What I Learned From Jack Welch

Most kids growing up had their favorite sports hero to idolize.  I did, too. But when I got into my teen years, I was a fan of business and business leaders.  Jack Welch is one of the greatest business leaders of all time.  If there was a hall of fame for CEO’s and Entrepreneurs, Jack Welch would haThatve been inducted a long time ago.

So when I finally got the chance to go see Jack speak, I booked my flight to New York right away. When I left the conference, I had no regrets.  Below are some of the things I learned from Jack Welch.


This is what it takes to get the most out of your people.  If you tell the truth, they’ll trust you.  If they trust you, they’ll give you the truth.  It’s a simple enough concept, but I’ve seen so many businesses fail at this.  Most organizations hide the truth from their people.  They always paint the rosey picture.  Employees can feel what is going on. If they think you’re lying to them, they’ll never trust you.  If they don’t trust you, they’ll be afraid to tell you what they really think.

You have to have genuine care for your employees.  You have to have empathy. Know what’s important to them and show it means something to you. If you do, you’ll build trust and get the most out of your team.


The things that work in your business today, may not work tomorrow.  And if you don’t innovate, you’ll be gone.

Don’t think it can happen to you? Blockbuster didn’t think so either.  Or Circuit City. Or Walden Books.  Or Polaroid. Or many others.

If you’re not out trying to find a better way every day, someone else will be out their trying to put you out of business.  So find a way to get better.  At everything.

Maybe it’s your sales funnel.  Maybe it’s your accounts payable processes. No matter what it is, find a better way of doing it.  And if you don’t have the team that’s trying to find a better way, find a better team.


Like in sports, this happens in business.  The team with the best players wins.  Evaluate your team at every level.  Make sure you have the best players. If you don’t find them.  Before you can find the best players, sometimes it’s best to know what skills they need to be successful.

If you’re weak at operations, find a leader that can get things done.  If you’re weak at strategy, find thought leaders that can find a better way every day.

Think of a sports franchise who has one goal…to win a championship…and what they do to fill the roster with the best players. That’s what you need to do to win at business.


This is something many have heard about.  But they focus on the wrong part.  This 20/70/10 is the way Jack breaks down a team.  Welch says that on every team, there are the top 20%, the middle 70 percent, and the bottom 10%.

Why is it that most people when hearing this only hear about the bottom 10%?

I’ve heard this for years in various places.  People saying you have to get rid of your bottom 10%.  It was so different to actually hear Jack talk about this and explain it the way he meant it.

Here is what he said about each:

The Twenty – These are your Top Performers.  Jack says you have to pay these people like crazy so they don’t leave. Don’t be shy. Give them what they are worth, and don’t stop at some pre-defined range that everyone else falls in. If they are a top performer, they should get paid more than the others that aren’t.

The Seventy – This is where the bulk of people fit in. It doesn’t mean they’re bad, but they’re not great. Welch doesn’t suggest you leave this group alone.  He challenges you as a leader to get them to move into the top 20%.  Don’t let them sit idly by in the 70%. Coach them into a top performer.  Don’t ignore this group. It goes back to the team with the best players that wins.

The Ten- This is the bottom 10%. This is where others that have heard about this focus. They say things like “Jack Welch always got rid of his bottom 10%”.  This isn’t exactly true. Before you just give up on someone and terminate them, you have to give them a chance. You have to try and make them better, coach them into the 70%.  If you try, and they still are a bottom 10 performer, then you have to move them out.


I think this is critical, and I think its where a lot of so-called “leaders” fail.  All of your employees should always know where they stand. If they’re doing a great job, they should know. If they’re average, they should know. If they’re not performing to standard, they should know.

You shouldn’t wait for a review once per year to share your thoughts.  You should be talking to your staff at an individual level at least once per quarter.  It is in these discussions that you let them know what they’re doing great and where they need improvement.

Never should it come time to terminate someone for performance issues without them already being somewhat aware. But weak leaders allow this to happen all of the time because they’re afraid to tell people how they really feel.


People often talk about work-life balance.  Employees are looking for balance, employers want some sort of balance.  But the truth is, balance is different for everyone.  It’s not always about time spent in the office.  It’s not always about time spent at home.

It’s different for everyone. If someone truly loves their job, they’ll want to spend more time working.  But it shouldn’t be forced.  If someone wants to work from home, and the work is still getting done, let them.  Everyone has a different balance. Don’t try to fit everyone into the same hours spent at work.

Those are some of the things I learned by listening to Jack Welch.  I’m curious to hear your thoughts on some of these items, and by all means, please feel free to let me know of others.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *