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Don’t lecture: Inject some drama

by on
in Centerpiece,Leaders & Managers,People Management

business woman giving speechBefore you address a roomful of employees, identify the main point you want to make. Then figure out a memorable way to convey that point.

Consider how Jack Welch, General Electric’s former CEO, informed his top managers of the kind of organizational culture he wanted to create. Instead of lecturing them, he injected some drama.

In 1992, GE had just completed a wildly successful year. Hosting a retreat for his senior executives, Welch surprised the group by beginning his speech with a blunt observation.

“Look around you,” he told the crowd. “There are five fewer officers here than there were last year. One was fired for the numbers, four were fired for values.”

Instantly, he had everyone’s attention. He explained that he divided his direct reports into four categories:

  • Type I are stars who fulfill their commitments and share GE's values.
  • Type II don’t meet their commitments and don’t embody the values. He added that they don’t last long at GE.
  • Type III put in the effort, share GE’s values but sometimes miss their commitments. They deserve another chance, Welch said.
  • Type IV consistently deliver the numbers, but alienate others with their bullying behavior.

Welch said that he had started to fire Type IVs because he felt they compromised the culture, undermined teamwork and made life unpleasant for others.

His presentation hit home with his lieutenants. He conveyed a clear message by listing four easy-to-understand categories and emphasizing that certain behavior was no longer acceptable.

— Adapted from What Management Is, John Magretta and Nan Stone, Free Press.

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