Jack Welch Led Gossip Sessions
With typical candor and color, Jack Welch said, “We always had one hell-of-ah gossip session after every meeting.” (ELP, 2011, NYC)
At least two things happened at meetings Jack Welch attended. First, the agenda happened. Second, and more importantly, an H.R. meeting happened during and after.
During meetings Jack and his team looked through the conversation and paid attention to the people in the room.
After meetings, they sat around “gossiping” about the participants of the previous meeting – the meeting after the meeting.
I’ve heard of the meeting before the meeting to organize and plan outcomes. But I’d never heard of the meeting after the meeting; at least not like the one Jack described.
Gossip sessions questions:
- Did this one blow smoke?
- Did that one exceed expectations?
- Who are the consistent performers
- Who are the excuse makers?
- Who spoke with candor and acted with courage?
- Who offered creative ideas?
- Who contributed most?
- Which ones led and which ones followed?
Two Central Concerns:
- Are the right people doing the right job? Think Jim Collins’ bus illustration. Get the wrong people off the bus and get the right people on the bus.
- How are you supporting the people who drive performance?
Welch’s Number 1 Rule of Leadership:
“Rule 1. Leaders relentlessly upgrade their team, using every encounter (meetings) as an opportunity to evaluate, coach, and build self-confidence.” Jack Welch
Meetings provide opportunities to evaluate your team – to see through the agenda and focus on the people.
Successful leaders make second things first:
First, create a compelling picture of the future; that’s vision. Second, focus less on where you are going (vision) and more on the people who take you there; that’s performance.
What distracts leaders from focusing on the people?
What do leaders who are focused on people do?
I love this idea! Probably because I am an armchair psychologist. I love analyzing the behavior of people.
I completely apologize that my analogies are often unrelated to the business world, but my disclaimer is that the leadership lens I use is as a teacher and coach.
I think what distracts leaders from focusing on people is that too much of their energy is spent on objectives and goals. It’s not unlike the coach who is caught up entirely in statistics and on whether the team wins or loses. They are distracted by the numbers of the clock and the frantic pace they need they feel to keep up. They lose sight of what decisions would build their players and the team overall.
Putting people into the right places, recognizing the strengths and gifts of the team and promoting people over production are all incredibly important, but maybe more important is the willingness to see those they lead as a group in need of continual analysis and assessment. The needs will shift, and good leaders can adapt to the changes.
Meagan, no need to apologize. I spent my life thus far in the Army and in business, and your comments on leadership are insightful, and helpful to me. Leadership is about people, and people are the same no matter the organization. My wife, who used to be a para-professional, used to come up with insights for problems I was having from her observations on the playground.
Respectfully, the ‘coach’ you describe Meagan is not a true coach.
At some point, in all of these athletic games (and it is just a game), perhaps people (parents, alums) will begin rethink what real coaches and mentors are and not just look for the short term ‘win’ of stats or brief glory.
And perhaps, by Mr Welch’s description, they are not even leaders (other than traits 1 & 4) though they are placed on an automatic pedestal. I know that was a bit off tangent, had my rose colored glasses on.
Thanks for your comment Doc. I had to reread your comment a couple times before I figured out to which “coach” you were referring. I don’t think I adequately stated my point of view on this.
The “coach” I describe who is caught up in stats and records is absolutely not a true coach, and I don’t think a good leader either. Good coaches/teachers (because that is ultimately what they are) lead well because people-building, relationship-building and team-building are the three main goals.
I am intrigued by the idea that coaches aren’t leaders. That is true for too many, I admit. Just like there are bosses who are not good leaders there are coaches who are not good leaders either, but I think the traits of a leader make them a leader no matter what profession they have.
I think we agree Meagan. Yep, while one particular coach did come to mind, I was referring to people who call themselves coach, when they think it really is all about them, wins/losses. They cannot see the bigger picture of their role in guiding, modeling, and teaching life-long values. Over my 15 years of sports coaching, I learned so much and it really is about who you are off and on the field.
I think leaders get distracted because they forget what their job really is. We tend to thing our job is the work, or the goal. Our job is the people. Face it, how many of us really do much face-to-face with clients, or putting paint into cans, or making fund-raising phone calls, or all the other things our teams are supposed to get done. The work gets done, and the objective could be met, by our teams.
We exist to make people better, to make the team better. I always say that if I have 10 direct reports, the company breaks even on my pay when I make each of them 10% better. For the company to make money, I have to improve them more that than. And that’s ongoing, year after year. Overhead, which is what most leaders really are, only returns on investment if the people they lead do better because they’re there.
There may be a different vision for the team, but the vision for the leader has to be to work him or herself out of a job. That is, to improve the team to the point where they don’t need him anymore.
Hi Greg you are so right when you say leaders are overhead. We are definitely a cost center and the surest way to mitigate that is to “join” and help direct the team that truly provides the profit margin.
Would that we had more leaders actively engaged in working themselves out of jobs! Nice one Greg.
You are right, Greg. Leaders are there to make those around them better. The leaders who do that best win…in every calculable way!
Hi Dan, nice way to end the week talking about distractions. It is easy to lose focus on people and get distracted when we are not achieving the results we want or in the timetable we expect. We can’t be quick to judge and immediately should jump into our hot air balloon to quickly get an aerial view and more perspective. Often we find out that the market dynamics have changed, and the landscape is different. People usually never fail by themselves. They usually have help or better said the lack of the right help. Sometimes we are so obsessed with results that we ignore the signs from the genesis that creates them. I am not suggesting we forget about the “bottom line” but rather that we remember and concentrate on the “top line” our people. Without them there is no execution or performance. It is the responsibility of leadership to direct, instruct, and help them reach the “bottom line.” When our teams don’t move we are not pushing or in some cases not pulling correctly. Focus only on the product line and obscurity will shroud the producers. There is no service, no product, no results, no profit and no organization without the people. Wars may be directed by Generals but are won by the soldiers. I keep a cadre of trusted advisors who quickly rein me in when my vision fogs up and I lose focus of my people. Those moments of blurriness can damage years of trust and faith if not quickly addressed. There is nothing more important in life than people. Cheers 🙂
Every time I hear or read about a talk from Jack Welch, I find that I am so thoroughly intrigued. Great points about evaluating personnel and being sure that we coach and build self confidence as well. At my church, torchchurch.tv, I serve as the leader of our multi section online ministry. I have found that evaluating such a large group of individuals on my lower level of leadership exPerience is increasingly difficult.
Blogs like yours are great at helping me to fill in the experience void with some knowledge.
I am currently struggling with vision casting for the ministry. I’ve never really done this and know it is important.
Can you or any of your readers suggest some good material on navigating the task of vision casting as a novice leader?
Arman, vision is all about seeing a different state than currently exists. I’ve had success with two methods:
1. Identify your organization’s abilities and find where those coincide with organizational passions. That identifies your organizational “power plant,” the engine that will generate the most torque. The look for the ways or place that the world badly needs what that torque can produce. When you see that, you can start to imagine how your organization can impact the world — that’s a vision.
2. Sometimes part of what that different state should be is defined for you. For example, in my manufacturing company I might be told that the owners want to be perceived in the community as good citizens. Then you need to first define terms (what is good citizenship? Being green? Being philanthropic?), and second identify what your team would look like at its best doing those things. That’s a vision.
There are a lot of methods for casting a vision. No matter how you identify it, the real magic is in getting your team to see it, to believe it can get there, and to believe you’re the leader who can take them there.
I think the biggest distraction leaders face in focusing on people is people. It’s the old 80-20 rule. I think leaders spend 80% of personnel time on the bottom 20% of the performers. We are trying to fix the unfixable and hoping that everyone else takes care of themselves. We need to spend more personnel time making sure the top 20% are getting what they need and not being taken for granted.
Bingo! Lead for your best people. Either manage the worst ones, or get rid of them. It drives me crazy when we can’t do something for employees because of fears that a very small percentage might abuse the system. Decisions should be made with your best people in mind.
How right you are! In the education field, people are our priority, but too often we get caught up in the reports, the e-mails, and everything else that isn’t as important as the students and staff in the building. An effective leader builds and maintains relationships.
I thought this was a great post because it articulated what is so often the problem of organizations – that they don’t get the best out of their employees because people are in the wrong job or their talents aren’t being fully accessed and there is no real process to bring this out. I am inside an organization for the first time in 10 years. I had been running my own consulting business and then a really great opportunity came up which I took. I love companies, I love big groups of people working together to accomplish shared goals but what I’ve seen in the last few months is that so often, people get put in small boxes and there is no space for their gifts to be utilized to the benefit of the company. It sounds like Jack understood that really seeing who he had on staff and what they were capable of was a process he continually engaged in.
Interestingly enough, the pain is in managers managing activities rather than managing or leading their people. That is a very evident disconnect that I have come across. We don’t focus enough on learning to deal with people, we place too much emphasis on getting things done.
Yeah, and then people become interruptions.
My take away from today’s blog is the challenge of the mixed perspectives of vision and people (and their performance).
Concretely, other than Stanley Kubrick, who could maintain a dual long range and very personal short range focus within a single camera shot, it is not something many leaders do well.
The other analogy that may fit is travel to the new world or in the future to new planets. That is the vision, how we get there is determined by the people on board and what directions the winds are blowing. It is way more important to be ‘with’ the people doing the work than constantly looking ahead–harder work too!
You have a great way of communicating abstract concepts with clear mental images, Doc. Thanks again.
This is a great visual. It is the focus of eyes, isn’t it. If you are looking out the windshield of a figurative time-traveling ship, you cannot also focus on making eye-contact with your fellow passengers behind you. Maybe the key is to be facing the crew behind you instead and to see in their forward-focused eyes the way the ship needs to be steered. Really interesting thought!
What distracts leaders from focusing on the people?
I think sometimes leaders are afraid of what lies under the surface if they focus on people; it is easier to concentrate on deliverables and protecting images. It takes courage to peel the onion.
What do leaders who are focused on people do?
Many of the examples in this post are good ones. I read recently of an employee who bemoaned the fact that everyone she deals with is “virtual” – by conference call, webinar, or in some other way not physically present. While that does create efficiency and save money, there are some times that the absolute wisest thing a leader who is focused on people can do is …. put those people together physically. It may make the virtual stuff a lot easier/more productive if the individuals have looked each other in the eye and learned about the person behind the business.
(ps the book I am referring to with the example of “all virtual” interactions is Take the Lead by Betsy Myers – http://betsymyers.com/new-book/take-the-lead)
Hi Paula, thanks for the reference. I have not read anything by Ms. Myers but reading the reviews it appears to be a great read. Your comment on virtual meetings could not be more timely. Half of my Board would like to explore it and I like you feel it is a good stop gap measure and has its place but there is nothing like a face to face encounter. Too many “hidden” nuances that we are not privy to can change outcomes.
This is a fascinating topic. As far as the question:What distracts leaders from focusing on the people? I would offer the following: When you are Jack Welch, you have no problem doing that. When you work for Jack Welch and are given impossible performance goals, you may well be distracted from focusing on people. Or if the ecconomy is causing organizational trauma.
Because there are are more senior and middle managers than there are CEOs, it would be interesting to study leaders who manage to create a pocket of HR sanity in a toxic environment–is it possible?
All of your comments are fascinating. I particularly liked the idea of 10% improvement of direct reports. As I work on the different teams, I try to help them learn to recognize their intuition, think through their feelings and find a direction that follows their values. Of course, sometimes establishing values is part of the conversation as well. I love seeing those “aha” moments in the minds and hearts of people I work with. My desire is ultimately to get them to become team builder as well.
Very though provoking. Thanks all.