Musings from the CU Suite

Mar 29, 2012

Division of Labor - Too Harsh An Approach?

Written by Anthony Demangone

Jack Welch knows a thing or two about management.  In this Newsweek article, he lays out what he believes are the secrets to building a successful team. 

Here are his main points.

  1. FIRST, the leaders of winning teams always—always—let their people know where they stand.
  2. SECOND, winning teams know the game plan.
  3. THIRD, winning teams are honest.
  4. FOURTH, and finally, winning teams celebrate.

I'd recommend this read.  It is short, and to the point.  But I'll highlight a passage regarding Welch's first point.  Here's what Jack had to say about communication.


Amazingly—to us, at least—the habit of continuously evaluating each team member is a rare and wondrous thing. Sure, leaders evaluate their people all the time—but they too seldom share those observations with the team members themselves. In the silence, stars become disaffected and leave seeking more appreciation, either in the soul or the wallet, or both. Meanwhile, the solid center wanders around in undirected ignorance, and the real underperformers drive their teammates crazy because others must carry their load (and no one upstairs ever seems to do anything about it).

By contrast, on winning teams, leaders spend the vast majority of their time lavishing love on top performers. Yes, love: rewarding them for every contribution, building their self-confidence so they have the guts to take on even greater challenges, and holding them up as a role model for others on the team. Similarly, on winning teams, leaders devote a lot of energy to middling performers, relentlessly coaching. And as for the do-nothings: leaders face into these individuals with a sense of reality, spending only the time to help them put together a résumé and find a job where they will be more successful. 

Unfortunately, in most organizations, managers spend an inordinate amount of time working around their worst people, counseling their aggrieved co-workers and rearranging work to accommodate their incompetence. They also spend a lot of hours fretting over how they can possibly break it to their underperformers that they’re terrible at their jobs without hurting their feelings. It’s all backward. Rather than hurting their feelings, you’re doing your underperformers a favor if you let them know they need to go, and the sooner the better, before they have to look for work in a recession. After all, who were the first employees to be cut in 2008 or 2009? You guessed it: mainly those who should have been set out on new paths years earlier. 


Is Mr. Welch spot on, or off the mark on this?  Is this approach too harsh, or is it the right way to approach management? 


Speaking of harsh, I may be in for quite a weekend.   On Saturday morning, the gloves come off, as do the diapers.  It is a crash-course potty training weekend for Briggs and Kate.

Wish me well.