Welch, J., & Welch, S. (2005). Winning. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers
This book was authored by Jack Welch in collaboration with Suzy Welch and was published by HarperCollins Publishers in New York in 2005. The book is titled, ‘Winning’ because of its focus on a winning culture as being pertinent for exemplary performance in business, in a professional career, and social life. The book has 372 pages of easy to read advice on how to succeed in business particularly in career and life. As such, the author targets managers and owners of business enterprises, although the book is valuable to anyone interested in setting up a business as well as those endeavoring to succeed in life. The book belongs to the genre of motivational books, although it can also serve as a complementary textbook for students undertaking business-related courses such as business administration and entrepreneurship.
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This book serves as a guide on how to become and remain a winner in business, even under the most difficult circumstances by adhering to some fundamental philosophies and principles of management. As such, the author’s aim in this book is to assist individuals who have a purpose and passion to achieve exemplary performance regardless of what position they hold in a business organization.
Jack Welch uses narrations of personal experiences he gained while he was in leadership positions in the corporate world and when interacting with people during his motivational talks around the world. The author does not necessarily paint a rosy picture of the journey to success and particularly insists that any challenge encountered is a learning opportunity that should be embraced and appreciated wholeheartedly. Indeed, the author achieves the motivational purpose of the book; that of motivating people to succeed in business, career, and social life, through positive sentiments expressed by renowned business owners and managers.
Summary of argument
The author’s main argument is on the role of passion and undeterred unity of purpose for business and personal success. Also, high regard for ethics, a strong belief in oneself, being strategic, and being highly organized are vital ingredients for success. Indeed, the author aptly summarizes his argument and purpose by giving a terse statement at the beginning of the book, ‘to the thousands of men and women who cared enough about business to raise their hands’, which is an indication of the role of passion in success.
About the author
Jack Welch is a renowned, highly successful business leader who started his leadership career at the General Electric Company back in 1960. After ascending through the ranks in the company, he finally made it to the helm of the corporation as the eighth chairperson and chief executive officer in 1981. Therein, he managed to navigate the company through turbulent times and managed to achieve various successes for General Electric, including increasing its market capitalization by 400 billion dollars thus making the company the most valuable in the world at the time. By the time of his authorship of this book, Jack Welch had ended his 40-year career at General Electric in 2001 and was thus in retirement. In particular, he was the leader of Jack Welch, LLC, a company that focused on advising chief executive officers belonging to companies rated in the Fortune 500. He was also spending most of his time speaking to students and business people all over the world. Jack Welch has authored Jack: Straight from the Gut, a book that went on to become a bestseller according to the New York Times.
Meanwhile, his authoring partner Suzy Welch attended Harvard University and Harvard Business School and is a former editor of the publication, Harvard Business Review. Suzy, a columnist for a magazine called Fast Company, has authored numerous articles about organizational behavior and leadership and is a contributing author of various books dealing with management as well.
Summary of contents
In sections of this book, the author addresses various aspects of the business on which an individual seeking success should focus. These sections include the underlying company attitude, managing people, managing organizations, and managing yourself and your career.
Regarding the company attitude, Welch comes up with mission, value, and candor as the three most pertinent aspects. He brings to the fore the confusion that emanates from mission, vision, and value statements and offers advice and guidance on their differences. Notably, the author asserts that the mission and value statement should be particularly concrete, inspirational, and actionable in an explicit manner, which can help avoid the ambiguity of the three statements that often challenge many business organizations.
As for managing people, Welch particularly identifies the human resource in a business enterprise as its most valuable resource, capable of differentiating a company and providing it with an unprecedented and inimitable competitive advantage over rivals. In this regard, the author emphasizes passionately on the need for candor in an organization and the most appropriate approach to engaging the workforce, tapping into their huge capacities as assessing organizational commitment as well. The author finds the engagement of employees on matters related to strategy, budgeting, and other business-related decisions vital for avoiding conflicts and enhancing corporate citizenship and loyalty.
Concerning the management of organizations, Welch takes time to caution on the many errors and mistakes that can occur during mergers, budgeting, and staffing issues and provides ample red flags that would indicate problems that need to be avoided. He also gives a glimpse of the overall environment surrounding acquisition and mergers, and other expansion strategies by highlighting the high failure rate and, in turn, the valuable lessons are drawn. As such, to navigate through the unpredictable and often hostile business environment, Welch advocates leadership that is devoid of bureaucracy rather than controlling procedures and processes. Indeed, the author found that using managerial approaches kept employees uninformed about pertinent decisions, which eroded their attachment to the business organization, and was a recipe for organizational failure. To this end, Welch encourages managers to be informal and realistic while avoiding making assumptions in different situations in their business organizations.
In managing oneself and one’s career, Welch exhibits immense candor when he highlights his challenges with work-life balance. However, he emphasized the importance and applicability of business management practices in the management of self and career, by highlighting the transferable aspects and skills.
Overall, the book provides valuable lessons to aspiring business executives and anyone who aims at achieving success in career and life as well. Undeniably, he emphasizes the development of a winning culture in an organization and the pertinence of human capital, an approach that is responsible for his success at General Electric. Specifically, he asserts that ‘…integrity is just a ticket to the game. If you don’t have it in your bones, you shouldn’t be allowed on the field’ (Welch & Welch, 2005, p. 14). To emphasize this point, he narrates how he fired many employees during his tenure at the helm of leadership at General Electric, yet this did not derail him from his winning path. He notes that while providing nonperforming employees with enough opportunity to improve their performance is advisable, dismissal of poor performing employees should be done without hesitation. However, he advises that employees required sufficient prior information on their expected performance, and humiliation should be avoided whenever dealing with poor performance and terminations. Therefore, he recommends that a winning culture be best built upon optimism, candor, and talent development.
The book is well done in engaging in the candid exposition of issues related to business, career, and social life. Indeed, the author’s affinity for candor may have been responsible for such a disposition in his authorship. Specifically, he honestly narrates his successes, challenges, and failures in an honest manner, while advocating honesty when dealing with employees in a business organization. He also emphasizes an honest appraisal of one’s abilities and interests when dealing with career choices and paths and recommends passion as the mainstay of the candid approach to business and life.
The book is weak in providing ‘to do’ guidelines for managers and individuals, instead, it provides a general approach to different aspects of business and life. As such, the book does not serve as an operations manual for practicing business people, and information is organized in narratives rather than procedures.
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The most outstanding take away from this book is candor. Welch refers to it as “the biggest dirty little secret in business” which emphasizes the importance the author attaches to this concept and its lack in the contemporary business environment (Welch & Welch, 2005, p. 25). As such, the author narrates his experiences at General Electric and in life honestly. Likewise, he advocates honesty in dealing with employees. To Welch, candor breached any barriers that developed between management and employees, stifling performance ultimately. He emphasizes using numerous examples, on how candor and honesty can be used to infuse enthusiasm among workers and induce a willingness to contribute to the strategies, processes, and the eventual performance of a business organization and ultimately help develop and sustain an innovative environment at the workplace.
This book can find utility from business persons and professionals in other fields who seek to succeed in their careers and life. By providing down to earth approaches to business and insights for success, the book can serve as a general motivator that helps individuals develop the right mindset required to succeed. Indeed, the book can serve as an attitude modifier for those who imagine that success requires unique competencies and abilities, by insisting on persistence, belief, and passion.
This book is not like other business education books because it avoids adopting an academic approach to business issues. Its focus on leadership is driven by candor and passion, yet tapered with purpose, strategy, and adaptability which makes the book, especially valuable to those aspiring to achieve successful leadership careers in business. Notably, the author’s use of personal experiences that have not been colored with pride and self-aggrandizement makes the book relatable and endearing to an ordinary reader who aspires to be successful either in business and social life. To this end, the book provides its readers with what works and what does not work. I would recommend the book to anyone seeking motivation in all spheres of life.