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Jack Welch on Growing Your Company, Energizing Your Team, and Celebrating the Small Wins

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Former CEO of GE Jack Welch visited LinkedIn Studios in New York to talk with Executive Editor Daniel Roth about leading successful businesses.

Click to read Jack Welch's post: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-does-your-boss-really-think-you-jack-welch

Some highlights from the interview:

On why he got into education:

Education is a less-than-competitive field. Cost continues to go up, and it's moving away from most people. We're doing it in a professional business way, where the student is the customer, not the faculty.

On how much faster business is today than when he was at GE:

In my first days in GE ... people were preparing the budget starting in July for the big show and tell in December. By that time today, the world is upside down. [For instance,] oil and currency in six months have flipped upside down.

If you can't move, you're dead.

On the dangers of becoming a big company:

You're a big company. You have massive investments, tons of people. You've got plans that, even though you make strategy sessions all the time, you have to know what's going on, you have to be able to change. Big companies can't change quickly. Every big company's gotta be a small company in their head. You want the muscle of a big company, and the soul of a small company. I fought for that every day. I never got all the way there, but I fought for it every day.

On how people inside big companies have to act:

You want people to think every day about speed.

So you think about things like layers. If I'm a middle manager, how tough am I making it for you to get things done? Have I got a system where I can get action because of you? Or am I a pain in the ass with layers in there, making you get approval checking on somebody else? “What do you think Dan'll think about this?” No. I want you to be spontaneous, I want you at me.

On why constant appraisals are the way to get that kind of employee:

You always want your people to know where they stand. See, one of the things about appraisals for people, appraisals shouldn't be every year. The world changed in a year, they've changed in a year. You've got to let them know, "Here's what you're doing right, here's what you can do to improve." And you've got to be on them all the time.

Leadership today is all about two words: It's all about truth and trust. You've got to have their back when they didn't hit it out of the park, you've got have their back when they hit it out of the park.

When they trust you, you'll get truth. And if you get truth, you get speed. If you get speed, you're going to act. That's how it works.

On the simple way to lead:

You've got a conference room right down across the hall there. People walk into your conference room. You're the boss. They're spinning you. They're giving you a flavor that might sell. If a neon light was flashing at that room, "Truth only! Truth only!" think how much faster you'd be.