Revisiting Competencies based on lessons learnt from Jack Welch’s book ‘Winning’

Oct 14, 05

This Month

Jack Welch’s book ‘Winning’ is a must read for all who wish to look at “What Winners are made of”. He shares his own personal experiences, his successes and failures. He also writes about people who have made it because of perseverance, because of abilities to take risks, to make unpopular but fair decisions.

What makes it imperative for HR professionals to read this book is that it gives us the ammunition to push for people development and to build a culture conducive for ‘Winning’ in today’s workplace.

The importance Jack Welch places on HR should be the other reason! “From the point of a CEO, the director of HR should be at least equal to the CFO…, if you managed a baseball team, would you listen more closely to the team accountant or the director of player personnel?” and he often likens business to a game. In that perspective, ‘Winning’ then makes a lot of sense!

I hope this article will give you some ideas to identify the competencies of a winner.

Be sure to read the tip of the month, from Jack Welch’s book.

Warm wishes,


Revisiting Competencies based on lessons learnt from Jack Welch’s book ‘Winning’

Jack Welch’s latest book, ‘Winning’ describes what it takes to Win and more importantly “What makes Winning happen”. The qualities and stories of successful people he describes in his work should actually be the competencies that organizations should aim to develop and measure in their organization.

The lessons from ‘Winning’ tell you why organizations should be paying greater attention to competencies.


Typically when organizations hire, they hire for skill and experience. It is very common hire for reasons: ‘he has relevant experience working in a similar industry’, ‘his skills are specialized’. Other characteristics such as integrity or cultural fit which might play a more crucial role in an individual’s performance are often overlooked. The HR department often fails to incorporate the soft ‘reasons’ in the recruitment process and the line managers overemphasize skill and experience.

In Jack Welch’s most recent book, ‘Winning’, he shares his views on hiring. He looked for positive Energy, ability to energize others, courage to make tough yes-no decisions, execute- the ability to get the job done and finally; passion about their work.

Even if you are looking for a specialist even then, according to him:

“But if you’re really desperate for a person with a certain specialty – say, a computer programmer or a research scientist – then I’d be satisfied with energy and passion, along with a bucketful of raw intelligence, great prior experience, and, of course integrity.”

Organizational Change:

Managing change is perhaps the single biggest challenge facing organizations today. It induces sense of helplessness, builds below the surface resistance and induces great reluctance to move from familiar boundaries and patterns.

Yet how do you make change happen? How do you make sure your people are with you? What kind of people will you need who will embrace change and assist you all the way?

Again, it is certain competencies that you will look for in people who will be with you during the change process.

Jack Welch identifies the qualities as “They’re typically brash, high-energy, and more than a bit paranoid about the future. Very often, they invent change initiatives on their own or ask to lead them. Invariably, they are curious and forward looking. They ask a lot of questions that start with the phrase “Why don’t we…?”

How many people can you spot in your organization with these qualities? More importantly: how many of this kind will you allow to flourish in your organization?

He mentions Dennis Nayden, Managing Partner with Oak Hill Capital Management. This is what he has to say about him, “he never saw a deal that he couldn’t make better; he never saw a routine or a process that couldn’t be unpicked, shaken up and improved… he always gave people a view beyond what they were-to what they could be.”


Competencies play a huge role in assessing potential and grooming leaders. How do you distinguish superior performance? How do you identify potential leaders?

Competencies like, to build trust, exude positive energy, take risks, be resilient, lead and inspire a team become more critical than knowledge in certain fields and experience in a particular industry. As Jack Welch puts it, “Leadership requires distinct behaviours and attitudes, and for many people, they debut with the job.”

It is not chance but consistent efforts at grooming leaders that has enabled GE to appoint from within for all its senior positions but also has supplied several CEOs’ to various Fortune 500 companies and who have distinguished themselves as Leaders in diverse industries.

Building a capacity for learning and trying out new ideas:

It is certain that the skills of today will certainly not help us for the needs of tomorrow. As Physicist Oppenheimer, who had seven Nobel Laureates working for him had to say about his team; “What we don’t know, we can explain to each other.”

An organization needs to select or build competencies that inculcate learning all the time. Jack Welch’s rule number 1 in Leadership is that “Leaders relentlessly upgrade their team, using every encounter as an opportunity to evaluate, coach, and build self-confidence.”

In fact one advice he has for readers searching for the right job should set everyone thinking, “I can do most of the work, but there are certainly skills and knowledge this job requires that I don’t have yet. I am going to learn something here. Why? Because stretching, growing, learning – all these activities keep you engaged and energized. They have the effect of making work more interesting, and they keep your head in the game.”

“Yes, a stretch job increases the possibility of you screwing up. That’s why you should also make sure you join a company where learning is truly a value, growth for every employee is a real objective, mistakes aren’t always fatal, and there are lots of people around whom you can reach out to for coaching, and mentoring.”

Suggestion of the Month

From the book ‘Winning’ by Jack Welch:
“Business is like any game. It has players, a language, a complex history, controversies, and a rhythm.”

” The media covers it all, and from every angle. From my earliest days in Plastics, I learned mountains about business just be reading every financial newspaper and magazine I could get my hands on. From them, I picked up what deals worked and which failed, and why. I followed people’s careers. I tries to understand what kind of strategic moves were criticized and which were praised. I kept up with different industries, from chemicals to medical methodology.”

“And I used what I read. I learned, for instance, about PepsiCo’s executive training programme from an article in Fortune magazine. I was so impressed by PepsiCo’s model – which used the company’s own executives as teachers – that I built it into the foundation of our training programme in Crontonville. I am always amazed when I meet a young person who doesn’t just consume it. Don’t let that happen – this mentor is right there for taking!”


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