Most great business executives fade from view once they retire, but that’s not the case for former General Electric CEO Jack Welch.
In fact, one could make a good case that Welch may be better known now than he was when he ran GE, and that may be because Welch is a tireless advocate preaching his philosophy on what it takes to build a high-performing workforce.
I’ve written about Welch before, once when he was singing the joys of micromanagement, but he is probably at his best when he’s talking about building a solid team and a teamwork culture, as he does in this video.
The “High-Performing Jerk” Problem
Welch talk about the four kinds of people you have in an organization, and he’s at his most passionate when he expounds on the one kind of person that kills every organization — “the jerk that delivers the numbers without the (right) behaviors.” Yes, high-performing jerks seem to set him off, and that’s because they are missing a key element of teamwork — the ability to work together well with others — despite delivering on the bottom line goals.
The New York Times once referred to these type of employees as “brilliant jerks,” and they’re the bane of managers everywhere — even Jack Welch.
One more theme Welch hits on again in this video comes from sports, and it is this: “The teams with the best players win.” He believes, rightly I think, that we can all learn a lot from sports when it comes to teamwork and bringing together highly talented people in pursuit of a larger goal.
Welch uses this context to talk about the importance of HR, because in his book, the Chief HR Officer is like the Vice President of Player Personnel for a professional sports team. He thinks they are critically important to the development of the business, and that any good CEO should want to be dealing with their CHRO regularly if they truly want to hire the best talent and build the best team.
This video is not long at just under 6 minutes, and is from a Q&A session Welch did at the Arthur W. Page Society Spring Seminar held in new York back in May 2015. if you care about building a top-notch and high performing team, it’s well worth a few minutes of your time.