BUSINESS, NOT AS USUAL: Turning adversity into opportunity.
Updated: Jun 17, 2020
Jack Welch, GE chief, died on Sunday. We celebrate the passing of a business superstar.
As with all superstars, Jack cuts a controversial figure. You either love him or hate him. The internet is peppered with his no-nonsense business dysphemism. One which might be relevant today, amidst the coronavirus situation: “Face reality.”
One of the transformations of GE under Jack’s leadership was letting go of the TV and toaster business, and letting in the highly lucrative business of building jet engines and medical-imaging equipment. Why did he do it? We all know the story… the rise of efficient Asian producers. Duh.
But what many of us fail to grasp is that whilst Jack saw the threat looming in the future, many people around him didn’t. Jack faced reality, others didn’t want to.
“At the time, no one inside or outside the company perceived a crisis. G.E. was an American icon, the tenth-largest corporation by size and market capitalization.”- Jack: Straight from the Gut by Jack Welch & John A. Byrne
To some people on the GE board and executive team, he would have been seen as a corporate terrorist. “Hey, we’re making good money. What’s the problem???"
We’ll like to share with you this beautiful leadership masterclass from Jack Welch (4 mins). He’s publicly seen as this tough-as-nails, cut-throat, greedy corporate executive who axed 112,000 jobs. This video shows a different side of him, a softer side, talking about the “generosity gene” (2:06). Less publicised, but incredibly powerful.
On hindsight, what Jack did was obvious. Textbook. But then we’re talking about the past. We can’t change the past. In the present, when we can actually change things, things are not so obvious.
With a looming crisis, what do many of us do?
We try to ignore it, “Stop being so pessimistic!” Or we panic, “This will wipe out our business!” We try to eliminate it. We fight it: bring on the trade war, price war, etc.... We blame others, "Japan, stop being so efficient at manufacturing. It’s not fair!”
We suggest another way: what if this disruption is actually the golden opportunity you’ve been waiting for?
That was Jack’s gift. Instead of viewing Asia’s rising manufacturing superpower as a threat to be eliminated, he saw it as an opportunity to bring GE to the next level.
In sessions over the last 2 weeks, our clients exhibited the same growth mindset:
“We’re busier than ever. Our clients’ businesses have been impacted. They are rebooting their whole 2020 strategy, and we’re figuring out how to help them.” - change management firm
“An event organiser is moving their live concert online. We have just the product for them.” - IT cloud services company
“We’re bringing forward our refurbishment plans. We had been delaying it because we couldn’t afford to interrupt the business. We need to act now.” - property management company
WE’VE GOT THEM WHERE WE WANT THEM
Coronavirus has happened. The disruption has happened. You now have a choice. Do you hope and pray that it will go away and everything goes back to business as usual?
Or do you face reality: the world has changed. This is our moment. It’s business not as usual.
We can change the way we work, for the better. Some of our clients are being challenged to collaborate remotely or being grounded from flying. But what benefit can possibly come out of that?
Maybe you’ll step up and become the visionary leader you knew you always meant to be. To ground yourself and be the calming force. Keep the team focused on the mission. You’ve been wishing for the opportunity to reconnect as a team - here’s your opportunity.
HOW TO DO THIS?
We all need positive thinking. But it’s not about denying reality. Rather, it’s staring reality in the face and asking: How is this happening FOR me? Where’s the opportunity here? Where’s the sweet spot?
It requires some free-styling, a flight of imagination. You’ll need to think differently. It’s like you’re at the fork of the road. On the left, the path is well-paved with bright lights, it’s very familiar. On the right, it’s just jungle, but you can barely make out a tiny path. Try out the jungle path. See where it leads you. It might surprise you. If you've done your Power Book, whip it out now and read through it again. The seeds of change are ripening. There are no model answers here. It’s personal.
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