Tag Archives: Jack Welch

Passing the Baton – One Woman at a Time

Cheryl offers: October’s HBR article “Why Succession Shouldn’t Be a Horse Race” describes how Xerox’s former CEO Anne Mulcahy successfully identified, developed and eventually passed the CEO baton to Ursula Burns, the first African American woman to lead a Fortune 500 company while also marking the first ever woman-to-woman succession. What was most interesting was how Anne deliberately worked to avoid Jack Welch’s famous departure when two of the three top candidates left with him once they learned Jeff Immelt had gotten the job. She said “I don’t believe in having people face off against each other for the CEO job in a classic horse race.” Kudos to her on two fronts: first for recognizing that losing valuable talent in this day and age is not good business and secondly for seeing collaboration is better for the business than competition when putting the best person in the job. GE lost 3 very talented employees when Jack left. Anne managed to retain her 3 top contenders after Ursula was named CEO, although one has since retired.  This article reinforced a message I read in Women and Leadership by Barbara Kellerman and Deborah Rhode.  In chapter 9 written by Marie C. Wilson, she notes “We need to fuel each other’s ambition, to give women the encouragement they need, and the courage embedded in that word. With our help, they can and will step forward and say, “I’m here. I can do this, and I want to lead.” This was written in 2007, just about the time Anne and Ursula were starting to write business history.  Those who support the laws of natural attraction would say, “Of course!”

Winning, with the Right Stars, Leads To More…Winning!

Two things.

It really helps you win if you’re on a winning streak.
It really helps you win if you have the right stars to fill the right slots.

Both of these thoughts are stated pretty clearly, and strongly, in the Jack Welch book, Winning.

Here’s Jack Welch about winning:
There have been literally thousands of questions.  But most of them come down to this:  What does it take to win?  And that is what this book is about – winning.  Probably no other topic could have made me want to write again!  Because I think winning is great.  Not good – great.  When companies win, people thrive and grow…  Winning lifts everyone it touches – it just makes the world a better place.  When companies are losing, on the other hand, everyone takes a hit.  People feel scared.  They have less financial security and limited time or money to do anything else.  All they do is worry and upset their families, and in the meantime, if they’re out of work, they pay little, if any, taxes.

An effective mission statement basically answers one question:  How do we intend to win in this business?  It does not answer:  What were we good at in the good old days?  Nor does it answer:  How can we describe our business so that no particular unit or division or senior executive gets pissed off.

And here’s Jack Welch on hiring:
Hiring good people is hard.  Hiring great people is brutally hard.  And yet nothing matters more in winning than getting the right people on the field.  All the clever strategies and advanced technologies in the world are nowhere near as effective without great people to put them to work.

Here in Dallas, life revolves around one thing, and one thing only – how are the Cowboys doing?  (I am fairly convinced that if a scientist found the cure for cancer, war broke out between the USA and Canada, the Texas Rangers won the World Series, and Tony Romo had a hang nail, all on the same day, the lead story on the front page of the Dallas Morning News would be Tony Romo’s hangnail).  Lately, the Cowboys have looked like losers  (because they were losers, losing their first two games).  Their posture, their facial expressions, were all showing the strain.  And then, yesterday, it all clicked.  They looked like a different team.  They looked like…winners.  And winning literally changes the way you look!

And then I read this fascinating article, Without Star, Often Broadway Shows Can’t Go On by Patrick Healy, in the New York Times.  Consider these opening paragraphs:

To understand why the hit Broadway musical “Promises, Promises” will close after just nine months, gaze up at the show’s giant billboard over Times Square. There are the smiling faces of Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth, stars who are the chief reasons the show usually grosses $1 million a week.

The producers built the $9 million revival of “Promises” as a vehicle for Mr. Hayes and Ms. Chenoweth — so much so, they now contend, that the actors have become irreplaceable, and the show will close in January when they leave.

Winning in business works the same way.  If your company, your department, you, are on a losing streak, you don’t have to tell anyone.  They can see it in your demeanor.

And if you are on a winning streak, you don’t have to tell anyone.  They can see it in your demeanor.

And it really helps to have the right stars (the right people, doing the right jobs – the jobs they were born to, trained to, feel “called to,” perform) in the right places.  And when you find a true star, he or she is really, really hard to replace.


You can purchase my synopsis of this Jack Welch book, Winning, with handout + audio, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.

Women in Banking, and Other Careers – (Womenomics seems right on the mark)

Recently, Sue Moore of UBS Financial Services (and a regular at the First Friday Book Synopsis), sent me a link to this excellent article (click on title to read article):

THE 25 MOST POWERFUL WOMEN IN BANKING:  Taking Charge in Turbulent Times.

The article includes a paragraph referencing Womenomics, which I recently presented at the FFBS:  Here’s the paragraph:
In their recent book “Womenomics,” television journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman note that up to one-third of professional women take a breather from their careers at some point, and that MBAs are more likely than doctors or lawyers to choose to stay home with their children. The problem with this is crystallized in something Jack Welch said recently at a Society of Human Resources Management conference: that women who choose to get off the executive track are more likely to get passed over for top jobs when they are ready to return. “There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences,” Welch says.
This is damaging for the individual women, and could have a ripple effect on younger executives, Offereins (Diane Offereins, executive vice president of payment services at Discover Financial Services) fears. “I think it’s important to have women in the senior ranks because they think about hiring and promoting women,” she says.

(Our own Cheryl and Sara blogging team members gently suggested that Jack Welch should consider keeping his opinions to himself from now on.  Read their post, Past Time to Retire, Jack Welchhere).

The article ends with this paragraph about a women who made it (back up) to the top, even after a four year period away from the corporate world:

One interesting newcomer to the rankings is BBVA Compass retail chief Shelaghmichael Brown. Brown was honored for smoothly integrating a string of acquisitions in the Southeast and Southwest. What we didn’t know until we interviewed her was that, after years of moving up the executive ladder, Brown left banking for four years earlier this decade to help her then-teenage sons with their studies. CEOs, boards and Jack Welch take note: Brown is proof that even after an extended hiatus, women can maintain their drive and passion, and pick up where they left off.

What shall we think about all of this?  Last year was the year that women received the majority of degrees at every educational level (Associates, through all Graduate Degrees) in the U.S.  Their preparation, their talent, their skills are simply too important for companies and organizations to cast them aside if they take some time off – even a few years off.  The terrain is changing, and the business practices have to adjust to the new realities.  These women bring too much to the table, and business needs to find a way to let their talents back in when they are ready to return.

To fail to do so is just… what’s the word I’m looking for…  stupid.  It’s bad for people, and it’s bad for business.  It’s dehumanizing.

Past time to retire, Jack Welch

Cheryl’s view: It seems Jack Welch should play more golf and resist the temptation of making speeches. On July 21 the Wall Street Journal reported he delivered what I’m sure he thought was “straight talk” like he thinks he did in his book, Straight from the Gut. He told a convention of HR executives women had to choose between raising a family and having the corner office. Which rock have you been hiding under Jack? Maybe he forgot that last year’s CEO of the year as elected by peer CEOs, was Anne Mulcahy, CEO of Xerox, and mother of two sons. And I supposed he also hasn’t noticed Mulcahy passed the reins to the first Afro-American woman to lead an S&P 100 company, Ursula Burns, and (Oh, gasp Jack!) also happens to have a daughter and stepson.  When Jack Welch entered the workforce and even possibly when he led General Electric, this might have been a “norm”, possibly his own stereotype at work. This is no longer the case.  Jack might also want to start reading the stats on graduating MBAs; women in 2009 will surpass men in all categories: associate, bachelor, graduate and professional. By the way, the gap between men and women has been widening since 1982, the last year men exceeded women in acquiring degrees, in college degrees and is projected to continue until 2017, which is only as far as the projection goes. So, where will the most talented, experienced, and well educated people in the company come from, the future CEOs? My money is on the next generation of women, who, by the way, believe the wisdom of his other book’s title “Control Your Own Destiny, or Someone Else Will.” Thanks for the advice, Jack, now go play golf.

Sara adds:  Jack, in the words of James Copeland, former Chairman and CEO of Deloitte & Touche worldwide in True Leaders (Bette Price and George Ritchesche),  “Don’t breath your own exhaust.”    Your pronouncement in the Journal is contemptible (a carefully chosen word from Merriam Webster’s online dictionary…  “contemptible may imply any quality provoking scorn or a low standing in any scale of value.” The italics are mine).  I believe your comments to be contemptible; having a low standing in any scale of value on a couple of levels.  First level, you single out women leaders.  Besides being transparently biased your idea begs the question, why shouldn’t ALL leaders, men and women, have the opportunity to have a life as well as incredibly successful careers?   Then there’s the next level.  It’s about BUSINESS RESULTS, Jack, not about appearances or sacrifice.  By even uttering that comment I wonder if you’ve lost focus on the prize here.   Jack, you should read  a new Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership (Richard Boyatzis and Daniel Goleman).  It stands your antiquated version of leadership on its ear.  In the article you will read about the negative impact a leader’s stressed lifestyle has on the success of the company they lead.  The authors also provide a pathway to leadership that is healthy, balanced and produces great (get that, Jack, GREAT)  business results.  I wonder what heights GE could have climbed if YOU had been a different kind of leader.

Passion – Energy and Purpose, in Business and in All of LIfe

When you start looking for something, it just seems to show up everywhere. And lately, I keep thinking about passion. I was watching just a snippet of one of my favorite movies, Field of Dreams, and saw the scene where this exchange occurred. Ray had dragged an unwilling Terence Mann to a baseball game, where they both saw and heard a message. But before Mann owns up to it, Ray drops him off at his apartment, and Mann says to him:  “I wish I had your passion.  Misdirected though it might be, it is still a passion.  I used to feel that way about things, but….”  {Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) to Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner), Field of Dreams}.

In a work context, as in all of life, passion spills over and effects everything and everyone that it touches. This came from Bob Morris:  “The 4-E (and 1 P) Leadership Framework” according to Jack Welch: “Passion! By that I mean a heartfelt, deep, and authentic excitement about work. People with passion care — really care in their bones — about colleagues, employees, and friends winning. They love to learn and grow, and they get a huge kick when people around them do the same. The funny thing about people with passion, though, is they usually aren’t excited just about work. They tend to be passionate about everything!…they just have juice for life in their veins.”  (this is an excerpt from a book by Jeffrey Krames — see Bob’s “Q29 from Bob’s blog).

To be fully passionate, you have to be passionate about some thing – some one driving something than literally inspires you and envelops you. That is what the research says, and that is what our experience reveals. We know that people with a passion are people with passion. The driving force that drives such a person gives energy to keep going, to work the long hours, to overcome every setback and every attack and every enemy and every deficiency. Passion keeps a person going on and on…

And – it is never too late. As Ken Robinson, in his book The Element:  How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, put it, we may have to “take the time to step out of our routines, rethink our paths, and revisit the passions we left behind (or never pursued at all). We have the capacity to discover the Element at practically any age.”

And why is that passion so critical? Robinson again: “The Element is the meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion… (People who find their Element) are doing the thing they love, and in doing it they feel like their most authentic selves. They find that time passes differently and that they are more alive, more centered , and more vibrant… They connect with something fundamental to their sense of identity, purpose, and well-being.”

If passion is the key to authenticity, to energy, to purpose, to fulfillment, to fecundity (the word used by Henri Nouwen in his book Lifesigns), then I would say finding your passion, and living out your passion, could be pretty important – in business and in life.