Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric from 1981 to 2001 is known for driving performance. One of the most praised corporate leaders in the world, Welch increased GE’s net earnings from approximately $14 billion to $500 billion during his reign.
I say “reign,” because Welch was also known for his imperial presence, a workforce-reduction method dubbed “rank and yank,” and his defense of his “public hanging” firing style. All three of these terms unfairly disparage the legendary leader. For as ruthless as he came off, Welch could not have led a thriving corporation for 20 years without performing a balancing act of demonstrating culture as well as achieving results.
Consider what Jack Welch says about the balance of culture and results. “An organization’s values need to be at least as important as the numbers.” Therefore navigating between the poles of profit and people lies at the heart of every leader’s job.
To improve organizational culture along with bottom-line results, leaders need to drive individual accountability while inspiring genuine engagement across the board. Not an easy balance to achieve.
Some leaders tend to focus more on getting things done and can instill fiercely passionate accountability. Others tend to focus more on how happy people are and can inspire genuine committed engagement.
Neither approach on its own is effective. Either approach, if overemphasized, can be destructive. Placing too much emphasis on culture can lower performance. Too great a focus on results can discourage commitment. Clearly the winning formula calls for a balancing act. As a leader you must do more than just preach balance. You must see that you achieve balance and that everyone who reports to you does so as well.
Welch has identified four kinds of employees according to how well they balance Culture and Results followed by how to deal with each.
Employees who demonstrate the values of the Culture and deliver the numbers
It’s pretty easy to know what to do with these employees—reward, motivate, and develop them.
Those who neither demonstrate the values nor deliver the numbers
Again, easy—these folks need to go.
Employees who demonstrate the values but don’t deliver the numbers
These people should be given a chance to deliver. Their intentions are good and maybe their performance can improve with time.
Those who deliver the numbers but don’t demonstrate the values
These are often kept on because they get results, even though they typically create huge problems such as high turnover, low morale, or damaged organizational reputation. Be prepared to fire them and be open about why you’re doing it.