Among the most popular titles we presented at the First Friday Book Synopsis were those from Jack Welch. These were three best in his collection, and two of them were delivered by Randy Mayeux:
Winning: The Ultimate Business How-To Book (with Suzy Welch, HarperCollins Publishers, 1999)
Jack: Straight from the Gut (Hachette Book Group, 2003)
The Real-Life MBA: Your No-BS Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team, and Growing Your Career (Suzy Welch, HarperCollins Publishers, 2015)
Welch lived between November 19, 1935 and March 1, 2020. For the 19 years when I taught Management, Welch was considered top of his game. You may remember that I was a corporate trainer for many years. But, how many people that Welch a was teacher in classroom while he was President and CEO? Many corporate officers did not even know had a training department, let alone teaching in one.
One of the best books about Welch is Control Your Destiny Or Someone Else Will: How Jack Welch is Making General Electric the World’s Most Competitive Corporation by Noel Tichy and Stratford Sherman (Doubleday, 1993).
As a professional, Welch was an American business executive, chemical engineer, and writer. He was chairman and CEO of General Electric (GE) between 1981 and 2001. When he retired from GE, he received a severance payment of $417 million, the largest such payment in business history. Welch greatest fan was Noel Tichy, was author of the first book we every presented the First Friday Book Synopsis, (The Leadership Engine with Eli Cohen, HarperBusiness, 2002). I heard Tichy several times in person.
When he started his run, skeptics wondered how much of a difference the Welch could make in a company that was huge, profitable, and more than 100 years old. To the surprise of many Welch pushed the company to double-digit growth during his two decades at the helm. During the 20 years he led the company, its market value grew from $12 billion to $410 billion.
Here are some of the major quotes from his books:
- “An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”
- “Strong managers who make tough decisions to cut jobs provide the only true job security in today’s world. Weak managers are the problem. Weak managers destroy jobs.”
- “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”
- “Giving people self-confidence is by far the most important thing that I can do. Because then they will act.”
- “If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings and put compensation as a carrier behind it you almost don’t have to manage them.”
- “The essence of competitiveness is liberated when we make people believe that what they think and do is important – and then get out of their way while they do it.”
- “I’ve learned that mistakes can often be as good a teacher as success.”
- “Willingness to change is a strength, even if it means plunging part of the company into total confusion for a while.”
- “Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be.”
- “Be candid with everyone.”
To attract the right followers, Welch instituted a strategy that earned him the title of “Neutron Jack.” Welch insisted that all of GE’s divisions be market leaders. ″Fix it, close it or sell it,” he was fond of saying. He had GE cut all businesses in which the company could not dominate the market in first or second positions. He had managers fire the bottom 10% of GE employees, and he fired the bottom 10% of management. Welch’s housecleaning cleared away layers of bureaucracy, and made way for a quicker flow of ideas. The new commitment to competition came with large rewards, especially as stock option grants increased in value and GE continued to grow rapidly. GE soon became one of the most coveted places to work and attracted the best in the world
Fortune magazine once called him “manager of the century.” His books are well worth re-reading. He gave great insight about management and leadership, in a way that no else has ever duplicated.
We’re less than a month away from the release of Jack and Suzy Welch‘s newest work, The Real Life MBA: Your No-BS Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team, and Growing Your Career (Harper Business, 2015). It is a certain best-seller, and pre-orders for the book are rocking the online outlets. Considering their personal backgrounds, perhaps you join me in being perplexed that even before its release, the book ranks #11 in the Amazon.com best-selling list in Business Ethics.
“Say what?” If you don’t know the story, here is a brief account. Suffice it to say that much more detail is available to you through the Internet. Jack’s second wife, Jane Beasley, found out about an affair between Suzy Wetlaufer and Welch. At the time, Suzy was editor-in-chief of the Harvard Business Review. Beasley delivered this information to the publication, and Wetlaufer was forced to resign in early 2002 after admitting to having been involved in an affair with Welch while preparing an interview with him for HBR. Personal and professional ethics? This did not turn out too badly for Beasley. While Welch had crafted a prenupital agreement, she had insisted on a ten-year time limit for its enforceability, and therefore, left the marriage with around $180 million of Welch’s money. That interview was never published. Suzy and Jack married in 2004.
This is not their first co-authored book. Randy Mayeux presented their first one, Winning (Harper Business, 2005) at the First Friday Book Synopsis. It reached # 1 on the New York Times and Wall Street Journal business best-selling lists. We did not present their next co-authored work, Winning: The Answers: Confronting 74 of the Toughest Questions in Business Today (Harper Business, 2006).
They both have another single-authored book. Randy presented a synopsis of Jack: Straight from the Gut (Business Plus, 2003). In 2010, Suzy wrote 10-10-10: A Fast and Powerful Way to Get Unstuck in Love, at Work, and with Your Family (Scribner). Randy gave that synopsis to several of our Creative Communication Network clients. I remember that audiences we delivered that synopsis to were not exactly thrilled at the quality of information transferred. In fact, at the Fort Worth Club, our event planner remarked that she wished she would have selected another book. Maybe her reputation backfired on that one. Of course, she didn’t write that one way to get unstuck is to have an affair with a famous married man. It certainly worked for her.
Note that both of these authors are very competent and successful. History will likely write Jack as the most successful CEO in American history. His style and substance led General Electric to a fast and furious climb to the top of elite and powerful businesses. All the labels, such as “Neutron Jack,” are applicable. His decisions were profound and effective. And, he believed in lifelong learning and professional development, even teaching courses on-site at the GE Learning Center. Many CEO’s don’t even know their company has a learning center, let alone take the time to go teach in it. Suzy’s role at one of the most prestigious business publications gave her strong credibility, as did her work experience at Bain.
Considering their reputation, most likely, this one will also fly to the top. It is not out of the question that you might hear a synopsis of this at our event. In fact, many of our regular attendees may push us very hard to present it. It will be exciting to see what the sub-topics will be from the Table of Contents. Only time will tell whether this one is heavier on style than substance. The title alone is appealing.
But, ethics? Is this really the best resource?