Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric and the namesake of Sacred Heart University’s College of Business, recently visited the University for a question-and-answer session with President John J. Petillo and business students.
In the atrium of the Frank and Marisa Martire Business & Communications Center, Welch sat before more than 200 well-dressed business students who were eager to hear the business titan’s advice. Welch answered their questions candidly.
Petillo first asked the Massachusetts native what it takes to be a good manager. “It’s recognizing that it’s not all about them,” Welch said. “It’s about the team you build and the trust you build.” Welch emphasized the importance of being honest with employees, because it means getting truth in return. “You get truth when you build and earn trust. You build personal relationships and care about your employees…There’s no hidden agenda. It’s all on the table.”
When asked about the necessary traits to be a successful leader, Welch said leaders need to have positive energy and the ability to execute plans; they must energize and excite others; and they need to have an edge and passion. He told students to view business as a game and, as with any game, “winning is good and it’s fun. You want your team to get excited. You want to make it personal,” he said.
Petillo also asked Welch about the importance of employee evaluations. “As a leader, as a manger, you are obligated to tell your employees where they stand; tell them how they’re doing,” Welch responded. When it’s time to let an employee go, there should never be any surprises—workers should know where they stand, how they can improve and that they will be rewarded if they’re doing well, he said.
Students asked Welch about challenges he faced, if there was anything he would do differently, what work is like in the private equities field and what tips he could offer on how to be successful.
Welch encouraged students to read the Wall Street Journal every day. He also said he makes decisions off his gut feelings and by looking at data and analytics. “I would say I’m 60/40,” Welch said.
There are no new tricks for succeeding in business today, he continued. “It’s nothing more than a high school football team. You’re melding a group of people around a common objective, and everyone knows their assignment,” he said.
Welch ended his talk by telling the students that business doesn’t have to be just a job. “You have the chance to have all the fun in the world. It’s the greatest thrill in the world,” he said.