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Jack Welch Winning

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Every Day There Is A New Question

"Winning" is written by Jack Welch and, whether you love him or hate him, the guy has real experience in running a large corporation successfully. This is unlike so many other authors who can be somewhat academic. Welch began his career with the General Electric Company in 1960, and in 1981 became the company's eighth chairman and CEO. During his tenure, GE's market capitalization increased by $400 billion, making it the world's most valuable corporation. Jack retired in 2001 and he is currently the head of Jack Welch, LLC, where he serves as an advisor to a small group of Fortune 500 CEOs and speaks to businesspeople and students around the world.

Overall, "Winning" stresses being positive at many levels, causing companies and individuals to thrive and grow, creating jobs and more opportunities for everyone.. It covers the broad expanse of Jack's business experience. He devotes chapters to everything from mission statements to work-life balance. Jack claims that he set out to write this book to answer the repeated questions he gets at Q&A sessions around the world. This results in a tome that is timely, well-informed and relevant. Because of the scope of this book, I will try to focus on the sections that I found most relevant to leadership.

Mission

According to Jack Welch, the words "mission and values" are among the most abstract, overused, and misunderstood terms in business today. However, they are also the most important. In his view, a good mission statement and supporting set of values must never come across as wishy-washy or too academic. He believes they have to be "so real they smack you in the face with their concreteness." Your mission statement needs to announce exactly where you are going. There should be no ambiguity.

Moreover, he says, a proper mission statement needs to answer one key question: "How do we intend to win in this business?" This question is defining. It requires companies to make choices about people, investments and other resources. The question also forces companies to delineate their strengths and weaknesses in order to assess where they can profitably play in the competitive landscape.

Welch recommends that everyone in a company be given an opportunity to have input into its value statement. Getting full participation when you are formulating a value statement really makes a difference, he says. It gives you more insights and more ideas, and most importantly, at the end of the process you'll have more extensive buy-in. Naturally, an open, participatory process cannot happen overnight. It will take time, and an enormous amount of commitment. But Welch is confident it will be worth it in the end.

Candor

Next, there is candor or just telling it like it is. Jack believes lack of candor blocks smart ideas, fast action and good people contributing everything they have. When you have candor, everything just operates faster and better.

First you get idea-rich. Second, candor generates speed. Third, candor cuts costs. Put all of its benefits and efficiencies together and you realize you just can't afford not to have candor. Given the advantages of candor, you have to wonder why we don't have more of it.

To get candor, you reward it, praise it and talk about it. You make public heroes out of people who demonstrate it. Most of all, you yourself demonstrate it in an exuberant and even exaggerated way - even when you're not the boss.

Differentiation

Differentiation is probably one of the things which Welch is most noted for at GE. His 20-70-10 plan has been controversial to say the least. This practice highly rewards the top twenty percent of employees, encourages the middle seventy percent and eliminates the bottom ten percent. By doing this, Welch believes that companies win when companies cultivate the strong and cull the weak. Also he stresses that companies suffer when every business and person is treated equally.

To Welch, differentiation is just resource allocation. Along with being the most efficient and most effective way to run a company, differentiation also happens to be the fairest and the kindest. No one should ever be surprised that they are not performing well and are fired. This is why a company needs candor and honest evaluations.

Ultimately, Jack reasons that 20-70-10 makes winners out of everyone. However, differentiation cannot and must not be implemented quickly. At GE, it took about a decade to install the kind of candor and trust that makes differentiation possible.

Leadership

No matter what the situation, or who your audience is, Welch believes there are a few basic techniques of leadership that will always work in creating a winning company. He refers to these as his eight rules of leadership.

First of all, leaders relentlessly upgrade their team, using every encounter as an opportunity to evaluate, coach, and build self-confidence. They take every opportunity to inject self-confidence into those who have earned it. "So give praise generously," says Welch, and the more specific the better. Second, leaders make sure people not only see the vision, but also live and breathe it too. Welch points out that there were many times where he talked about the company's vision and direction so much in one day that he was completely sick of hearing it himself. But he stuck with it anyway and it paid off.

Third, according to Welch, leaders have to get into everyone's skin, exuding positive energy and optimism. "Unhappy tribes have a tough time winning," Welch says. The job of a leader is to fight negativism, because the right attitude can bring so much more to a company. Fourth, leaders also have to establish trust by giving credit where it's due. They never cheat their own people by stealing an idea and claiming it as theirs. Fifth, leaders have the courage to make unpopular decisions and gut calls. "You're not there to run for office," he jokes. "You're already elected!" It is the leader's job to decide what is best for the company, even if it means upsetting a few people.

Sixth, leaders probe and push with a curiosity that borders on skepticism, making sure their questions are answered with action. The words: "We'll look into it," are an all-too-common business head fake. When nothing gets accomplished, saying, "I told you so" is worthless to the company's bottom line. Seventh, leaders inspire risk taking and learning by setting the example. Jack notes that often companies urge their employees to take risk only

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