Jack & Suzy Welch are Featured Speakers at New Home of Welch College of Business
Sacred Heart University celebrated the new home of the Jack Welch College of Business (WCOB) Monday with a visit from the college’s namesake and his wife, Jack and Suzy Welch. A reception and tours of the Frank and Marisa Martire Business and Communications Center preceded a public conversation between SHU President John J. Petillo, former General Electric CEO & Chairman Jack Welch, Jr., and Suzy Welch, former editor-in-chief of Harvard Business Review, in the building’s two-story atrium. John Chalykoff, dean of the WCOB, introduced the trio. The talk was followed by a signing session for the couple’s new book, The Real-Life MBA. Hundreds of people, including former N.Y. Mets Manager Bobby Valentine, who is SHU’s executive director of Athletics, attended.
Leading off, Chalykoff extended thanks to the Martires for helping fund the new site, the Petillos for naming a suite and the Welches for “their long-time and continued support” of the WCOB. Petillo initiated a question-and-answer session, asking about the inspiration for the book. “We traveled around the world for a year or so talking to people in all industries, and we noticed work had become a grind. We got a sense that people are not moving in the same direction. Alignment is important—it’s the grease that makes companies go,” Suzy said.
Jack, who will mark his 80th birthday this November, spoke to performance. Under his watch as GE chair from 1981 to 2001, the company’s value rose 4,000 percent. Not a bad climb for someone who started at GE in 1960 as a junior chemical engineer. He said performance is defined by numbers and behaviors. “As a manager, you want to be fast, hire great people, share ideas, promote from within, get fresh eyes from outside. Start with a mission, and your behavior is how you get there. Numbers are the results, the achievements.”
He defined four types of business people: “There’s the type you want to have behind you who helps get the numbers you want; the type that doesn’t have the numbers and acts like a horse’s ass; the type that has the behavior, but is not making the numbers, who you give a chance; and the type that makes the numbers but doesn’t have the behavior. The latter is the worst kind—a jerk who’s doing something totally against your mission,” he said.
Trust and truth was also a topic, with Jack noting, “When you go to a meeting, you want the truth, not spin. Truth gives you speed, but you’ll never get truth if you don’t have trust. Be candid, be straight, speak the truth and give people a reason to trust you.”
Suzy suggested that employee evaluation is important. “Managers need to let their people know where they stand.” Jack added, “Business is a game, and you want to win. You want to make everyone on the team—just like a baseball team—know where they stand.”
Corporate culture can also be a stumbling block for companies—“the barnacles of bureaucracy” as Suzy termed it. Jack explained, “We know what it’s like to work for a company that’s rigid with rules. People don’t want that anymore, to march up the ladder, pay their dues and, after 20 years, get an office with a door that closes. There are lots of 30-year-olds out on their own making a lot of money. Be the broom sweeper, and clear the obstacles out from in front of everyone.”
Jack also pointed to lack of engagement as a business pariah. “Sixty-five percent of people who go to work today are not engaged. Can you imagine that statistic in a game? Thirty-five percent on the field, 65 percent in the locker room? Getting people going again, on the same team and winning is really the goal of our book.”
To students in the room, Jack offered some final tidbits of advice: “Decide what you’re really good at and what makes you happy, and build your career at that intersection. Make your boss smarter and look good, and you’ll never have problems. Keep tech smart and keep learning. If you stand still, everyone will run right past you.”
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