Bill Hybels interviewed GE CEO Jeff Immelt at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. The following are some of the highlights from their conversation. Question: How do you decide who sits at the table representing GE?
- People say, “Show us the org chart.” - I can do that, but it doesn’t work that way. - We work as a team. Our team doesn't always work on areas that are in their job description. Anyone could be asked to lead any project at any time. Question: Did you have a plan to become a CEO? - I got lucky… - I had opportunity… - It was always about the work… - It was never about the career… - It was about creating things… - Your peers ultimately decide how far you go. - If you’re more of a giver than a taker you’ll increase your value.
Question: You were given a tough job of fixing GE's appliance devision in Kentucky…talk about that? - At 32 yrs old I had to lead the appliance service department that led through a major crisis. - Be around a crisis when you’re a young leader. - We learn about who you are as you lead through crisis.
Question: How long were you CEO before Sept 11th? And talk about leading in volatile times. - 4 days. - We live in a volatile time and it’s going to be like this for a long time. - We will not be able to go back to 1950 or the nation of our Founding Fathers. - The best leaders move things forward not back towards yesterday. - Keep your company secure, but keep it moving forward. - Don’t be foolish, but keep it moving forward. - There are opportunities out there, but you have to seize them.
Question: GE has Crotonville which is a leadership development university, what happens there & why is it so important to GE? - GE produces $160 billion in revenue annually through 8 Divisions. - You need some things that drive the unity and values of the company. - We invest $1 Billion per year in leadership development. (.70% of revenue) - Our leadership development training environments drive the oneness and unity of the company. - We teach organizational values and culture in this setting.
“You don’t want people come to work because they are afraid they can’t get another job.”
Question: When you see X quality in your team, what makes you say “I want to promote them.” or “I don’t want to work with them any longer.” - The willingness to stand apart and buck the system is something I look for in employees. - How’d I become CEO…I never took no for an answer and I refused to do what we'd always done. - I want employees who are willing to question the status quo. - This drives change and innovation. - Making excuses says, “I’m not going to learn.” - Making excuses makes me ready to say good bye to a team member.
Question: Hardest person you had to fire? - I can’t put my finger on it…there was just something that said, “he didn’t get it” - I sensed this person’s run was done. - Were they smart, integrity filled, meeting expectations? - Yes. - But they were not connecting with their staff and the team. - It felt a little wrong and after I let them go I discovered that I wasn't the only one feeling it. - The second they left everyone said, “What took you so long?”
- If you believe in talent and meritocracy, then you must believe in diversity.
Question: You talk about simplification? - We’re all searching for ways to run big complicated institutions.
- I had lost the joy in my work.
- I felt like we kept adding one more rule, one more meeting, and we were losing sight of our purpose. We'd become a bureaucracy.
- I spent time with start-up companies in order to lead differently.
- Four ideas: - Less Management (Simpler structures and processes, don’t get trapped in history and the past) - Focused Externally (the market rules, listen to those outside your company) - Start Today: Test & Learn (don’t wait to start something, do it now…don’t make it perfect first) - Network and be Transparent (connect people and be clear)
Question: You refused to take a bonus from your board 2 years in a row? - How I am perceived in the culture is critical. - The constituency you play to is not the media it’s your own team. - "Over time you’re going to question my decisions, but you’re never going to question my intentions."
Question: The worst thing I could find about you is that you work 80hr weeks and take 12 days off per year? - I love work and have a great family. - If you lead a challenging work life, you need a simple family life (1 wife, 1 family, 1 daughter) :)