July 24, 2013

I am enthralled with Jack Welch’s business philosophies, and for good reason. Clearly, his theories and practices are effective as described in his books, co-authored with wife, Suzy, titled Winning and Winning: The Answers. But there are lots of business success stories, and many experienced experts are writing on what they believe seals the deal. Why is it that Jack and Suzy Welch stand out so much for me? It comes back to candor.

At Jack Welch’s Welch Way Management Institute, he defines “four timeless principles for great leadership”… and Candor is one of them, right up there with Mission & Values, Differentiation, and Voice & Dignity. Most business leaders expect mission and values to be key players, but not many are putting that much value on candor – yet.

He defines candor as encouraging frank feedback, authentic ideas and decisive action, and outlines it to include these practices:

  • – Appraise every team member with direct, honest and constructive feedback
  • – Build a culture of candor by rewarding the people who exhibit it
  • – Develop greater trust between you and your team members
  • – Make tough decisions and inspire your team with courage
  • – Learn from every mistake, and celebrate both wins and risk-taking

I agree with Welch – he tells us candor “unclutters the environment, stimulates healthy debate and engages people”.

Suzy Welch, in her 10-10-10 book, also suggests the importance of candor:

Every time I find myself in a situation where there appears to be no solution that will make everyone happy, I ask myself three questions: What are the consequences of my decision in 10 minutes? In 10 months? And in 10 years? The answers usually tell me what I need to know not only to make the most reasoned move but to explain my choice to the family members, friends, or coworkers who will feel its impact.

Her process allows her to cut out what doesn’t matter and be true to what does. It enables her to be candid with herself and with others affected by her decisions.

For both Suzy and Jack, candor appears to be less about the words and more about the participation it      causes – engaging in the process ourselves, and encouraging those around us to engage as well.

(Full candid disclosure: I am an adjunct faculty member this summer for the Jack Welch Management Institute at Strayer University, teaching Business Communications in their MBA program.)