Jack Welch on the Cruelest Environments
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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:
- Side-stepping and pretending is normal. Candor is taboo, even offensive.
- Leaders “protect” others by massaging the message.
- Confronting issues is rare.
- 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:
- Creates uncertainty.
- Undermines credibility. You can’t trust leaders who don’t or won’t speak the truth.
- Prolongs agony.
- Encourages dishonesty.
- 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:
- Compassion. Give improvement a chance.
- Optimism. (Another “c” would be perfect)
Credible leaders say what everyone already knows, but are afraid to say.
- Speak unvarnished truths. “Your angry outbursts frustrate your co-workers,” for example.
- Reject excuses and blame – quickly, clearly, and firmly.
- Develop clear pictures of “better” in terms of behaviors and outcomes.
- Provide training, support, and resources.
- Explain consequences.
- 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?