Book Summary: Winning by Jack Welch and Suzy Welch

This book is all about getting things done. And, given the current state of affairs, there is probably no better moment than now to do so.

Some may argue that Jack Welch is a remnant of the 1980s and that the world has rendered his leadership style obsolete, which may be accurate in some aspects.

I've read this book three times now, the first time it was initially published and the second time during the 2008 financial crisis, and again just this past week.

And I have to admit that a lot of his advice is spot on for the circumstances we live in right now.

His 8 principles for leaders is a wonderful tutorial on what made Jack Welch such a successful leader as we all prepare for what seems to be a very unpredictable year.

Rule #1: Leaders relentlessly upgrade their team, using every encounter as an opportunity to evaluate, coach, and build self-confidence.

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Jack was well-known for his contentious 70-20-10 rule, which you may have heard of. This is the point at which 70% of your employees are regarded as the lifeblood of your firm, 20% are considered stars, and 10% should not be working for you.

Every year, each firm leader was forced to rate their staff in order of worth, dismiss the worst 10%, and replace them with individuals who could become stars.

Business success has always hinged on having the right people on board. It's essentially all you have if you're in the service industry. So, whether you want to be as brutal as Jack Welch or not, make sure you're not treating your employees unfairly.

Remember that just isn't the same as equal. Most essential, if you remember nothing else from this rule, it's that you should assess and coach your staff at every chance.

I am confident that they will tell you that it is their greatest desire if you ask them - and if you haven't already, please do so. They'd want to know where they stand on the issue.

Decide on some upgrades for your team this year.

Rule #2: Leaders make sure people not only see the vision; that they live and breathe it.

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The world as you know it is transforming.

Newspapers and other forms of mainstream media are concerned about their safety. Freelancers, artificial intelligence, and robotics are displacing permanent workers. Everyone is looking forward to the future and trying to figure out where they will fit in.

I'm sure your staff know what's going on and are concerned about their future prospects.

So it's your responsibility this year to inform them. If you don't have a vision for the future, you should get one and talk about it whenever you have the opportunity.

"You know you're on the right road when you're sick of talking about it and quite sure your staff is sick of hearing it," Jack always said.

What is your vision for the future, and what do you hope to accomplish in the coming year?

Rule #3: Leaders get into everyone's skin, exuding positive energy and optimism.

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Jack used to stroll about the GE hallways munching on several pieces of gum and expressing one thing above all else: enthusiasm. Of course, he didn't always feel that way. There were moments when he felt as if he'd been hit by a ton of bricks and didn't want to put on a pleasant front.

But he came to a crucial realization. Every day, he was on stage, and whether he liked it or not, his coworkers were watching his every move. Not only was I paying attention to what he said, but also to how he said it and conducted himself.

Whether you like it or not, your coworkers are observing you at all times. When things are going well, it's easy to become pumped up. When revenues flow in, operations run well, and there are no hiccups; being positive is easy.

But not every situation is that way.

It's not easy to feel like there's light at the end of the tunnel when you know it's a steaming locomotive barreling down the track instead of dawn.

That's when you'll need all of your positive energy and optimism the most. That's where the wheat gets separated from the chaff, and the managers get separated from the leaders.

Whatever cliché you choose to use, those are the circumstances under which leaders are created.

Rule #4: Leaders establish trust with candor, transparency, and credit.

Now, trust is such a major issue. So, according to Jack, there are three things you need to do to obtain it.

The first is sincerity. In business, Jack likes to remark that honesty is a four-letter word. During his tenure at GE, though, he single-handedly altered the company's culture by doing one thing: expressing his opinion.

The second is transparency, which is a kind of extension of candor because what do you speak your mind about when you're transparent? Everything. Remember that honesty and candor aren't all rainbows and sunshine. People can tell when you're telling them a lie.

Let them know if things are going to be difficult for a time. Let them know if you need to freeze pay for the coming year. When everything finally starts to turn around, tell them, too.

The third and final factor in gaining people's trust is the recognition of credit.

Rule #5: Leaders have the courage to make unpopular decisions and gut calls.

It is not a popularity contest to be a leader. Maybe you'll have to cut back on free coffee this year, or perhaps you'll have to take severe measures like laying off half of your employees.

Whatever it is, you'll have to make a judgment that your staff will second-guess sometime this year. They could even despise you for it. However, if they have faith in you, they will understand why the decision had to be made.

Jack made all of his judgments based on facts and analysis, but he never had excellent knowledge. That's when you have to trust your instincts.

When was the last time you took a decision that you knew everyone would despise but that you knew it was right?

Rule #6: Leaders probe and push with a curiosity that borders on skepticism, making sure their questions are answered with action.

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Jack used to joke that he didn't mind being the dumbest person in the room. Rather than attempting to appear as if he understood everything, he would ask questions if he didn't grasp anything.

For example, if more leaders had asked stupid questions, much of the 2008 economic catastrophe may have been averted. So don't be scared to make a fool of yourself; it could just save your company one day!

Also, make sure that when you ask a question, you follow up with action. Put a stop to whatever they insist on doing if they can't come up with a better response, since if you can't comprehend it, it's not worth doing.

When was the last time you pretended to be the most ignorant person in the room?

Rule #7: Leaders inspire risk by setting an example.

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Jack understood that taking risks was the only way to innovate and progress. It's just business as usual when you do things that are likely to succeed. However, there aren't many certain winners these days.

For the genuinely daring, there is a huge chance out there.

You're going to have to reconsider your future anyhow; the only question is whether you'll act now or later. As a result, if you, as a leader, decide to work now and take charge of your destiny as early as possible, your people will follow suit.

So put your head out there and take a chance. Just make sure it's one you're familiar with.

Rule #8: Leaders celebrate.

leaders celebrate workers on how much we care about them
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Jack actually rejoiced like it was his job. He hosted everything from keg parties to tropical vacations.

Celebrations, on the other hand, do not necessarily have to be expensive or extravagant. We celebrate to show our workers how much we care about them and respect their efforts to the firm.

This has a profoundly human quality to it. Even if things aren't going as smoothly as you'd like, your employees still deserve to feel appreciated. Yes, they do.

So think of tiny ways to rejoice. Maybe it's a handwritten note to one of your employees or a gift voucher to a local restaurant. However, there is something worth celebrating at your company today. Look for it.

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