Willow Creek Leadership Summit - Jeff Immelt - Positioning Your Organization for the Future

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) :)