One of the major problems in business today is the lack of candor in employee appraisals, warned former General Electric CEO and Chairman Jack Welch during his April 15 appearance in the College of Management's IMPACT Speaker Series.
"I'm a believer that the worst managers in the world characterize themselves as a 'kind manager'…." Welch said, adding that people who are too nice to honestly evaluate people shouldn't be in that role. "I believe to the tip of my toes that grading people shouldn't stop the day they leave school….
"The team with the best players wins," he said. "Your job is to build a great team."
Welch, who helped boost General Electric's market value from $12 billion in 1981 to approximately $280 billion in 2001 during his 20-year tenure as CEO, structured his talk into a Q&A format, fielding queries from MBA student Stephen Selfridge as well as the audience members who completely filled LeCraw Auditorium.
Similar Q&A sessions led to the creation of Welch's new bestselling book on leadership, Winning, in which he explains that almost all of the questions he hears boil down to, "What does it take to win?" He and his wife, Suzy, the book's co-author, signed copies at a reception immediately following the event.
During his talk, he advised students about to embark on careers not to worry about making mistakes for the first five years, but to learn from them. "The last thing you want to be is timid," he said. "Go for it!"
Don't put on a false persona either, he cautioned. "If you're a nerd, go to a company with nerds," he said. Performance is the key, he emphasized. "If you over-perform, the world will come to you," he said. "Your job the day you show up is to make your boss look good."
When times get hectic, don't hold out your company's brochure on work/life balance to your boss and say, "Remember what I get?," Welch warned. "If you deliver for your boss, you'll earn flexibility," said Welch, who conceded he's "no model of work/life balance."
Sponsored by Assurant Solutions, the weekly IMPACT series provides Georgia Tech students, alumni and the Atlanta community an opportunity to network and learn from high-tech entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and notable business leaders. Other featured speakers during the spring series included Truett Cathy, founder and CEO of Chick-fil-A; Bernie Marcus, founder of The Home Depot; and David A. Perdue, chairman and CEO of Dollar General Corporation. The series resumes in the fall.