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Getting to Know You....

| On 28, Apr 2010

Jack Hipple

Anyone old enough to remember that song? “Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You…” Well, I am still in a state of amazement and it took 4 days of contemplation to write a column after seeing the article, “Can GE Still Manage?” (Business Week, 4/25/2010, p27-32). As most of you know, Jack Welch thought long and hard about which of his senior executives would take his place and he chose Jeff Immelt, then head of the medical products business. He’s had a rough time with GE stock half what it was before, selling long standing businesses, and people beginning to question his strategies and plans.


I don’t have enough information to make a total judgment on someone like Mr. Immelt and I doubt that I could run a corporation as global and as diversified as GE, but there are some fundamentals that apply no matter what the business is or how big it is. One of those is having an intimate relationship and thorough understanding of your senior executives and direct reports who, after all, are the ones that actually run the company for you. In this article, Jeff, in an admitted attempt to “bond with this team”, invited each over to his house for a Friday night conversation (I’ll bet his wife was happy with 150 of these!), and then off to a hotel, only to return on Saturday for a more comprehensive discussion. The article further goes on to discuss his putting his own management style “under the microscope”. The perception is that too much “warmth, wit, and attention has been beamed outside the GE family. Inside …he has been less visible and less available”.


What’s wrong with this picture? Waiting ten years to have a serious down to earth conversation with the people who run your company? How can you run a company and not be available to the people who make it happen for you? Who are you? What motivates and excites you? What do you want to do ten years from now? How else could the company use your talents? How could we do things differently? What talent do you have that we aren’t using? And on and on. Isn’t this a conversation that should occur within months of someone taking on a job like this–not ten years later when the seeds of possible mediocrity have been sowed? How in the world can someone expect to achieve corporate goals if he doesn’t understand the people who not only work for him, but on whose capabilities and interests rest the success of the company? Shouldn’t this conversation take place on a frequent basis? Before you say 300 days divided by 150 is every other day, what else could possibly be more important? I can assure you that over a long period of time Six Sigma, the Crotonville Academy, the price of oil, and the competition in network television pale in comparison.


The questions for you are:


1. Do you run a business with people reporting to you? What do you REALLY know about them? What motivates them? What do they do in their spare time? What do they (really) care about?


2. Do your people wait to be invited to a sleepover to say what is on their minds? If so, why? What kinds of barriers to communication have you set up and don’t even recognize?


3. When was the last time you spent talking (not Emailing) with the people you work with for several hours?


4. Do you know what is the most important thing your employees would change if you asked them?


5. What kind of a feedback loop do you have that tells you that you aren’t spending enough time with your people? Or do you find it out when they tell you they’er leaving?


Get to know your folks—NOW!