Jack Welch joined GE as a junior chemical engineer in the year 1960. Slowly he began to grow in his career & 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, the company 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.
In the 1970s, one of Jack’s team developed ‘Harlac’ light bulb that lasted ten times longer than the typical light bulbs at a fraction of energy but expensive to buy. Unfortunately, consumers did not buy the light bulb & the project failed. GE lost more than $50 million.
Jack didn’t punish those involved in ‘Harlac’ project but celebrated their great ‘efforts’ by handing out cash awards and promoted several of them to new jobs. Is Jack rewarding the failure?.
Why do we need to reward efforts? One of Daniel Kahneman’s research showed that we highly underestimate the impact that luck has in many situations, and we massively overestimate the effects of our actions. In many cases, some executives with a lesser effort got great results as luck went their way and many, even after wild attempts, could not reach their goal due to circumstances beyond their control.
Jack also felt that ‘Harlac’ project’s failure was due to reasons beyond the team’s control. He was also aware of how ‘Harlac’ team members laboured diligently to complete their share of the work. He thought that it would be extremely demotivating to those team members if they didn’t get recognition for their extra effort and at the same time, they had to witness their lesser competent colleagues receiving both cash awards and promotions.
Jack feels that leaders must focus more on the effort of employees than on just their results.
The above content is part of the following book -
References: Jack-Straight From The Gut by Jack Welch.