought of having the will and power to change for the good. Winning therefore is not only a book about sharing management mantras for success – it’s a book about having the right ideologies and cultivating a culture of winning that will be imperishable even when you are no more. As the CEO of Diamond Bank, I believe that’s the form of culture I too would want to set up for my organization.
A daunting corporate leader, Jack Welch leads by example and believes in everything that he voices. Never willing to give up on any opportunity that comes by his way, Winning is the demonstration of his cutting-edge vision bringing forward his views and principles about dealing with competition, managing and leading a company and handling careers.
The book virtually is a corporate roadmap to winning by adhering to certain ground-breaking corporate management styles and principles that include teamwork, profit making, changing and focusing on people development. What Welch proposes to build therefore is a contagious network – of winning and building in people the desire to win. So let me talk about some of the sections that hold particular importance and interest to me.
I’d like to begin by talking about the right corporate attitude that he emphasizes to cultivate. In the book he stresses on the need for organizations to have the right attitude and outlook. This includes its mission and values and candor. Though creating the company’s mission is the top management’s role, values denote the behavior that people exhibit in order to reach that vision – and that means trickling down the corporate values to the lowest level of functionality. This also means cultivating the culture of candor or clear thinking and expression. Jack Welch, in his professional career earned many notorious titles for his management style. In fact, within five years of his tenure as a leader more than 118,000 parted ways from GE. Such setbacks did not hold him back – he had his mission in mind and knew that waste and stagnation can never be allowed at any point. When he speaks of candor he therefore talks about making our minds an idea generation machine. Think of ideas that if and when implemented will lead to developmental transformation. Some ideas may not be plausible or even fail, but that shouldn’t stop one from thinking harder. And yes, don’t forget to reward those for being candor – even when it displeases several others.
Another section that I closely followed was that on leadership, hiring and parting ways. Welch explains how differently “success” is defined before and after being a leader. Before being elected, success is all about the position and growing yourself. But once elected, success is all about growing the team and the people who work with you. You can’t be a successful leader if you are unable to lead by example, take risks, make harsh decisions for the greater good, exude positive energy from your team, develop people at every opportunity and learn to celebrate success.
His views on hiring are all the more detailed and well stated. There are several screens he adopts – each level of screen is like an elimination round. But all his screens are focused on the candidate’s integrity, passion and zeal, attitude and knowledge of work, ability to execute, authenticity, vision etc. In short, he prefers to hire a person, who shares a passion that is aligned to the desire to win.
While speaking on parting ways, Welch believes that layoff/firing should not come as a surprise to anyone. It’s necessary to ensure that your workers are aware of the business and changing milieu in order to understand their role in the organization and their position. It is also necessary to spare the person the humiliation of being asked to let go. This section is of particular importance to me. The present economic instability in Nigeria and the decreasing value of our currency, might initiate harsh corporate decisions, forcing quite a number of organisations to shed some of their weight and become lean. These are stern business decisions organisations may have to make, but what can be implemented is to keep the spirit right, even when the decision is an unpleasant one.
In his professional career, Jack Welch made thousands of M&A – so let’s say the seven pitfalls of mergers and acquisitions that he shares is coming right from his experience and indeed something we can all learn from. What’s interesting about this section is that he takes M&As beyond accounting and finance. He points out the need to focus more on the physical aspect of the deal that was being made and the cultural change that it will bring about. These are people centric concepts and inability to incorporate them will most likely lead to failure.
The section on getting the right job and work-life balance is something that I feel are essential for the modern corporate. The part about managing your career begins with being able to identify your strengths and weaknesses and what you love. If you find a job that pushes you to try new things and do better, mix with great people, get the opportunity to explore, learn and grow, make decisions that matter, etc. that alone is indication that you are in the right job. Of course, one doesn’t always get so lucky with the first job right away, but then it will help you to realize what is it that you don’t want!
Even while speaking of work-life balance Welch makes it clear how important it is to prioritize and give your 100% to what you are doing at the moment. So when you are at work, stay focused on your work. At home, make every moment with your family matter. It’s true that in the digital era, with our smartphone and access to the internet 24×7 this may not always be possible – but then these are wise words. And if you can make it possible you will be the one to gain at the end!
That being said, it is absolutely impossible for me to share all the ideas that Welch pens down – though I would love to. In short I recommend Winning as a book that inspires – inspires to grow and do better in order to win.