Jack Welch on the Cruelest Environments

Jack Welch

Image source: me

Jack Welch and candor come together.

It didn’t take long for the topic of candor to come up at the dinner I attended after the Chick-fil-A Leadercast. In his usual no-nonsense fashion, Jack said,

“If your employees don’t know where they stand, you have no right to call yourself a manager.”

Here’s what I’ve been thinking since dinner Friday night.

Sick, stressful environments include behaviors where:

  1. Side-stepping and pretending is normal. Candor is taboo, even offensive.
  2. Leaders “protect” others by massaging the message.
  3. Confronting issues is rare.
  4. Postponing, rather than addressing, is standard operating procedures.

Leaders who replace candor with hiding the truth become dishonest manipulators. They are either confused or self-absorbed or both.

Candor is kind; uncertainty is cruel.

Candor is kind because it generates clarity.

“Everyone wants to know where they stand.” Jack Welch

Dancing around feelings and ignoring issues:

  1. Creates uncertainty.
  2. Undermines credibility. You can’t trust leaders who don’t or won’t speak the truth.
  3. Prolongs agony.
  4. Encourages dishonesty.
  5. Discourages excellence. When leaders avoid tough conversations, excellence doesn’t matter.

Dishonesty, in the name of “not hurting”
someone, hurts everyone.

Behind mediocrity is a tough conversation someone didn’t have.

Credible leaders speak with:

  1. Courage.
  2. Clarity.
  3. Conviction.
  4. Compassion. Give improvement a chance.
  5. Optimism. (Another “c” would be perfect)

Credible leaders say what everyone already knows, but are afraid to say.

Kind candor:

  1. Speak unvarnished truths. “Your angry outbursts frustrate your co-workers,” for example.
  2. Reject excuses and blame – quickly, clearly, and firmly.
  3. Develop clear pictures of “better” in terms of behaviors and outcomes.
  4. Provide training, support, and resources.
  5. Explain consequences.
  6. Establish deadlines.

Kind candor stabilizes organizations, validates performance, lowers stress, enables excellence, and simplifies relationships.

What are the key success factors for developing candor in organizations?