Jack Welch joined GE as a junior chemical engineer in the year 1960. Slowly he began to grow in his career and by 1981, he became CEO of General Electric. That time, the company was worth $12 billion. Twenty years later, when Jack was about to retire, it was worth a total of $280 billion. He transformed GE’s business and revolutionised the company’s entire corporate culture with his distinctive, highly personal management style.
Jack Welch strongly believed in personal differentiation, a distinctive identity from other colleagues at the workplace. He says that differentiation was the principal reason for his career growth.
Personal differentiation is similar to brand differentiation. Coca-cola is the first cola product. Seven-Up is the first un-cola product. Redbull is the energy drink. BMW means driving experience. Volvo means safety. McDonald's means quicker service. Brands enter a consumer’s mind through differentiation. You have to think that you are also a brand on your own.
Differentiation Through Value-addition -A brand differentiates from other competitors by offering a unique value proposition(an add-on value) to the customer. Differentiation is about what customers like, desire and need. Differentiation has to benefit the customer.
Like brands, Jack says that whatever differentiation we would like to show in our workplace, it should be beneficial to the company. The company has to gain something because of us -maybe an extra business or something else.
Overdeliver -Jack writes that one of the ways to differentiate yourself from others in the workplace is to go above and beyond your job description. Many people are content with working to meet the job expectations set by somebody else in the organisation and the company also expects the same. You could work for years in a company by just meeting the job’s expectations. Working perfectly to the script. But if you are a goal oriented person, would like to rise quickly in the career ladder, you need to be different from those people. You need to help your company to make more money.
How did Jack go beyond the job description and find a new value add-on that helped GE?
After his PhD graduation, Jack joined GE as in charge of the company’s new chemical concepts in newly formed ‘Plastics Division’. One day, his manager’s boss Reuben Gutoff asked him the complete cost and physical property analysis of GE’s new plastic versus every major competing product offered by the DuPont, Dow and Celanese.
Jack saw every challenge or task as an opportunity to get out of the pile and differentiate himself. He knew that just answering what he was asked to do would not get him anything.
Jack thought from the shoes of his boss -He deeply pondered on what his senior managers would do with the data he provides and how they would use and what else information would they be needing. He advises us to think bigger than the questions posed to us. Think like the owner of the company.
Jack provided whatever details Reuben asked but also added the projected long-range product costs of nylon, PP, acrylic and acetal against GE’s new products. It was unusual from a guy from the research department. Reuben was pleasantly surprised and took note of him. Jack’s additional work had simplified many of Reuben’s tasks and helped him in swift and effective decision-making. It provided him with a fresh perspective.
Go beyond and above the job description to differentiate yourself.
References: Jack, Straight from the Gut by Jack Welch, HBR articles by Heidi Grant, Rebecca Knight, Dorie Clark, Anna Ranieri.