Managing people for profit Winning
Deepika Gurdev
by Jack Welch with Suzy Welch.
Harper Collins. Pages 372. Rs 679

HE was once called ‘America’s toughest boss.’ Living up to that name, his book has moved into the top 10 in the bestseller list in the US and in Asia as well knocks some pretty hard punches about managing and surviving in a workplace. However, the book itself defies definitions of sorts. It is at best a part self-help, part leadership and part management manual. And it is this interesting mix that attracts readers like I, who generally tend to skip hardcore management books.

Another attraction is the sheer range of subjects it addresses. ‘Winning’ is all about empowering others, getting the right leaders to create great companies and choosing integrity and candour over charts, graphs and politics. Candour, argues Jack Welch, is the key and that’s because ".... lack of candour blocks smart ideas, fast action and good people contributing all the stuff they’ve got. It’s a killer."

Candour is one of the many elements that gets covered in the book. The range is enormous, but that comes as no surprise considering this book has drawn on Welch’s interactions with close to 250,000 people at various levels in organisations both big and small. So this is a book about people while protecting your profits or maintaining your bottomline. It’s a book about being passionate about the people that an organisation hires. The crux of any successful business (and Welch would sure know that) is the people that drive it. If the people in any organisation fail to be fired then however dramatic the vision for the company, it is likely to fail.

But managing people is a fine art too, argues the author, who in his long-running career as a CEO had seen high performers turn into average performers, people ending up in the wrong line, being a totally demotivated lot and still others who sometimes by default end up being in the firing line. Each of these circumstances needs a totally different treatment and there is no fool-proof way of getting it right each time. But through careful honing of people skills, leaders and managers can spot potential trouble in the offing and even correct it. And ways of correcting it, can lead to some winning ways, a whole lot of which can be found in the book.

Beyond leadership, hiring and firing.... this may come as a total surprise but Welch even delves into that tricky issue of work-life balance. Many say, given his string of failed relationships, it is his highly publicised affair and later marriage to Suzy Welch that probably led to the inclusion of this chapter. The author himself admits discovering a whole new self in this relationship, so much so that the man who once loved the golfing greens thinks it’s a waste of time spending so much time teeing off. And it is with that new-found awareness that Welch launches into what most of us already know, but given the hectic pace of our lives fail to achieve — the trick to a successful career lies pretty much in arriving at the work-life balance. Easier said than done, the cynics might argue, but when one of the world’s longest running CEO (before his retirement of course) dishes out such advice, one hopes other CEOs would take a moment to pause and reflect on such life-altering thoughts.

Beyond these seemingly basic issues, the purists don’t get left behind. For the true-blue management types there is enough appealing stuff in his discourse on Six Sigma and a pretty lengthy talk on Mergers and Acquisitions. So in the 372 pages you get lots of tips on dealing with just about every issue in the work place: tough competition, tough bosses, tough workplaces and tough employees. But things don’t quite end there.

Welch makes a clear call for action to make every day at work a winning one. As he explains: "If you really want to find a great job, choose something you love to do, make sure you are with people you like and then give it your all. If you do that, you’ll never really work another day in your life." Easier said than done, you might say, but ‘Winning’ which is already being dubbed the ‘bible for business for generations to come’ promises to show you how.

And in the true spirit of this book, the couple made a winning start by putting their foot in their mouth and donating the US $4 million advance for the book to charity. Now, that’s motivation enough to get started on it.