It is always fascinating to hear someone of his stature talk about how they rose to the top of the largest company in the world and what made them successful. It is also interesting to see the personal angle too. For example, Jack apparently has a stammer. And yet today is one of the most sought after public speakers on the planet. This ability to conquer is undoubtedly a strength that has served him well.
The pearls of wisdom that worked for me were:
- All business is about one thing only - people. HR is the least understood part of the management job. It is taught poorly at business schools and yet is the core part of management and leadership. The CEO should make it clear that HR is at least as important as finance or any other function. At GE, Jack spent 70% of his time on people issues and more time with HR than any other function. His biggest successes where about people (those people he hired) as were his biggest failures (not paying enough attention to organisational culture during acquisitions).
- He uses a 20/70/10 rule. In any organisation there are about 20% of your people who are the stars, about 70% who you want to encourage to improve and become potential stars of tomorrow, and finally 10% (give or take) who you know are not going to make the grade.
- He advocates transparency. In particular to point 2, he suggests that you tell the 10% that it isn't working and that they may be better suited to other cultures or careers. This gives them time to reposition themselves with your help rather than suddenly shocking them with the usual 'we're making cutbacks' story. Be honest with people.
- While big businesses tends to drown in bureaucracy it must be fought at every corner. It is not a fight you will ever win completely but is nonetheless important. And the best weapon for fighting bureaucracy? Humour. Take the mickey out of it.
- Work for a company that gives you energy and values your expertise and contribution. Any other type of business is draining and will not give you the best or encourage the best out of you.
- Work-life balance is earned not given. Success gives you the flexibility to make work-life choices.
- The way to competitive advantage is through having an insatiable interest in learning.
A fun evening all round - good weather for scootering, a great talk and plenty of food for thought.
PS As part of the deal, the conference organiser LBF gave everyone in the audience a copy of 'Winning'. As I already had a copy I now have one spare. So if anyone on the planet can give me a good reason (or joke!) to send it to them please leave a comment below, or drop me a mail, and I'll stick a copy in the post. Offer ends 30th September!