Posted tagged ‘Jack Welch’

What to Evaluate When Hiring Executives

June 16, 2010

There are certain items that are prerequisites when hiring an executive. Ideally, the candidate should be either knowledgeable in the industry or the skills that are required by the organization to fulfill its mission.

Typically, when I enter the hiring process, the candidates have been vetted in these areas. What I look for are the leadership qualities that are invariably required for success.

Here’s my Top 10:

(1) Positive Energy: Staff always takes their cue from the person on top. If that person isn’t excited about coming to work, every staff member will be affected by that malaise.

(2) Energize Others: Effective leaders need to motivate and inspire.

(3) The “Edge”: This is a term borrowed from Jack Welch. It speaks to the ability to make tough decisions

(4) Vision: Any effective plan starts with a direction. You can’t lead people unless you know to where you are leading them. Part of this skill is the ability to “see around the corners,” and anticipate what may occur and manage for these eventualities.

(5) Execution Skills: The effective leader needs to help people identify the right tactics, sequencing and hold them accountable for delivering results.

(6) Passion: This is a higher level of positive energy. It’s more about a deep and resounding commitment to the client, the staff, the shareholders and the work.

(7) Crisis Management: Crises happen and they happen to everyone. A leader must be planning oriented, possess a cool head and be able to take charge when everyone else is losing focus.

(8) Authenticity: Leaders must be true to their own selves.  This trait also addresses the leader’s ability to recognize his or her strengths and weaknesses and compensate for both.

(9) Ability to Learn: More than ever, today’s leader must be able to learn about their industry, their people and the world around them.

(10) Commitment to Teach: The fundamental role of leadership is to grow the next generation of leaders. Patience and a desire to educate are therefore core to the effective leader.

This list is not sequenced by importance and, naturally, the degree of strength in any area is relative to the “heart of the assignment.”

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Five Practical Guidelines when Hiring

November 9, 2008

Here are some practical considerations that are now part of my hiring process. They are a result of both experience and my research into what other executives, such as Jack Welch, have done to make their hiring process more successful.

1. Think Through the Assignment

Job descriptions may last a long time, but the assignments and the challenges associated with a position fluctuate with the changing conditions of the organization and the environment or marketplace. If the challenges are different, then the talents and skills necessary for the role will change. Undoubtedly, the role of Treasury Secretary today is different than the one of two years ago – yet the job description may well be the same. To grow a new area from scratch is very different from managing a seasoned team. If the team is getting close to retirement age, the new sales manager may need people development skills to grow the new team. As a leader, you must get to the heart of the assignment.

One of the ways to determine what is at the “heart of the assignment” is to revisit the strategic plan. By understanding the strategic goal and the tactics necessary to achieve the goal, one will be able to understand the key skills required to achieve success in a role. As a result, your thinking shifts and a new set of candidates may emerge.

2. Look at a Number of Potentially Qualified People

The key word here is number. Formal qualifications are a minimum for consideration, as their absence would eliminate the candidate. The person and the assignment need to fit each other. To make an effective decision, three to five candidates should be considered.

3. Think Hard about How to Look at These Candidates

The crucial issue is to understand the focus and priority of the assignment. The primary questions are, “What strengths does each candidate possesses?” and “Are these strengths the right ones for the assignment?” While weaknesses may rule a candidate out, if the answers to these questions are that s/he is the right person for the assignment, regardless of a particular weakness, then that person gets the job. It is then the company’s responsibility to provide the additional training, talent, or skills to mitigate the effects of that weakness.

4. Discuss Each of the Candidates with Several People who have Worked with Them

One executive’s opinion is worthless. That’s because we all have biases, prejudices, likes, and dislikes. Competent executives do this routinely and informally. My former partner, a senior executive at Microsoft, has five to seven people in the interview loop. If the candidate does not meet the approval of this group, the candidate is eliminated from consideration. Each interviewer is also assigned a specific attribute or characteristic of the candidate for evaluation. One might evaluate analytical problem solving while another might evaluate collaborative skills. By following this discipline, one gains valuable additional perspectives.

5. Make Sure the Appointee Understands the Job

After the appointee has been in a new job for three or four months, he or she should be focusing on the demands of the job rather than on the requirements of preceding assignments. It is the executive’s responsibility to call that person and say, “You’ve now been manager for three months. What do you have to do to be a success in your new job? Think it through and come back to me in ten days and show it to me in writing.” It is critical that you, as a manager, assist others to think through what a job requires. Frequently, these requirements are not the traits that the performer thinks got him the job in the first place. And as we will discuss later on, if this person was promoted to this position, it is almost a one hundred per cent certainty that he will have to shift his work approach and focus in order to be successful in his new role.

The Five Stages of Crisis-Management According to Jack Welch

October 2, 2008

As we all know, our country is experiencing a staggering financial crisis. This crisis has stunned the nation and left many fearful and concerned regarding how to address and solve it.

In September of 2005, Jack Welch, former CEO and Chairman of General Electric, wrote an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal. The article was entitled “The Five Stages of Crisis-Management.” The context for the article was the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation left behind in New Orleans.

Although we are experiencing a crisis of a different sort, it seems appropriate to revisit and synopsize the lessons that Mr. Welch shared in that article as they are helpful in contextualizing what we are experiencing today.

* * *

Stage 1: Denial

According to Mr. Welch, the first stage of that pattern is denial. This stage usually begins with the belief that the problem isn’t that bad. This is a typical reaction, in part, because people never believe that bad things will happen to them. He goes on to suggest that “one of the marks of good leadership is the ability to dispense with denial quickly and face into hard stuff with eyes open and fists raised.” It becomes the leader’s job to help people confront reality, create a new direction and inspire people to address that reality with positive action.

Stage 2: Containment

The initial symptom at this stage is for people to try to keep the problem quiet. From there, it is not uncommon to find that leaders, even those who are extraordinarily gifted, try to make the problem disappear by giving it to someone else to solve.

Stage 3: Shame-Mongering

Mr. Welch goes on to state that at this stage, “all stakeholders fight to get their side of the story told, with themselves as the heroes at the center.” In the last few days, we have witnessed a demonstration of this phase as we have listened to our present administration, Democratic and Republican leadership tell us who is to blame and who will save the day.

Stage 4: Blood on the Floor

In the fourth stage, as in just about every crisis, there is at least one high profile person who pays with his job. This crisis is no different. Leadership at AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and many of the companies that have been swallowed up have paid with their jobs. And unfortunately, again in this case, that leader often brings down many other people with him or her.

Stage 5: The Problem Gets Fixed

In the fifth and final stage, the crisis is resolved and, as Mr. Welch notes, “despite prophesies of permanent doom, life goes on, usually for the better.” The bill that passed the Senate floor tonight added in may new features for taxpayers including increases in the limit on federal bank deposit insurance, tax breaks for production of and investment in industries promoting clean energy such as solar, wind and biodiesel and tax relief for victims of natural disasters in the Midwest, such as flooding, tornadoes and other severe weather events (although there certainly are “sweeteners” that look alot like “pork” such as tax breaks for builders of auto raceways and rum producers in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico).

* * *

It seems that we are beginning to enter stage five of the crisis-management process even though it may take us a number of years to fully experience the results. It is also important to remember that crises have a positive element to them as well. They let us know where things are broken and help us identify the solutions so that future similar crises may be avoided.

Mr. Welch’s insights are extremely valuable in one other arena as well.

Knowing that there is a predictable pattern to crisis management is useful as it will help us move on to the recovery stage.


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